OSO — Gary Ray, the pastor of the Oso Community Chapel who started the Trafton Community Co-Op with his daughter Randi, sees both organizations as serving the needs of large numbers of people who, if only due to where they live, would otherwise go woefully underserved.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the Oso Community Chapel’s monthly food distribution program which sees residents of everywhere from Trafton to Darrington turning out to receive much-needed supplies of donated food and clothing.
On Friday, Nov. 16, the week before Thanksgiving, this need was especially apparent in the increase of turnout from an average of 30 families, on the third Friday of every month, to 40 families checked in less than half an hour after the doors of the Oso Community Chapel had officially opened for that day’s food distribution.
“Some folks show up at 11 a.m. and just wait here until then,” said Roxanne Shanks, one of the volunteers who guides recipients through the food distribution process. “I used to come here for food myself. I live in Darrington and there’s just not a lot of resources out here.”
Shanks explained that area farmers and fellow parishioners of the Oso Community Chapel grow much of the seasonal produce that’s handed out, while she and other volunteers inform food distribution attendees of Snohomish County resources that could benefit them.
“Last month it was PUD discounts,” Shanks said. “This month it’s been energy assistance. Next month it’ll be prescription discounts. A lot of folks aren’t aware of all that’s available to them, so we share that information. My mom worked for the county in Human Services, so I was raised to care about and help other people.”
“We’ll provide you with the forms from the county and state to apply for those programs, and we’ll even help you fill them out,” Ray said.
Ray acknowledged that the Oso Community Chapel’s food distribution program, like a number of similar nonprofit charities, has faced a steady increase in need over the course of the past several years.
“We’re trying to identify our greatest needs and evaluate how best to meet those needs,” Ray said. “We’ve given gift cards for Safeway, and we might try giving gift cards for gas in the future.”
Carpools and vanpools for grocery shopping have already been utilized to combat what Ray sees as one of the most significant challenges impacting local residents, which is their decreasing number of transportation options in a rural area already dealing with a dearth of mass transit.
“We’ve got a lot of former lumber industry workers who are now unemployed,” Ray said. “Car repairs and even gas have gotten very pricey.”
As fall turns to winter, Ray encouraged donations of not only non-perishable food items, diapers and pet foods — “It’s surprisingly expensive to keep a pet fed” — but also coats, blankets and children’s shoes.
“If you give us money, there’s absolutely no overhead,” Ray said. “It all goes directly into the food distribution program, and we buy what’s on sale to maximize those dollars. Since we’re a nonprofit, you’ll also get a receipt for your taxes.”
Those who wish to contribute or learn more may contact Ray by phone at 360-862-3550 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.