Portland Adventist Community Services

May 31, 2016 | Brian Vistaunet

Portland Adventist Community Services is one of the largest Adventist Community Services centers in North America yet continues to meet clients’ individual needs with warmth and caring — physically, mentally and spiritually, following Christ’s example of providing dignity to those He served.

With a small staff and more than 400 volunteers, PACS helps single mothers like Tricia, who kept food on the table while getting a nursing degree that will help her better provide for her family. The organization helps people like Jeffrey, who lost his drywalling business during the Great Recession but was able to manage his diabetes, recover mentally from one of the lowest points of his life and restart his business with renewed vigor.

As one of the largest food banks in the state of Oregon, the PACS Food Pantry served more than 78,000 people in 2015. An extension of the pantry — the PACS COW (Commodities on Wheels) Mobile Pantry — experienced tremendous growth under the leadership of manager Sam Pellecer, bringing food to locations with inadequate emergency food resources.

The innovative program, built from a converted snowmobile trailer, allows people to walk through the trailer and select their food with the help of a guided shopping list, just like they have been doing at PACS's on-site pantry for nearly two decades. The mobile pantry's service grew 300 percent in 2015, serving more than 4,000 people in partnership with churches and other organizations that provided hosting locations and volunteer support to the program.

Responding to the changing health care environment, the PACS Health Clinic is in a period of transition, having recently established a partnership with CareOregon to serve individuals on low-income insurance plans. With the need shifting from a problem of no insurance to a problem of accessibility for people on low-income health plans like Medicare and Medicaid, PACS is repositioning its model to meet this changing need. The partnership with CareOregon will make a big difference in that effort.

PACS is also preparing to begin renovations on a house connected to its current properties, which will house health and dental services in the coming years. The new facility will add an additional exam room, plus three dental operatories and an ophthalmology room. Both dental and ophthalmology will be new services in a clinic that currently provides primary medical care to low-income patients. PACS is in negotiations with the city of Portland to finalize renovation plans and obtain the permits needed to begin renovations.

How is all of this funded? In addition to benefiting from financial and in-kind donations, PACS also operates a thrift store ministry, which has recently generated more than $500,000 in sales each year. The two buildings cover 10,000 square feet of store space, and the low prices make it possible for people to get what they need while offering them the dignity and respect of acquiring it themselves — without having to go through a screening process.  It’s a positive step away from the handout mentality, and the relationships developed with customers over time has given countless opportunities for personalized ministry.

With God’s blessing, PACS continues to demonstrate the love of Christ by caring for people in the community. Ellen White says that Christ “mingled with people as one who desired their good” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). Every day, PACS staff and volunteers pray that their efforts can be the hands and feet of Christ — the demonstration of His love that this broken world needs to see.