A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of Canby Living Magazine.
With a global pandemic and economic downturn, destructive wildfires and a historic ice storm to cap it all off, the past 14 months were not what anyone expected.
And The Canby Center did not expect it either — but they were ready for it. (More or less.)
“The Canby Center was made for years like 2020,” Executive Director Ray Keen said in the local nonprofit’s recently released annual report. “Birthed by five churches amid the financial crisis of 2008, a deepening well of compassion led people in the pews to stand up and take a cup of water to their thirsty neighbors.”
The Canby Center saw demand for its weekly food program more than quadruple last year, from 392 families served in March 2020 to 1,792 two months later, in May. Almost three-quarters of their clients are Hispanic.
Cumulative numbers for the year show an even more astonishing picture. The Canby Center redistributed 284,000 pounds of food in 2019 — and 889,000 pounds in 2020 — a 213% increase.
“We were serving an average of 60 families a week before Covid-19,” Keen said. “After, our numbers skyrocketed to an average of 250 families a week. Despite the uncertainties all around us, we were able to keep meeting real needs in our community, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Our goal in everything was to keep volunteers and members safe while continuing to deliver the care and support needed like never before.”
Keen estimated the nearly 1 million pounds of food the Center offered to needy local families last year was valued at $1.5 million — all thanks to the generosity of countless food manufacturers, wholesalers and retail stores.
The Center’s program included a record 11,396 weekly distributions — which helped more than 1,000 people throughout the year.
“This massive undertaking was supported by local churches and other organizations who helped us secure the equipment needed to redistribute this food,” Keen said. “When God’s generosity defines a community like it does Canby, there is no disease, division, or wildfire that can hold it back.”
Though its focus was on the basic necessity of food distribution for much of the year, the Center also provided the community 942 hours of one-on-one reading with emerging learners through its Reading Mentors program, quality clothing to 1,798 people and free meals available for pick-up four days a week — even during the wildfire crisis.
The challenging year also underscored the importance of community partnerships for The Canby Center. Thanks to the support of the Rotary Club of Canby and Canby School District, the Center was able to provide school supplies to 281 low-income students and 100 desks for students learning at home.
The Center handed out nearly $180,000 in federal CARES Act funding passed through by the City of Canby, which went toward rent and utility payments of local residents and families financially impacted by Covid-19.
And a $10,000 grant from Clackamas County helped offset the costs of installing a walk-in refrigerator that was donated to the Center in the spring. The new cooler allowed the Center to accept donations of refrigerated food items for the first time and serve up to 200 additional families each week.
“The Canby Center continues to be a hub of people caring for neighbors,” Keen said. “Thank you for being a part of God’s care for people!”
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