Editor's note: This column was altered to correct the title of Deb Baker who is the philanthropy chair for the Sunriver Women's Club. Nancy Fischer is the president.
Sharri Dempsey cannot stop singing the praises for the Sunriver Women’s Club, and here’s why.
“They have saved our kitchen; I’m going to start with that,” said Dempsey. “They have shared with us about $10,000 through their COVID-19 emergency funds they have raised. Without that, we would not have been able to continue serving meals here.”
Dempsey is the manger for the La Pine Community Kitchen, a food bank that serves 190 to 230 lunches per day plus 150 to 180 boxes of food twice a week to families in need.
The kitchen is one of several nonprofits that benefit from the donations raised by The Sunriver Women’s Club. The club comprises about 300 women and has been around about 20 years.
“As you know, South Deschutes County sometimes has greater needs than that of Bend or other parts of the county,” said Debbie Baker, philanthropy chair for the club.
Club leaders knew that local nonprofits were going to need its support more than ever if they were going to meet the demand for essential services in south Deschutes County during this difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic, Baker said. With this in mind, the COVID-19 Nonprofit Emergency Fund was born.
“Our initial goal was $5,000, but we hit that in two days,” Baker said. At present, the fund sits at $25,000.
“We are looking at ways to help people that perhaps the federal government is not helping with,” Baker said, such has helping with rent assistance, utility bills, child care expenses or prescription costs.
“The La Pine Community Kitchen operates on a shoestring,” Baker said. “It’s an amazing little place.”
When the pandemic social distancing rules hit, the kitchen had to stop serving meals in its dining area and switch to over-the-counter servings.
“We have picnic tables scattered outside where people can eat. Our cooking classes in the kitchen had to be put on hold and out clothing store is closed until we can come out of the shutdown,” said Dempsey.
The kitchen usually has 20 volunteers plus two full-time employees. Now, it is down to six volunteers who take shifts on a rotation, plus Dempsey and the cook.
Meanwhile, the Sunriver Women’s Club is also contributing to Meals on Wheels, the Senior Center to cover costs of to-go meals and Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re trying to be strategic with how we spend our money. All of these nonprofits we have funded in the past, we have a relationship with. Now, we are asking what their critical needs may be.”
Some, such as St. Vincent de Paul, which is offering food boxes, told the group they are holding their own and deferred to take the funds so another group can be helped, Baker noted.
Since 1999, the Sunriver Women’s Club has awarded $712,000. The club holds an annual art fair that contributes to an ongoing fund for nonprofits. This year, it was able to give back $50,000 to 14 local nonprofits.
It is for this reason — that the Sunriver Women’s Club took it up a notch when the pandemic it — that it is deserving of a Beacon.
If one is interested in giving to the club, one can contact Sunriver Women’s Club at P.O. Box 3334, Sunriver, OR 97707.