PCS Blog

“Everyone Needs To Eat” – Birch Community Services

Posted by Shana | 01 February 2013

Portland Center Stage partnered with students from Portland State University’s Arts Advocacy class to create a series of blogs about non-profits working to end hunger. The students visited the organizations, interviewed staff, and wrote blogs about their experience from a personal perspective. These blogs will be featured right here, during the run of I Love to Eat.  Our second installment features Birch Community Services, from the perspective of guest blogger Wes Barclift.

Food and Family: Many Hands Feed ManyMouths
“Birch Community Services began in 1992 with a donated bag of squished bread on the Birch front porch, distributed to two single moms in need.”
For Barry and Suzanne Birch the idea behind local non-profit, Birch Community Services (BCS) was initially a simple reaction to a very complex problem, in a “foodie” town like Portland, find the excess food that goes to waste and get it to families without enough to eat- they called it “gleaning.” Though BCS now provides help to a multitude of families and partners, the roots of Birch Community Services start at the deepest possible personal level: the money used in the initial startup for their community outreach came from Suzanne’s brother, David, who had listed her as the beneficiary of his will only a week before he died. In an article on their website, Suzanne writes that they felt a great responsibility to use the money to provide for their family, and to help others, so they began looking for a house with room enough for them, as well as room to operate a full-fledged gleaning operation. Today BCS operates out of a “22,500 square foot warehouse with 600 participant families and over 50 agencies benefitting”.
There are now many other organizations in Portland using the gleaning model, each finding a particular niche to aid in the task of bringing surplus food to hungry mouths. BCS is special in that after more than twenty years of service, the organization has grown to envelope* a broad range of services aimed at fostering “accountability and responsibility in our families.”
“BCSI is a unique organization because all participants on the program also help.” 
One of the main goals of BCS is to empower its members to become self-sufficient and successful. In addition to access to donated food and clothing, they offer mandatory finance classes, as well as opportunities for hands-on gardening training, cooking classes and an array of computer science courses. All of this is made possible through the more than 2500 total monthly volunteer hours that each BCS member must share in. Membership comes with a requirement of at least 2 hours a month spent helping out in any of a wide variety of functions, which allows BCS to operate efficiently, as the work fosters a sense of pride and ownership amongst the members as they work for their keep and serve each other. It is truly a community effort that feels like an ever-growing family.
To find out more about how you can be a part of BCS’ efforts, please visit their by clicking here.
Please take part in Portland Center Stage's food drive throughout the run of I Love to Eat. More information about the food drive can be found here.
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