Making a Difference in the Camas and Washougal Communities

Summer is a wonderful time to be a kid. But for some children, those who rely on school-provided meals during the school year, summer can also be a time of hunger. Some families who are already facing financial hardships may have difficulty stretching their budgets with additional food needs.

In response, St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Washougal, Washington, organized Impact Camas-Washougal (Impact CW) — an annual community event held in early June just as school is getting out for the summer. Volunteers from the communities of Camas and Washougal gather together at the Port of Camas-Washougal to pack food boxes for families needing assistance. Impact CW started as a call to action from Pastor Bob Barber 10 years ago. It began with the last sermon in a series titled “Be the Difference.” But instead of delivering a sermon that Sunday, Pastor Barber told the congregation, “We’re going shopping today.”

“This was the culmination of the sermon series, emphasizing the fact that everyone in our community is our neighbor and it is our call from Christ to aid our neighbors,” explained Scott Friedrich, Impact CW volunteer. That first year, the focus was on the need of the families of students at one local high school.

After Pastor Bob announced the intent of that Sunday, Irene Kratzke, long-time church member said, “This is something we always needed to do. We just needed someone to show us how.” During the actual shopping, one of the church members was asked by another shopper, “Is this a scavenger hunt?” to which they gleefully replied “No, it’s church!”

Impact CW has grown from that semi-spontaneous act of kindness for one school 10 years ago into a meticulously planned and executed annual community event serving every school in the Camas and Washougal School Districts. The event is not just packing food boxes, but also a barbecue and concert by the Camas-Washougal Orchestra, free to anyone who comes to the event.

A group of dedicated volunteers spend the whole year preparing, planning, raising funds and getting the word out about Impact CW. The focus is more than serving the community, but to encourage the community to get involved. At this year’s event, which was held on June 9, more than 150 volunteers from the community came to help pack and load 186 food boxes that were then delivered to the schools for distribution to their families in need.

With the receipt of a $3,000 Community Care Grant from the Northwest District — along with many individual donations, partnerships with local businesses, churches, and other organizations — Impact CW was able to fulfill the Camas and Washougal schools’ requests for 186 food boxes. The food boxes each contained more than $40 worth of nonperishable food items, along with a $50 grocery store gift card.

Brandon Roberts, who volunteered alongside a sizable group from Windermere Crest Realty Co. in Camas, commented, “It’s just a way to give back and help the community in which we serve.”

Beth Raetz, St. Matthew church office administrator, who has coordinated the Impact CW event since its inception, said, “It’s been very rewarding to be able to touch the lives of the people in our community who are our neighbors. Not just those we help with the food, but also all the many people who get involved and help make Impact CW possible. Counselors from each school are also an integral part of the process.” She works closely with the school counselors to ensure that each of their families needing assistance are accounted for in the schools’ requests for food boxes.

When asked what the biggest difference he has seen over the past 10 years of Impact CW, Pastor Bob replied, “We have significantly more volunteers from the community now. It has become a true community event. Much more streamlined and efficient. The first couple of years, it took all day to pack 25 or 30 boxes. Now, with the help of the community, it takes about an hour to pack nearly 200 boxes.”

“St. Matthew is a church dedicated to our community and going out into that community to help. Impact CW is just one aspect of what has become a congregational attitude of willing service,” said member Scott Friedrich.

Get more info about the NOW District Community Care Grant. 

Beth Raetz and Marilyn Yates

St. Matthew Lutheran Church - Washougal

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