We were raised to serve to try to make a difference in our local communities. After realizing that so many families struggle day to day to make ends meet, although employed, we saw a gap in our system for those unable to get or qualify for traditional assistance. In September of 2011 we saw a segment on the NBC Nightly News about a remarkable organization in Portland, Oregon that was making such an impact for struggling families, Birch Community Services, Inc. Both of us were truly inspired immediately. We then contacted the organization’s founders, Suzanne and Barry Birch and thus began a relationship with two extremely special, gracious people.
In August 2012, we then made plans and traveled to Portland to Birch Community Services to meet Barry, Suzanne, their special staff and volunteers. We witnessed this extremely well-organized operation at work and the success of their efforts. We then participated in a replication seminar along with others who had the similar calling to replicate the Birch business model, procedures and protocol that is truly highly successful.
The next chapter of our very exciting and interesting journey – when Bentley Community Services, Inc. received in March 2013 its designation as an approved 501 (c) 3 charitable organization dedicated to providing high quality foods, basic necessities, household goods and adult education on an ongoing basis to struggling families in need. At Bentley, we do things differently than a conventional food bank/pantry and welcome those who need a hand up rather than a hand out and are prepared to participate in the unique, Birch-based method of meeting needs while working towards restoring self-sufficiency. Bentley is about community, volunteerism, accountability, integrity, caring and compassion as we serve one another. And, we invite our neighbors in the community to join us in this mission.
We are an alternative food bank/pantry and what makes us different than a traditional pantry:
1. A theory of change based on accountability and the power of human dignity: At its core, BCS’ unique model of service delivery is founded on a belief that true charity comes from empowering each individual to restore his or her capacity to be self-sufficient, and that the most effective way to accomplish this process is within the context of a community in which participants work together to attain their goals.
2. Efficient redistribution of market surplus: What local producers of food and other staples consider as “excess inventory” is also the means for working, struggling families to meet their basic needs; BCS is the vital connection diverting those products that would otherwise be added to landfills, into the households of people who can use them.
3. Consistent leadership:: BCS’ founders continue to serve in key executive/ operative roles, active Board members and key volunteers from our communities provide strong leadership.
4. Weekly distribution of full shopping carts to clientele families to get them on the fast track to recovery to offset/eliminate their weekly grocery bills, providing them with healthy, fresh foods and numerous other provisions. We do not just give out an emergency box once per month or two bags of non-perishable cans and boxed product.
5. Families maintain decision making based on their own family’s needs. They choose from a full line of diverse food provisions: meats, poultry, cold cuts, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetable, full line of dairy products, milk, juices, eggs, fresh bakery and desserts, non-perishables for the household pantry and other items.
6. Our generous providers of product are just that, generous and they truly understand our program and help us tremendously by giving us high quality, diverse surplus provisions to help us impact the lives of our neighbors in need.
Dorothy & Brant