More than 700 people visited the Hermiston Food Give-Away on Saturday, taking home potatoes, onions, frozen and packaged foods, filling stomachs and giving thanks just days before Thanksgiving.

“I’ve heard several different stories from people who were homeless, some who had no food left at home,” event organizer Rick England said. “Everyone that I talked to was very appreciative and wanted to say thank you to all the groups that helped out with providing the food. I felt like it went very well.”

The Give-Away featured local food donations as well as a filled 18-wheeler from Northwest Food Bank, formerly Freedom Resource Center of Idaho. England, associate pastor of Hermiston Assembly of God, organized the Give-Away at the church.

Before the event, 87 volunteers has signed up to work at the event from Hermiston Assembly of God and Templo De Fe Esperanza Y Amor Iglesia De Dios (Faith Hope and Love Church of God), but Assembly of God senior pastor Terry Haight said unexpected volunteers continued to arrive on Saturday.

“I am very thankful for the volunteers,” he said. “Total strangers have come and said, ‘I’m here to help.’”

Organizers expected about 500 families — representing 1,200 people — to claim goods at the Give-Away. More than 700 families arrived.

“This is our fist time doing this, so we weren’t sure how the community of Hermiston would respond,” Haight said. “The turnout is more than we expected. I was a little worried this morning because there was no one here. About 9 (a.m.) they really started piling it in, and there continues to be a steady stream of people.”

Volunteers directed traffic, handed out food and carried boxes to vehicles.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” volunteer Phyllis Keller said. “Everybody has been very grateful.”

In addition to giving away food items, volunteers also ran a prayer team, praying for those at the event as well as any prayer requests.

“We are offering prayer for anyone who wants it. We’re serving physical needs and spiritual needs,” Haight said. “It’s completely volunteer, but it’s here for those who need it.”

With the large crowd, volunteers continued to give out boxes until 1 p.m. — an hour before the planned ending — when the food ran out.

“All we had left were cases of hashbrowns, which we donated to Agape House,” England said. “It sounds like we really met a need, so we’re excited about that. We’ve already been in conversation with the food bank out of Idaho. We’re looking at the possibility of doing a summer one, possibly in July. We’re just in the beginning stages of that.”

Monday, the organizer said the Give-Away highlighted a need in Hermiston and benefitted not only those who received food, but those who helped out as well.

“I felt really good about the whole event,” England said. “I spent most of my time outside carrying stuff out for people. I think it was as much a blessing to the people who worked as it was to the people who received. We’re looking forward to doing it again in the future.”


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