Sharon Straus' Sunshine Pantry 25-year mitzvah
By Amy Kaufman
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For several years Portlander Sharon Straus operated Sunshine Pantry, a source of food for the needy, from her garage.
On July 10, while attending an event at Rose Schnitzer Manor, she met someone who could turn her overflowing, cluttered garage into an orderly market.
Then Tuff Shed and Fox Channel 12 got involved.
Ruthie Ballard was enrolled in a 90-day goal-achieving seminar offered by E-3 when her fiancé met Straus at Rose Schnitzer Manor.
When Ballard heard that Sunshine Pantry dispenses food and supplies to needy families, "no questions asked," she proposed that her seminar group adopt the project.
These individuals, "with a wide range of skills," transformed the garage into "a little store," said Ballard.
"We totally emptied out the garage -- and we redid the electrical so we could put all the refrigerators and freezers on one wall. We cleaned the whole thing and had shelves donated to us."
Then Ballard's group contacted Scott Hanley, host of Fox Channel 12's "Good Day Lifestyles," a home improvement show, and Hanley contacted Tuff Shed.
Jim Gross, general manager of Tuff Shed, arranged for the donation of a shed for Sunshine Pantry, said Straus.
"Tuff Shed came out on Tuesday, July 20, and they put up this fantastic shed so I could have a whole place to store food and cases and clothing and toys for families in need," she said.
"Fox filmed the manufacturing of the shed at the factory and the installation at Sunshine Pantry, which aired on July 31. They promoted Sunshine Pantry as well."
"Right now we're in the midst of completing paperwork for a grant for Sunshine Pantry," said Ballard. "So, hopefully, we'll be able to get them some money to purchase a delivery van."
Straus said she serves about 200 families, many of whom regularly visit the pantry.
"The Beaverton Police will call me up and say they have a family. They'll tell me how many are in the family and what they need, and the police come out here and pick up the boxes and take them to the families," said Straus.
She said Beaverton Welcome has a similar arrangement, and she also works with "a shelter and a church and Jewish Family and Child Service."
Straus said many children visit her pantry after school to obtain food.
"Their parents are working, but they're working poor, and they could do maybe a house payment, but they don't have enough for food," said Straus.
"We used to be able to go home, change our clothes, and go out and play. These children, before they can play, have to find out where they can get food for their families."
With nine refrigerators and freezers, sets of orderly shelves, and a Tuff Shed, Straus said she is much better organized. She said she maintains separate areas for kosher foods and food for diabetics.
She also collects food for pets, "so that people don't have to get rid of the pet during their time of need."
"We will accept donations, both monetary and food products," she said. "I need everything from diapers to personal hygiene products, household equipment, food, and milk, cheese, and meat. I hope to help many more families in the future with the help of our wonderful Jewish population here in the Portland area.
"It's a mitzvah for all to take part in, to help both our own and others. The most natural thing that Jewish people know how to do is to help and feed. Working all together, we can combat this."
Straus said she has been helping needy families for 25 years.
To request food or to donate food and supplies, call Straus at 503-646-6856 for an appointment.