The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Sweet Home Gleaners needs volunteers, upgrades and equipment

 

August 22, 2017



The Sweet Home Gleaners have been making some improvements over the last couple of years, and they’ve had some help from several sources this year.

Meanwhile, other needs have cropped up, and the Gleaners are looking for ways to address those.

The nonprofit’s goal is to provide one meal a day to volunteer workers and to distribute food weekly to low-income members. Volunteers go out and glean farms after harvests, and they often pick backyard fruit trees and gardens. That food is considered a donation and is tax-deductible. The organization also receives food through food banks and local businesses.

Volunteers keep half of what they pick, and the remaining half is disbursed through the Gleaners distribution center, 3031 Main St.

This year, the organization has received several grants to help pay for acquiring additional food, said Executive Director Lisa Pye.

The Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund provided $2,000 and the Pacific Power Foundation provided $1,500 to help pay for food through Linn-Benton Food Share.

Wells Fargo donated $1,000 to pay for a lease on a copier used for writing resumes, receiving and sending documents various Gleaners-related work and job training programs.

Walker Heating and AC, Inc., donated labor to repair the Gleaners’ walk-in freezer, and the United Way donated $80 recently.

Right now, the organization is looking for $8,000 to repair its air conditioning and heating system, which is not functional right now, Pye said. The walk-in cooler needs to be repaired. The cost estimate is $525. For now, the Gleaners are using refrigerators, which is forcing them to run two distribution days each week instead of one.

The organization also needs to replace old and broken ceiling tiles, removed when it replaced its lighting with LED bulbs in 2015 on a grant by the Meyer Memorial Trust, Pye said. That move significantly cut the power bill, and bulb replacements are much cheaper.

The Gleaners serve 345 individuals in 94 households, Pye said. Seventy-nine of the individuals are children, and 72 of the households are adoptee households, which are people who are not physically capable of gleaning fields or yards. Twenty-two households handle gleaning.

Adoptee members who are able do work around the distribution center and the thrift shop, Pye said.

The program pays for utilities and the building through its thrift shop, Pye said.

Members are required to work eight hours per week, Pye said. The entire organization is run by volunteers.

Distribution of food is shopping-style, she said, and it happens form 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

To be a member, a household must earn 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less, Pye said. For a single person, that’s $2,010 per month. The monthly income is adjusted by $697 per month for each additional person. For a family of four, it’s $4,100 per month.

“A lot of people qualify,” Pye said. “They just don’t know it’s here.”

In addition to gleaning, food is provided through Feed America, the Oregon Food Bank and Linn-Benton Food Share.

The Fresh Alliance Program also provides food, including frozen meat, Pye said. Safeway is a member of the program. Coordinated by Linn-Benton Food Share, Little Caesars Pizza provides pizza that is refrigerated after it reaches its hold time in the restaurants.

Goodwill also donates any food and diapers donated at its donation center at 18th and Main, Pye said, and the South Santiam Fish Hatchery donates fish.

In 2016, the Sweet Home Gleaners had $165,000 in revenue and $183,000 in expenses, according to its Form 990, a public report the IRS requires nonprofit organizations to file annually. The Gleaners hold $124,000 in assets.

The majority of revenue and expenses include the value of donated food and donated household items given to low-income families in need.

Sweet Home Gleaners financial information, including quarterly reports is available at its website, sweethomegleaners.org.

The Gleaners was the first organization of its kind, with no paid staff, to open in Sweet Home, according to a history written by Julia Mae Saft in 1999. Pye recently came across the document. The organization’s primary purpose was gleaning fields to feed the hungry, elderly, members and volunteer workers.

Two individuals working for Head Start initiated the program in the early 1970s, Pye said. They were brought together by a need to help low-income families enrolled in Head Start. Elenore Phillips began volunteering shortly after the organization started and then became coordinator.

She founded the distribution center to keep children from going to bed hungry, and from 1976 to 1985 the organization formed, according to Saft’s history.

The organization incorporated as a tax-deductible nonprofit in 1986.

Sweet Home Gleaners moved to their present location in 1990 from an old metal building located where present-day McCool Millworks operates at the intersection of 18th and Main streets.

“We couldn’t imagine having light, heat and air conditioning,” members told Saft. “Our building is totally amazing. It was overwhelming to all of us and a huge step forward from the old store.”

The old building had a big wood stove in the west end under a high-pitched metal roof, and it didn’t hold in any heat. The building was dirty, dank, cold, dark, dreary and cramped, with no kitchen – just a sink with running water.

One member told Saft, “I know there are hungry people here in Sweet Home, but their pride won’t let them partake in receiving free food. The most important aspect that Gleaners Distribution Food Center and Thrift Store has to offer is the volunteer for food program.

“We have a variety of duties to choose from, even tasks shut-ins could do. Our members feel better in accepting food knowing they volunteered their time for it. Our organization wants to reach those who want to volunteer their services, even if they don’t need food.”

The key difference between the Gleaners and food-box organizations, is the requirement for membership and giving back to the organization, Pye said. The income threshold for membership also is higher.

To get involved, to donate cash or labor, donate items to the thrift store or for more information, call the Gleaners at (541) 367-3190. Stop by at 3031 Main St. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. the first and second Monday of the month and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

 
 
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