Of the Keizertimes

A few years ago, when Paul Morgan was just the director of the John Knox Food Bank, he was told by someone that he needed to think bigger – outside the box. So he did.

In the intervening time, connections he fostered with other churches paved the way for a larger space at Faith Lutheran Church and brought the the force of six churches and other communities to bear on the mission of eradicating hunger in the Keizer area.

“We said, ‘We hear your hunger and we’re here to alleviate it,’” Morgan said.

The combined forces of the churches and other community volunteers allowed the food bank to open an additional day, which proved useful as tough times settled in. Last month, Morgan stepped aside from his duties as director paving the way for Curt McCormack to take the reins of the food bank and bring his vision to bear on its future.

“I’m very satisfied with where we are, but one of the things we’re realizing is that we’re no longer just a church group, but it’s almost a small business and we need to make decisions that will make us more efficient,” McCormack said.

In 2010, about 150 volunteers gave more than 22,200 hours to distribute 24,693 pounds of food in 12,186 food boxes to area residents. By volume, it’s become the fourth largest food bank served by the Marion-Polk Food Share. In addition to food boxes, volunteers distributed stuffed animals, backpacks and other items to families in need.

About a quarter of the clients the food bank serves each week are new to the system, McCormack said.

“If there’s 30 people at a service, seven or eight are probably first time clients,” McCormack said.

One of McCormack’s immediate goals moving forward is bringing more churches into the fold to join John Knox Presbyterian, Faith Lutheran, Keizer Christian, St. Edward Catholic, Keizer Clear Lake United Methodist and Calvary Baptist.

“We’ve got six different churches coming together and the lines that might be seen as divisions, just disappear,” McCormack said. “We are truly one body of Christ and there room for more.”

To that end, McCormack is hoping to renew the food bank’s focus on educating the Keizer community about local need and the need for healthful food, not just whatever was over in the cabinet when the food drive was scheduled.

“It’s a small portion of the community that is knowing and active and we will be doing what we can to change that,” McCormack said.

Part of that effort in that area is directed at some of the area’s youngest residents, students.

“Every year, Cummings students conduct a food drive and come down to the food bank to help us sort and stock the pantry items. A group from Salem-Keizer’s developmentally disabled kids comes in and helps whenever they can. Scout leaders call to see if their troops can help. Barbara Roberts High School students make door swags for us to give out,” said Nancy Morgan, food bank spokesperson.

In passing the baton to McCormack, Paul sees a lot of blue sky ahead.

“We’re only limited by our imagination,” he said. “We have to reinvent ourselves again and put our name in people’s minds.”