Past PACS director honored at annual auction and dinner

Why did Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz – and several hundred others – come out for this annual event: The main fundraiser for Gateway’s Portland Adventist Community Services center? You’ll see it all, right here …

Guests at the annual Portland Adventist Community Services dinner and auction bid on a wide variety of items, all donated to help the organization feed, clothe, and give medical care to our community’s most vulnerable families.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Tables at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport Hotel’s Grand Ballroom were beginning to fill, after guests made their final bids at a giant silent auction held in the salon on at the sixth annual Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS) annual auction and dinner got underway on October 3.

For the third year in a row, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz attended the event. As she took one last look at the silent auction items, she smiled and acknowledged, “No, I don’t usually do events on Sundays at all. I do attend the PACS event, because I think they are a wonderful organization which does a lot of great things in the community. I’m here to support them.”

After seeing for herself the good that PACS does for families in outer East Portland, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she’s pleased to attend their annual dinner auction.

Originally, Commissioner Fritz said, she was drawn to the PACS secondhand store. “Most of my clothing is, in fact, secondhand. When I shopped there, the manager gave me a tour of the food pantry and health clinic, and explained the philosophy behind all of the services they offer. They are involved in helping families, many of whom find themselves in dire circumstances.”

Operates State’s largest food pantry
According to PACS’ executive director, Paul Cole, many outer East Portland families in difficult financial circumstances turn to their food pantry every week.

“We have the largest – according to the Oregon food Bank – free food pantry in the state of Oregon,” Cole told us. “We are serving more than 100 families every day, five days per week. We will provide more than 1.2 million pounds of food this year.”

These grocery items will be stocked on shelves in the PACS Pantry, giving clients the opportunity to select the food their family needs for the week.

Instead of simply shoving boxes of food out the door, the PACS Pantry operates on the “Client Choice Model”, we learned.

“This model has been a huge success and has been adopted by food pantries across the nation,” explained PACS development associate, Brian Vistaunet. “This model allows clients to choose their food items, based on a USDA Food Pyramid-based shopping list, rather than just having the items selected for them.”

Oregon Symphony cellists Marilyn deOliveira and Trevor Fitzpatrick add a classical touch to the evening, playing lively classical selections.

PACS board member John Korb and Board Chair Tom Mostert congratulate the 2010 PACS Barbara Nelson Award honoree, Dr. Rhonda Whitney – as does Paul Cole, the organization’s Executive Director.

Annual award presented to past PACS director
In addition to the silent auction and gourmet dinner, PACS presents their “Barbara Nelson Award” to a person, group, or organization that “exemplifies unbounded enthusiasm, leadership, and vision for a better community”.

Cole said that Dr. Rhonda Whitney, PhD, served as PACS Executive Director for thirteen years, from 1993 to 2006 – and was singled out for recognition this year.

“Rhonda led the organization through a period of major growth,” Cole said, “including the addition of the Thrift Store, the purchase of and relocation to an expanded facility, and the development and implementation of the ‘Client Choice Model’ at the PACS Pantry.”

As Director, Cole went on, Whitney committed countless hours above and beyond her job requirement to develop more effective services to meet the needs of struggling families. She became an expert on issues of poverty, and she effectively shared her knowledge with the community, inspiring many to get involved in supporting programs at PACS, like the food pantry and health clinic.

About being honored, Whitney just smiled and said, “I feel very humbled to receive this award. It’s a great honor.”

Supporting PACS are well-known Gateway boosters Ajnesh “AJ” Prasad, Manager of Gateway’s Columbia State Bank branch, and Fred and Ann Sanchez, principals of Realty Brokers and 111th Square.

Appreciates continuing support from community
Cole said their annual event helps PACS in two ways. “First, this is our major fund raising effort for the year. But as important, it helps get a lot of people acquainted with what we do in the community, and encourages them to be involved and help out.”

The need is great, Cole concluded, and PACS is there to help. “Right here in Gateway, we provide food, clothing, and a primary-care health clinic for uninsured patients. You can find all of these in individual locations, but it’s rare you’ll find all of these services on one campus.”

After the event, Vistaunet let us know that they had indeed reached their goal – and raised a grand total of $100,026 at this year’s awards dinner and auction.

PACS is located at 11020 N.E. Halsey Street. For more information, or especially to make a donation, visit their website: CLICK HERE.

Even if you didn’t attend this event, you can volunteer – or donate to PACS at any time – even over the Internet!

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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