Gold Beach Food Bank Forges Deep Community Connections

“It all started way back in the ’80s when my grandson would not go to sleep," says Lila Thorp. "I drove him around town and up in the mountains and up the river on the back roads where we saw people who were houseless, cold, wet and hungry. My mother often came along, and we couldn’t stand it. We’d drive home, get some food and blankets, and take the stuff back to the people who really needed it."

Thorp says that many of the people they cared for didn't even have shoes. The car minstry soon outgrew what could fit inside a vehicle, and they began serving meals to their community in the Gold Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church fellowship room.

The little church may only have 47 members on the books, but more than a hundred folks come to the food bank every Tuesday. Before the pandemic, those numbers were even higher. 

Each week Thorp and her team are always there to meet the needs of whoever comes. They provide hot soup, shoes, perfect sandwiches and a food bank that looks like a mini supermarket. A table is lined with clothes, shoes, blankets and towels for people in need.

Things were different before the pandemic. As people waited for their turn, they used to be able to watch a movie while eating popcorn and banana splits. One of the police officers even asked if he had to be homeless to come.

Now with the COVID-19 restrictions, the team does much more prepackaging of the food, but the people are still able to walk down the tables and select the produce and bulk food they prefer. There’s always potatoes, fruit, fresh salad, cereals and canned vegetables.

“We’re never sure where the stuff will come from,” Thorp says, “but God always provides a sure supply. The Lion’s Club and the electric company run food drives for us, and last month a lady came in, looked around and wrote us a check for $6,000.”

The food bank takes a village of people to run it. Father Jim, the priest from the local Catholic church, says, "I love meeting people, and the people who come here really need help. Before we open the doors, I ask if anyone has a prayer request, then we pray for everyone. Even for the truck driver who helped bring the food. And, I’m getting exercise while helping."

People in the community are grateful for the help they've recieved. Randy is one of those who initially came for food assistance. “For a long time I was coming just because we needed the food," he says. "Tommy, one of the volunteers here, asked if I would help bring some boxes inside. I guess I’ve been working here every week since.”

This ministry is making deep community connections. Volunteers know most of their customers pretty well. When someone is missing at the Tuesday meal, they go search for them to make sure everything’s okay.

Thorp says prayer lies at the heart of this ministry. "Prayer is about the most important thing we do," she notes. "We pray for the people we’re serving, for the police and for the community. I think the community’s a better place because we’re all praying all the time."

“We’re more than cooks and grocery clerks," says Terry, one of the volunteers. "We keep on praying for the people during the week. Sometimes we fix flat tires, fill gas tanks and meet other needs."

Featured in: May/June 2021