Food bank pays for permanence

Showing off her big pie-bank, Ashland Emergency Food Bank Executive Director Pam Marsh said it was filled over and over by grants, the city and just regular town folks, enabling purchase of its building for $475,000.

It's the first time in its 41 years that the food bank has owned the spot where it operated, Marsh said. Now it will be protected from being bounced out by landlords, as it has been several times in the past five years.

"The money came mostly from neighbors, over 200 of them, who 'bought a piece of the pie,' as we called it," said Marsh, adding that the rest included $160,000 from the city's Community Development Block Grant, $20,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation and $5,000 from the Carpenter Foundation.

"A lot of the donors are people we never knew before our capital campaign kicked off," she said. "They just considered it a good cause and came in and put money in the pie. I consider it a miracle that we were successful and it reflects this community's generosity and compassion."

Ownership of the building will enable the food bank to plan for the future by setting aside money for a maintenance fund and to make site improvements to better serve clients, Marsh said.

The food bank bought the building near the south Ashland interchange from People's Bank of Commerce, which had it on a lease/purchase option for almost two years.

"We didn't know it when we moved in, but we found it was the perfect site, a former fast-food outlet with big windows, walk-in fridge and overhang at the loading dock," Marsh said. "Then volunteers helped us build the garden out back, which supplies produce directly to the shelves."

The food bank's relocations over the years have been "very disruptive to clients and left us searching for good Ashland real estate, which can be very hard to come by," she said. "We are very grateful the bank was willing to negotiate a good deal and that we have such great support from the faith community, who were the ones who started it in 1972, and from the townsfolk."

The food bank has seen a 25 percent jump in demand from this time a year ago, she said. The economic recovery has had little effect on bottom-bracket wages, leaving emergency food resources still "subsidizing the low wages," she added.

A nonprofit agency, the food bank serves up to 600 families, or 1,400 people, each month. Clients include the unemployed, under-employed, working poor, students, seniors and homeless. Forty percent of the clients are children under the age of 18. Each individual or family receives enough groceries to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for two to three days.

The food bank is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays and the first Saturday of the month, and from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday, at 560 Clover Lane.

The food bank closed the deal Sept. 30.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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