Learn about an amazing project that, this year, put food on the table of 600 families in need – and, see just how they do it …
Across the street from East Precinct, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Cadets Kayla Seals and Ashlee Land pause for a photo, while handing information packets to volunteer drivers.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A little after dawn breaks on Saturday morning, December 18, a caravan of vehicles are lining up on SE 106th Avenue, and in the East Portland Community Center parking lot.
These drivers aren’t out for a weekend road rally – they’re on a mission. Soon, these cars, trucks and SUVs will be loaded with boxes of food, destined for outer East Portland’s most needy families.
The large roll-up door of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct’s garage opens, and the project begins for another year.
Preparing data packets and maps to be given to volunteer drivers making the Sunshine Division deliveries are East Precinct support staff – and today, volunteers – Connie Scott and Kandi Marks.
Rick Holte from Gladstone (“I grew up in SE Portland”) checks in with PPB East Precinct Officer Michael Gallagher, who also is a mentor with the East Precinct Cadets.
One of the many volunteers on-scene is PPB East Precinct Commander Bill Walker. “We’re bringing food boxes, just before Christmas, to 600 families today. Many of these people have lost their jobs, or are underemployed – and they really can’t afford a good Christmas.”
After giving the volunteer drivers maps and detailed directions to each location, PPB East Precinct Cadets and off-duty officers and command staff load their vehicles with chicken, bread, and other staple foods, to help make a needy family a good Christmas dinner.
Central Precinct’s Lt. John Brooks pauses from helping out to talk with East Precinct Commander Bill Walker.
Volunteers load up vehicles with food, as they pass through the East Precinct garage.
Cops help spread joy on their ‘beat’
“This morning, we send out all of our day-shift patrol officers with three to four boxes,” says Walker. “When they travel into their district (area of patrol), they will make their contact with the citizens on their list.”
It’s great to have the help of all the volunteer drivers now lined up in front of the precinct building, adds Walker – “But this season, we wanted to let our police officers also be able to make that contact, that human connection, in their district.”
East Precinct Officer Officer Bryan Mele and Cadet Mike Abramson hustle to load food into another volunteer driver’s vehicle.
Andrea Long, a volunteer “patrol car trunk technician”, helps out by bringing loaves of bread to those who are loading vehicles.
So often, Walker explains, a police officer comes to investigate a problem or help out when a tragedy has occurred. “This allows officers to make a positive connection with the people who live in their district, so they get to know who is patrolling their neighborhood. After making this kind of connection, perhaps they’ll get a smile and a wave down the road someday.”
In front of East Precinct, drivers line up, ready to pick up the load of food they’ll deliver to outer East Portland families in need.
As Alan Veal waits for his rig to be loaded, he says he’s one of 14 four-wheel-club drivers ready make deliveries on this day.
Drivers come from far and wide
Surprisingly, many of the drivers came from Clackamas County and outer Multnomah County to help drive the food boxes to their destinations.
As his vehicle was being loaded, Alan Veal, from Happy Valley, said his group participates every year. “Our four-wheel drive club, the ‘Brush-Busters’, have made this a Holiday tradition. We’ve got 15 rigs coming through here today. We enjoy helping people in need in our community. And, this is a fun activity in which we all participate and help.”
Sunshine Division shelves now bare
“Especially after our food box delivery, we desperately need food,” says Officer Phil Kent with the Sunshine Division. “There’s only been one month this year when we’ve brought in more food than we’ve given out.”
The need is greater than ever, entreats Kent. “We need all the help we can possibly get. 100% of the food donated will go to a family who needs it; it all stays local.”
The best way to help, Kent says, is to bring non-perishable food to the Sunshine Division, located in North Portland. Even easier, make an online donation right now: CLICK HERE to open their webpage.
> On the cover, volunteer Spenser Brooks loads another truck with Sunshine Division food boxes.
© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News