At Leonard and Shirley Storm's apartment in east Multnomah County, Leonard comes to the door to greet visitors but is soon upstaged by Penelope, the couple's fluffy-haired cat.
"We got her for the nice sum of five dollars," Leonard says, as Penelope rubs against his leg.
The Storms are used to looking for bargains. So the monthly delivery of a food box from SnowCap Community Charities is a ritual they welcome.
"They bring staples," Shirley says. "Canned foods and cereal." She cooks from scratch and has plenty of experience stretching supplies. "I make mock ground beef from beans and oats and rice."
"I happen to be married to an awfully good cook," Leonard says.
The food box is an example of SnowCap at work. The agency, which has served east Multnomah County for 43 years, delivers food boxes to more than 500 seniors each month.
SnowCap also stocks a food pantry and provides other services to low-income people who live east of 82nd Avenue within Multnomah County. At its location in Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood, SnowCap is surrounded by some of the metro area's lowest-income residents.
"We're having over 6,000 people come through the pantry in a month," says Judy Alley, SnowCap executive director. "I can tell you that in 20 years we have never seen this many people needing food assistance. Our floors are wearing down." Alley says that about two years ago, the agency saw about 4,000 people a month.
SnowCap was created in the 1960s through a joint effort by area churches. "We don't get government money," says Alley, who was made director in 1991. The agency relies on donations from churches, businesses and service clubs, and grants for its $583,000 budget. It has five full-time and five part-time staffers and about 600 volunteers each year it could use more volunteer drivers and food-pantry shelf stockers.
The Storms, Alley says, are the kind of people who need help from SnowCap. Leonard worked for 23 years at Franz Bakery until he suffered a brain aneurysm, which forced him to retire early at age 51.
Now Leonard, 71, and Shirley, 78, survive on his pension and their Social Security benefits. They have no car, and shop at discount groceries and a nearby bakery thrift store.
Costs from health problems have added to the financial strain. If the Storms didn't get the SnowCap food box, Shirley says, "it would be a hardship."
"Toward the end of the month, it sure comes in handy," Leonard says.
-- Kristi Turnquist
Leonard and Shirley Storm say that playing rummy is one of the exercises they do for their brains, plus its fun, says Shirley. Leonard worked for Franz Bakery for 23 years before a brain aneurysm made him unable to work. His wife Shirley was a stay-at-home mom and not well equipped to enter the work force. They're retired and try to live on his small pension and Social Security. They have no car, live in a modest apartment and rely on a monthly food box delivery from SnowCap Community Charities. Jamie Francis/The Oregonian
Gresham Ford Boeing and Riverview Community Bank have partnered together in hopes of raising 100,000 lbs of food this holiday season. You can help by visiting Gresham Ford and receiving a grocery bag especially for the drive and return it with canned goods, vegetables, baby food, etc. The wish list items are canned fruits and vegetables.