Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oregon Guardsmen assist Portland Police, community volunteers to help families in need

Freezing temperatures and falling snow wasn’t enough to stop volunteers from distributing holiday food baskets to families throughout the Portland Metro area on Dec. 20.

The annual event, coordinated by the Portland Police's Sunshine Division, gathers together donated food items, which are then delivered throughout the area by community and agency volunteers.

According to Portland Police Detective Bob Clevenger, coordinator for the annual event, approximately 4,000 baskets were prepared for delivery to deserving families.

“These citizens never really get to know us as normal people,” Clevenger said. “So when we go and deliver this food to them, and they baked us some cookies or have a Christmas card for us, it touches your heart.”

Volunteers from the Oregon National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, the Portland Police Bureau, and community members, donated their time and the use of their private vehicles to deliver the food baskets throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the four distribution sites.

Each basket contains enough food to prepare a holiday meal; bread, turkey, and dry goods, which are donated by local businesses and individuals throughout the year. The Oregon Air National Guard assists with transportation and storage, with each of the Portland Police precincts serving as distribution sites. Toys and stuffed animals were also distributed to households with children.

Retired Tech. Sgt.. Bruce Conrad, who retired from the Oregon Air National Guard, said he decided to come back and help out after leaving the 272 Combat Communications Squadron a couple of years ago.

“I think it’s the thing to do. (It) makes you feel good to be involved in the community,” Conrad said.

Conrad and others packed boxes with food items in the weeks leading up to Dec. 20, with much of the work being completed the night before. Volunteers worked out of the Sunshine Division’s warehouse and at the Portland Police’s Northeast Precinct.

Clevenger said the food is important to the recipients, but the most important thing they remember is the act of giving.

“This is the season of giving, and you can’t give any more than giving yourself,” Clevenger said. “These people may not remember the food that was in the boxes, but they’ll never forget that you cared.”

But the giving spirit works both ways, Clevenger said. He cited one example of a volunteer who dropped off a basket to a family who “didn’t have anything”. But they added that the family was very happy in spite of their financial situation.

“(The volunteer) left the house and went right to a nearby store to buy a bunch of toys, and took them back to the family,” Clevenger said. “I think giving is sometimes an attitude we try to perpetuate, but it has an effect on everyone involved.”

If you would like to get involved with the Portland Police’s Sunshine Division and various community giving events, please visit the Sunshine Division’s website at:

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

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