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Gleaners: Fair Share cooperative seeks new facilities


August 22, 2017

When life goes sideways, sometimes people need a hand; and even with reasonably strong incomes, things can get tight.

Depending on income levels, a number of options exist for those trying to make ends meet. Sweet Home Emergency Ministries provides Manna Meals to everyone three nights a week at the United Methodist Church. SHEM also provides emergency food boxes and even cash assistance to those in the most dire need.

Local Gleaners programs are there for people who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, allowing people the opportunity to earn what they bring home. Members work eight hours per week gleaning farms and even backyards.

Adoptee members, those who cannot physically work, are supported by those who can.

Even the able-bodied may be helped by the other members when their time is tapped.

For example, Gleaners won’t let a single woman balancing a job and children go hungry, according to Fair Share Gleaners Executive Director Tracy Rowe.

The stories are varied.

Nancy Oxford got involved with Fair Share last fall.

“We had people living with us,” said Oxford, a member of Fair Share’s Board of Directors. “It was family. My husband I both worked.”

But the situation made things tight financially, and she looked for help.

She didn’t like the experience where she initially sought help, she said. She felt like “they were looking down on us.”

A friend talked to her for a few months about participating in Fair Share Gleaners, located at 3714 Long St., as an alternative, Oxford said. “When I walked in this door, these people are awesome. I felt comfortable. (Rowe) is the most awesome lady. It was more like family. I love it.”

The extra members of her household have gone now, Oxford said, but she has continued to participate in Fair Share Gleaners.

“I just help now because I love the people up here,” she said. “I think this is the best here in Sweet Home.”

Fair Share Gleaners President Richard Lippert is a member under different circumstances – living on Social Security income that barely pays the bills.

“Some folks that come here, by the time they get done paying their bills, they can’t afford food,” he said. That’s his situation.

“When I get done with my bills, I’ve got $20 left to buy a tank of gas.”

That’s where Fair Share Gleaners comes in and makes a difference.

“Some people will not take it if they can’t give,” Rowe said, and the Gleaners concept is about coming together as a community and paying it forward.

Fair Share was founded in 1981 following a split from Sweet Home Gleaners. Today the two organizations cooperate with each other. Fair Share started in a garage before moving to a warehouse on Ames Creek and then through a number of locations over the years, including the former Linn-Benton Community College Sweet Home Center where the Full Gospel Church, 1314 Long St., is located today. It also has made stops in a building near the intersection of 12th and Long streets, at the old Gray Goose and at the former location of the Sweet Home Liquor Store, 925 Main St., and then the former site of Jack Wright and Son Auto off Old Holley Road, before moving to its current location.

The group helps with numerous other groups in town, from the Food Pak Program and Camp Attitude to food bank programs, she said.

Fair Share has 192 households, including 160 adoptee households, with 642 individual members, Rowe said. As with the other Gleaners organization in town, the Sweet Home Gleaners, finances for the organization can be tight.

“This is more like a shopping experience,” Rowe said. “You can choose what your household can use. We have such an abundance.”

Members drop by once a week for distribution from the shelves inside the Fair Share Gleaners facility.

The Fair Share 2016 Form 990, an annual report to the IRS on nonprofit financial details, shows a quarter million dollars in revenue and expenses; but the vast majority of that is in the food that moves through the organization.

Despite abundant food, “we’re having financial difficulties,” Rowe said. “The biggest area is the truck. It keeps breaking down.”

The organization puts 1,100 to 1,600 miles per month on the vehicle, Rowe said, but it’s becoming unreliable. She expressed appreciation to Matified Performance for repairing the vehicle for the cost of parts.

“We’ve asked for donations,” Rowe said. “Times are hard for everybody. They are not able to donate enough to buy a new truck.”

The vehicle is currently broken down, Rowe said, but the Sweet Home Gleaners have lent their truck to Fair Share.

“Sweet Home’s been really good about letting us borrow their truck,” said Jim Rowe, and Mill City Gleaners have brought their truck down to help.

Fair Share picks up food for Sweet Home sometimes, Oxford said.

The organization needs a volunteer who knows how to pursue grants, Rowe said. Since Vi Hembree passed away recently, the organization is without a grant writer.

But that’s not stopping Fair Share from looking for fund-raising opportunities.

Rowe pulled together a fund-raising committee including staff and members.

They put together the Jamboree Cafe, Rowe said. Feeding concertgoers breakfast, lunch and dinner Aug. 3-7, the organization raised $1,050 during the annual camping and country music festival.

Fair Share got support from Les Schwab Tire Center, Dan Dee Sales, Cut Loose Salon, A&W, The New Era, Sweet Home Gleaners, hair stylist Nicole Chappell and the Rio Theater in putting on the Jamboree Cafe, officials said.

At this point, those funds will go toward general operational expenses, Rowe said, but the fund-raising team is planning to put away half of future fund-raising efforts toward a new truck.


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