Community, Cottage Grove, Creswell

Declaring ‘Independence from Hunger’

Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet’s expanded food drive benefits Cottage Grove’s Community Sharing Program and the Creswell Food Pantry. From left: co-owners Kori and Ed Sowa, Bob Boettcher, Winnie Balaty, Kurt Blachnik, Phyllis Smith (background), Jeanne Barclay, Judy Surface and Susan Blachnik. Photo Provided/Rose Sleanbeck

There’s nothing like a little neighborly cooperation.
For the past six years, Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, at 200 S. Gateway Boulevard in Cottage Grove, has held an Independence from Hunger food drive benefiting Cottage Grove’s Community Sharing Program. This year, however, store owners Ed and Kori Sowa decided to grow the drive and include Creswell Food Pantry.
”They recognize that their store serves both communities,” said Pantry manager Susan Blachnik, expressing gratitude for the Sowas’ willingness to expand their event – and their workload – to embrace their smaller sister city to the north.
”We kind of think of Creswell as part of our community, our customer base, with that community not having a large-scale grocery store,” Ed Sowa said. ”We felt it was time to broaden our horizons a little and bring Creswell onboard; since that community does support us by shopping here, we felt the Creswell Pantry should also benefit from our food drive.”
Throughout July, customers were invited to purchase prefilled bags of food and/or make a cash or online donation. Total donations were divided based on the two communities’ relative sizes. Ultimately, Creswell Food Pantry received 1,088 pounds of food, including canned meats, macaroni and cheese, canned fruits and vegetables and other nonperishables.
”The total value, between cash donations, food bag purchases and online donations was over $5,000 for the month,” Sowa noted. ”Our customer base is so generous, and we have some really generous (individual) customers from both Cottage Grove and Creswell that support us whenever we do drives like this.”
And because Susan and Kurt Blachnik spent a weekend manning a booth at the store, telling customers about Creswell Food Pantry and the food drive, everything collected that weekend went directly to the Pantry.
”They generously donated their time to informing our customers about their organization and its needs and who benefited, so they could feel good about giving their hard-earned money, knowing where it would go,” Sowa said.
They were happy to do it: ”This food comes at a time of year when Pantry supplies run low and the need is great,” Blachnik said. ”We would like to thank the many donors and Grocery Outlet for this incredible community support.”
Fortunately, the expanded drive ”really went pretty seamless,” Sowa said, potentially emboldening the couple further: ”This was something Kori and I wanted to do – and we may even take on a third little pantry here in Cottage Grove next year to further broaden our food base channels, so it’s even more evenly distributed among the people who do support us by shopping here.”
The Pantry also benefited from a 10% discount offered by the Sowas.
In late July, ”down to only six jars of peanut butter,” Community Food for Creswell used $1,500 in cash donations carried over from 2018 ”because (2018) food drives brought our supply up so well,” to purchase a truckload of peanut butter from Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet. ”Their 10% discount ”helped us to buy even more,” Blachnik said.
As Grocery Outlet’s expanded food drive and the reciprocal large purchase by the Pantry and store discount – demonstrates, great things happen when neighboring cities’ businesses and organizations join forces. Helping people in both Cottage Grove and Creswell declare their ”Independence from Hunger” this fall? Check. What will the communities’ next joint accomplishment be?



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