Carpenters Food Bank closes its doors

Ted Totten, a retired member of Steelworkers Local 330, has volunteered at the Carpenters Food Bank since its inception in 1983. The food bank shut down last month. Its last day was Oct. 18.
Ted Totten, a retired member of Steelworkers Local 330, has volunteered at the Carpenters Food Bank since its inception in 1983. The food bank shut down last month. Its last day was Oct. 18.

The Carpenters Food Bank handed out its last food box Oct. 18, ending a 30-year run serving needy families in the Portland metropolitan area.

The food bank, which started in 1983 to assist striking and out-of-work union Steelworkers and Carpenters, has been handing out food boxes longer than anyone has been employed at the Oregon Food Bank, noted Dean Alby, community food program director for the Oregon Food Bank.

That’s not the case with the core group of volunteers.

Retired Steelworker Ted Totten, 83, and his wife of 62 years, Ann, have volunteered at the food bank since its inception. So have co-founders Mike and Sandy Fahey. Sandy passed away in July, and Mike, a retired  executive secretary-treasurer of the Portland Metal Trades Council, said donations had slowed. On top of that, the Carpenters Union building that houses the food bank is for sale.  The Carpenters Union donated space in the basement and paid for all the utilities. The building is located  on the corner of North Lombard Street and Brandon Avenue in Portland.

Totten said several of the original food bank volunteers have died, and others have physical ailments that prevent them from working.

“I’ll tell you, it’s what’s been keeping me alive,” said Totten, who has undergone three back surgeries.

Totten estimates that he’s spent more than $20,000 out of pocket for gas, tires, and maintenance on his truck, which he uses to pick up food supplies and deliver food boxes. “It’s the only reason I need a truck,” he said.

At its peak, the Carpenters Food Bank distributed 850 food boxes a month. Most recently it was handing out 700 boxes a month. And the food boxes were some of the best in the city — nearly 70 pounds of dry goods, frozen vegetables, and some type of meat or poultry.

Alby said the Oregon Food Bank is coordinating with other food banks in the area in an effort to fill the void that the Carpenters Food Bank leaves in the community.

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