NYSSA — For Nyssa Community Food Pantry Manager, Kathy Oliver, personal integrity is a way of life. She has volunteered with the pantry for the last 12 years. The pantry was established in 2005 by Norma Barnet. Oliver said continuing volunteer work in Barnet’s memory is her ministry. To celebrate Oliver’s birthday, in lieu of gifts, she asked donations be made to the pantry. Oliver was quick to point out that the community runs the pantry, and ultimately drives its success.
The pantry base of operations is housed in the Nyssa Nazarene Church, but is incorporated as its own nonprofit 501c3. The food pantry is located only a few blocks from Nyssa High School. Because of its proximity to the schools, Oliver wishes more parents would utilize the resources the pantry offers.
People are invited to use the pantry once a month, and it serves patrons of Nyssa and Adrian. Oliver said they never turn anyone away (even if they live in Idaho), because the mission is to help people through the rough times. If you’re having a rough time making your grocery budget stretch, Oliver invites you to come in.
“You never know what you’ll get, and this is a no judgement zone,” she said.
People are so thankful, Oliver said. Individuals on fixed incomes usually cut costs on their food bill first. Seniors qualify to use the pantry, as well.
The Nyssa community is paramount in donating time and resources to help make the pantry thrive. Oliver beamed pointing out some community led projects for the pantry. Kaleb Draper, completing his Eagle Scout project, took time during his Christmas vacation to put a fresh coat of paint throughout the entryway and hallway of the food pantry. Draper also built shelves in the waiting area. Kenny Enders, of Sherwin Williams donated the paint for the project, and the Johnson family donated funds to purchase the materials to make the shelves. Another facelift was the sidewalk outside the church was badly cracked after the harsh winter of snowpocalypse 2016-17. The sidewalk was re-poured by Brent Ishida, and family.
Currently there are about 20 people who form the heart of the entirely volunteer based staff and work with Oliver.
“Everybody covers for everybody. We’re a close knit family and we have a good time,” she said.
Oliver works full-time hours, for free, joking that she was looking to scale back from full-time to part-time unpaid volunteer hours.
But, Oliver said, “you cannot just do part time.”
She estimates spending between $300 and $500 per month to buy staple items such as tuna, macaroni and cheese and, a local favorite, canned corn. Lately Oliver has been short of canned corn, canned meats, soup and juice. Food comes from South East Oregon Services, the USDA, Fresh Alliance (grocery stores take items off shelves, and then those items are donated to the Oregon Food Bank,) and other groups that donate to the pantry.
The holidays were a busy time, and for almost a decade the volunteers have put turkey boxes with all the trimmings together. Generous community members have stepped up each year to donate turkeys to fill the boxes. One local family makes helping the Pantry an annual Christmas tradition. The grandparents take eight grandchildren to the Dollar Store, and each child picks out $30 to $40 worth of items to donate. They choose items like shampoo, toothpaste, soap and hair dye.
Nyssa High School students are invited to volunteer at the Pantry to complete their community service hour requirements, if needed. Oliver is working in collaboration with Chris Carlton, a teacher from Nyssa High and instructor to Culinary Arts I and II, to create student-shot instructional cooking videos for pantry patrons. These videos will be used to help patrons with easy recipe ideas, and help teach them to cook. Students will work in groups of three, to find a recipe with a list of ingredients commonly stocked at the pantry. Carlton said students may make lasagna noodles, spaghetti, or homemade tortillas to name a few.