It’s the 21st week for the gardeners and what a summer it has been! Our residents have been busy working in the garden and growing a bounty of different fruits and vegetables. Over the past 21 weeks the residents and clients have grown and harvested raspberries, kale, cucumbers, blueberries, beet greens, lettuce, radishes, and other items. These fruits and vegetables are used as supplemental additions to the food that we receive through donations and purchased items. Residents have learned the importance of working together as a team; and how each person’s position and input adds to the experience that they receive. It's been quite warm out there, and food is growing despite a few challenges. It's rather amazing to see what Mother Nature can do all on her own
On a personal note I was able to volunteer at our food bank and clothing store on Thursday, July 31st. I have been with Our House for a little over six years now and this was the first time I had the honor of volunteering at this wonderful program that we provide. Several of our clients, because of transportation issues and wanting to get to Esther’s when it first opens, were there to greet me when I arrived at 1PM. Esther’s Pantry and Tod’s Corner is open three days a week, and provides non-perishable and perishable food as well as men’s lightly used clothing and basic household items. Clients “shop” their way through Esther’s Pantry where they select their food boxes based on their dietary needs and current living conditions. The clients are walked through Esther’s Pantry where they select canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy.
What touched me most about the experience was the stories that were told while shopping. The past that each of these people had – where they were, what they had done in their lifetimes, and where they were today. I was also touched by the gratefulness that each of the clients showed for these programs. One client said to me that while they use several other resources for supplemental food, that Esther’s Pantry was by far their favorite. When I asked why they said “The amount of respect, kindness, and lack of judgment that I receive when I am here is like no other. No one cares about my HIV status, they care about who I am as a person.”
Spring has sprung and our residents, staff, and volunteers have gotten into full swing with the Resident Garden. Since last year we have welcomed a new Garden Manager, Alan Winders (pictured), to the fold. As Garden Manager, some of Alan’s responsibilities will include coordinating activities including planning, preparation, planting, maintenance and harvesting. The garden group consists of Our House residents, clients and other volunteers. This volunteer position requires a few hours per week on site – planting, harvesting, etc., plus communication to manage team remotely. This is an exciting role for such a compassionate individual, like Alan, who loves gardening and wants to help motivate others to cultivate their green thumbs! Food that is grown in the resident garden will go to supplement food that is donated from Whole Foods and New Seasons as well as food purchased from Oregon Food Bank.
Erica Rickman (pictured), a BSN ACRV for Our House, was awarded a fellowship position with the Oregon Health Authority’s Council of Clinical Innovators! Ericka was selected among a pool of 25 applicants and wrote a substantial grant for this position. Ericka will be working on the garden project with a group of other fellows and their innovative projects to learn about programs that can be therapeutic while keeping costs contained. Erica was a large player in the development of the resident garden’s beginning stages and is an avid gardener herself.
Between the months of April and the end of June we saw the following grant processes for grants specifically for the purpose of our food programs.
TJX Foundation (food) $5,000
The Autzen Foundation (food) $5,000
Submitted (no response yet)
MAC Aids Fund (food) - $25,000
In March we received a $7,500 PGE Foundation Award toward Our House’s food program Esther’s Pantry. We utilized the services of dieticians to ensure that the meals that we serve at our residential facility (Our House) are healthy and meet the needs of the people with HIV. In addition, we also strive to provide fresh fruits and vegetables as well as healthy cuts of meats at Esther’s Pantry so that each monthly food box contains adequate nutrition. With Spring here we have started the planning stages of the garden that we have on site. Our garden was is built at different levels so that those with different types of acuity are able to still enjoy the process of gardening. We use the garden for therapeutic purposes for our residents but also supplemental food for our kitchen and pantry. Many of the seeds and plants have been donated by local establishments that we have created relationships with. We are also in the process of looking for a volunteer Garden Manager who will work with residents and staff for 8-10 hours per week. This position will help with planting the garden, weekly care, and harvesting of the vegetables and fruits that will grow this season.
Last year in December we had a number of different organizations who did food and coat drives for Esther's Pantry and Tod's Corner. One of the groups that was part of the drive was Pride Professional Alliance, a networking group, who had several of its members who had our barrels in their own businesses. We were also the recipient of food and clothing drives from third party events produced by the Portland Leather Alliance, Starky's Bar & Restaurant, Hobo's Restaurant and Lounge, The Imperial Rose Court and several others. The Imperial Rose Court also provided Thanksgiving turkey dinners to all of our clients that are part of the NHCP (Neighborhood Housing and Care Program).
New Seasons and Whole Foods continues to provide high quality donations to Esther's Pantry on a weekly basis. These donations are used by over 200+ monthly clients and consist of food that typically are not affordable to our clients.
MAC Cosmetics presented us with a $25,000 check from sales of their VivaGlam product. This money is for our food and nutrition programs. MAC also participated in a World AIDS Day event for the Our House residents where they made Christmas cards for their family and friends.
Last month Joel Goldman, the Managing Director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation made a site visit to Our House and Esther's Pantry/Tod's Corner after giving us a generous grant. Joel also brought Ms. Taylor's grandson and granddaughter to join him on a tour. They were able to chat with volunteers, staff and clients, and took some great photos for the Foundation. One of the Esther's Pantry/Tod's Corner clients was able to share her amazing story with the group.
The MAC AIDS Foundation also gave us $25,000 to help fund Esther's Pantry and Tod's Corner this month. This amazing gift is a continuation of their ongoing support of Our House.
We are so very grateful for donors like these who make it possible to keep our food and nutrition programs running.
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