Irrigon Restarts Canned Food Drive

June 02, 2015 | Linda Anderson

When Shirlene Stahl returned home from working in Guam, she started a project that would involve her group of youth who had no ties with the church except to come to Sabbath School and Wednesday evening meeting.

It was nearing the end of October, and she wanted to provide an alternative for Halloween. She invited one of the stores to provide paper sacks on which there was a note asking that the bag be filled with nonperishable food items. The bags were then left on the porch of the homes in Irrigon. The next week, the youth would come around and pick them up on Halloween evening. After collecting the bags the group was invited to a bonfire and social at one of the church members who lived in a more rural area. The food was shared with the local food bank and fire department, and the remaining items were made into food baskets and delivered to some of the residents in the area.

This food-drive tradition continued for about 10 years, even though the youth grew up and moved on. Members realized it was more than their congregation of primarily senior citizens could handle, and the project had to be abandoned.

Members learned in 2013 of the group of youth at the local high school that gave their time in community service. The young people had helped clean yards for seniors and collected cans for special projects, and usually two or three helped in the church's Family Closet community service during the summer or vacation time, for which they received school credit.

Irrigon members contacted the teacher in charge of this group, the Key Club, and made arrangements for their help. Since there is no school on Friday, it worked out well to do this Friday morning. Church members found the teens to be energetic and enthusiastic helpers who would have worked longer than the time allotted if they had not run out of bags.

This year, the church purchased more bags and again arranged for the group to help. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a conflict for the day scheduled to hand out the bags caused a few days of concern. A post to the local community Facebook page brought help from Mormon missionary friends and the local Adventist congregation to complete the task. The Key Club was available to collect 2,323 items, which were divided between the Irrigon Fire Department for their food baskets, the Irrigon Assistance Center for their weekly distribution and the Family Closet for their 11 food baskets.