Early ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ helps Loaves & Fishes feed outer East Portland seniors

This fundraiser was successful – but, see why
they really need your help in the coming weeks …

Cassie Goulart, Chef Curt Martin, and Patricia Tarkington help serve up turkey dinners at the CherryBlossom Loaves & Fishes Center in an outer East Portland fundraiser.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
There’s nothing better than a hot meal featuring roast turkey or ginger ham – served with potatoes, yams, and all the trimmings, on a cold, blustery day – to lift the spirits and cheer the soul.

That’s what visitors to the CherryBlossom Loaves & Fishes Center got, for a small donation, on November 2, when more than 200 diners attended the organization’s annual fundraising dinner at the East Portland Community Center.

Donated food and labor
“It’s our 11th year doing it here at the Center,” said Director Bennett Bailey when we stopped by to donate to the cause. “Because the food is donated, and volunteers help prepare and serve it, all of the money from our event goes directly into supporting our meals program.”

Even though Loaves and Fishes is a nonprofit agency serving seniors in need, less than 25% of their budget comes from public sources, Bailey reminded us. “So, in addition to our generous corporate and private sponsors, we’re left with a substantial amount of fundraising to do, to keep our centers going. This is one of our big fundraisers for the year – supporting the meals we serve both here at the center, and those we deliver to seniors at home.”

Bennett Bailey, director of the CherryBlossom Loaves & Fishes Center, serves guests at the annual Turkey Dinner benefit.

Nutritional support served with side order of kindness
The CherryBlossom Center is one of several Loaves & Fishes operations in the greater Portland area, but this one puts out about 600 meals per day. “Our service is important, because we provide about 60% of our home-bound clients’ daily nutrition,” Bailey said.

Almost as important as the food delivered, Bailey added, is the social interaction the delivery volunteers provide when they drop off meals. “When they talk with the senior for a moment, and give them a smile, they give the client a human connection with their community.”

Although they aren’t a full-service social service agency, volunteers also check on the seniors they visit. “They make sure their house is warm, and safe, and that the senior isn’t living in an unhealthy or dangerous environment,” Bailey added. “Occasionally they have found an at-risk senior unconscious on the floor. So, it’s not just the meal.  It’s making sure that there is some social interaction, and finding out what their other needs are, other than the hot meal we bring every day.”

More than 200 diners tucked into a hot turkey dinner to support the efforts of their outer East Portland Loaves & Fishes Center.

Volunteers needed, especially during the holidays
We’re happy to report that this year’s Turkey Dinner Fundraiser was indeed a success – seeing an increase of about 50% over the previous year, we learned.

“We really appreciate the support of our community members. But now, especially during the Holidays when our regular volunteers take time off for their families, we need more volunteers in the kitchen and as drivers,” Bailey said.

If you can spare a couple of hours a week, brighten a senior’s life by helping out. Call Bailey at (503) 256-2381 to volunteer, or e-mail him at bbailey@lfcpdx.org.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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