Despite reports to the contrary, volunteering and giving in Lane County is not new. by Pat Farr

Occupy Eugene has gotten a lot of people talking.  That’s an understatement.  And it’s also good.  The media is paying attention to the camp and to the issues the occupants talk about.  It’s interesting that their initial message was a global one, following the Occupy Wall Street model of using demonstration and resistance to draw attention to “corporate greed.”  That’s a model that grew all over the US and the world to the point that when it came to Eugene and somebody asked the City Manager why this group should be looked at differently to any other in regard to camping laws and land use the response was something to the effect that this was a national movement that deserved special attention.

But it evolved and gained momentum in Eugene, as movements have a tendency to in Eugene, (it likely evolved elsewhere, but we do it so much better here).  It became focused much more on the conditions surrounding homelessness, hunger and other serious human conditions.

It was pointed out that there were homeless people in Eugene.  And some people were hungry.  And for some reason some among the movement thought that those conditions had gone unnoticed and ignored in our community until it was pointed out by demonstrations in the downtown park blocks, Alton Baker Park, Franklin Boulevard, on the University of Oregon Campus and now at the Washington-Jefferson Street Park portion of the Willamette Greenway.

What a shame, and what a slap in the faces of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who for decades have been giving their time, their money and their hearts to the needy people in our community. Few people in Lane County are ignorant to the fact that we have hungry kids all around us.  Most people have heard that one out of three will access emergency food this year.  Many have given to make sure that there is emergency food to access.

But volunteering and giving in our county goes far beyond hanging food on your mail box twice a year.  Please continue to do that and all the other things you do to help provide basic needs for men and women and children.  But also take a look around you.  As well as yourself, your neighbors have a long history of giving and volunteering and they’re not about to stop doing it.

People volunteer and give everywhere.  From the Bethel Clothes Closet at Bethesda Lutheran Church (and clothing drives at nearly every other church in town) to service groups like Kiwanis and Rotary and Lions to non-profit corporations like FOOD for Lane County and Relief Nursery to the parents and kids who volunteer in schools raising funds and guarding cross walks.  Volunteers are, and have always been, everywhere.  As you read this I’ll wager you can think of a host of times you have personally given time, goods or money to help out.

So doesn’t it bug you, at least a little, to have somebody suggest that they are bringing people’s basic needs that aren’t being met to our attention for the first time?

I became Executive Director of FOOD for Lane County in 2004.  At that time I was stunned by the number of hours that organization alone has been given in volunteer hours.  In the year prior to my arrival over 58,000 hours of volunteer time had been given.  Fifty-eight thousand hours. In just the one organization of many around town and in just one year.

Further research shows that FOOD for Lane County had over 175,000 volunteer hours in the five years prior to that.  And by all accounts in the last eight years the numbers have continued to rise.  And this is just FOOD for Lane County.  You or somebody you work with most likely, statistically, has volunteered there.  And that doesn’t count the Rotary Duck Race volunteers and the Relief Nursery workers and the people who help patients at McKenzie Willamette Hospital.

It’s amazing how generous the people of Lane County have always been.  And it’s a little frustrating for somebody to come along and suggest that you haven’t done anything before.

Read on if you want to see some of the ways you and your neighbors have volunteered at this one agency alone.



At FOOD for Lane County (as with other agencies) volunteers lend a hand in many areas:

Board of Directors

FOOD for Lane County’s volunteer Board of Directors represents various geographical areas and backgrounds throughout Lane County.

Day Kitchen

Monday through Friday, volunteers gather in the afternoon at the FOOD for Lane County kitchen to prepare food for the Family Dinner Program, repack bulk products, sort and clean donated produce and perform other kitchen tasks as needed.

Family Dinner Program

Volunteers work at FOOD for Lane County’s Dining Room to assist with food preparation in the afternoon and with serving meals and clean up in the evening. The Dining Room serves meals Monday through Thursday.

Food Rescue Express (FREX)

FREX volunteers repackage rescued food for distribution to pantries and meal sites around Lane County. The FREX kitchen operates Monday through Friday evenings and depends on a staff of more than 150 volunteers each week.


Volunteers work year-round at FFLC’s three gardens to participate in a variety of activities, including soil preparation, planting, harvesting, composting and greenhouse projects.

Summer Food Program

FOOD for Lane County serves free, nutritious lunches to children during the summer through its Summer Food Program. Volunteers prepare lunches in FFLC’s kitchen and serve lunches to children at sites located throughout Lane County.


Volunteers help with basic warehouse tasks such as cleaning, loading and unloading trucks and vans, sorting donated food and helping with pickups and deliveries.

With so many ways to volunteer around every corner it’s no wonder that people in Lane County have always done it!

Visit FOOD for Lane County

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