harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

Community Giving — All Year Round

harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

What is a community, really, but a family of human beings who share their resources? The Harvesters, by Steve Henderson

Life happens.

And while there are other, more expressive ways of voicing this observation — some singularly  inappropriate for the family newspaper — the intimation is the same: people lose their jobs, get sick, or have an accident, resulting in life not going on the way it did before.

art of peel chef painting ken auster

Food is a celebration, a necessity, and a gift. Art of a Peel by Ken Auster

When we learn of another’s pain, our common response as decent human beings is to feel a sense of sympathy, sometimes going beyond this to see what we can tangibly do to help our fellow humans in their distress. After all, we realize, the unexpected blows of life can hit any of us, at any time.

But sometimes, in our effort to keep our own world secure and safe (because who wants to feel that we can be hit, randomly, by a meteorite?) we probe and parse the issue:

“I bet he was texting too much at work. Maybe a little alcohol problem there, too, eh?”

“I heard she smoked a lot when she was younger. It was lung cancer, wasn’t it?”

“All those kids in the car making noise — it’s a clear case of distraction and not paying attention. Distracted driving is against the law in this state.”

We Are a Community of Family, and Families

And then, once we imagine a possible cause unlikely to mirror any in our own experience, we’re off the hook when it comes to feeling compassion, because, really, the person sort of deserved what they got. It’s tempting to assign a mental number to the tragedy — with 1 accorded very little sympathy because the person acted foolishly and really should have foreseen the consequences and 10 scoring high because this tragedy was in no way the person’s fault.

candleman winter fantasy snow james christensen

Things seem bleaker, and colder, in the winter, especially after the holidays. Candleman by James Christensen

But there are problems with this natural tendency to sort through our world and makes sense of it by classification, notably,

  1. We are not gods, and never, ever know the full situation, and
  2. Because we are not gods, we chronically, consistently, and masterfully make very human mistakes, many of which frequently do not — fortunately for us — result in our getting the desserts we “deserve.” But sometimes . . . they do.

A wise person once said that the criteria we use to judge others will turn around and be used thusly on us ourselves, and if this is so, it is sensible to approach the misfortunes of others with compassion, understanding, thoughtfulness, and empathy — reactions we ourselves embrace with relief when undergoing our own trials.

Supporting Our Community

It is with this awareness that Pat and Ed Harri, the owners of Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, started an annual canned food drive at the gallery, with everything collected during the month of January dedicated to the Community Food Bank in Dayton.

“We purposely chose January, because during the Christmas season, there is so much focus on gift-giving and celebration that once you are over the seasonal holidays, people are almost burnt out,” Pat explains.

Canned food community drive wenaha gallery

It’s a sculpture of canned food, representing the bounty given by community members to the Dayton Food Bank

“But when it comes to helping people, this is a need that exists all year. And January can be a very cold, bleak month.”

Entering somewhere around its tenth year (Pat isn’t sure), the Annual Canned Food Drive regularly brings in some 500 pounds of food, spanning everything from tuna fish and diced tomatoes to artisan chocolate bars and organic sugar. The gallery collects it through the month and creates an artistic display, one that changes as new items are dropped off.

Having Fun Giving Back

“We’ve had several  people through the years who really get into the spirit of the giving,” Pat says. “They go shopping especially for our canned food event, and ask themselves — ‘What would I buy to put in my own cupboard?’ and that’s what they bring.” Others burrow through their pantries and gather largesse. All leave off their wares with a sense of satisfaction and joy.

It’s fun — and humbling — to see what arrives each day, Pat adds, and by the end of the month, what starts out as a trickle winds up as a flood. Before food bank volunteers arrive to cart the food away, the gallery staff enjoys setting up the totality and taking a photo, adding with it their own warm wishes to fellow community members who are going through a tough time.

“The cans of food that people bring in are gifts — gifts to people in our community who are having a hard time and need encouragement from others,” Pat says. “I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of the people in this area.”

Wenaha Gallery

The Annual Canned Food Drive is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Thursday, December 28 through Wednesday, January 31, 2018.  During this time, for every can or non-perishable item of food brought into the gallery, the giver will receive $2 off their next framing order, up to a total of 20% off. Additional cans brought in after the 20% maximum will apply toward a subsequent framing order.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at


Dayton Community Food Bank volunteers sort through boxes of food donations

Community Service, Vital Volunteers, & Generous People

Dayton Community Food Bank volunteers sort through boxes of food donations

Dayton Community Food Bank volunteers sort through boxes of food donations

It takes a special kind of person to volunteer at the Dayton Community Food Bank.

But not so uncommonly unreal that everyday humans need not apply. Indeed, regular, compassionate, intelligent human beings are what keep the food bank, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, successfully reaching out to some 550 Columbia county residents — 160 households — every Tuesday.

Unobtrusive from the outside, the Dayton Community Food Bank houses an array of products within

Unobtrusive from the outside, the Dayton Community Food Bank houses an array of products within

“What are the requirements to be a volunteer?” muses food bank coordinator Laura Thorn. “Being professional and having commonsense are very important, as well as being physically able to meet the demands of a variety of situations — there is no heat inside the building where we work, so it can be quite cold. There is also a need for strong backs — we’re looking for people who can lift between 20 and 50 pounds or more.”

One of those heavy-lifting people is Dayton resident Clarence Bartlett, who read about the organization in the paper seven years ago and decided to give it a try. Every week, he drives to Walla Walla and loads up 1000 pounds-plus of fresh and frozen perishables — provided through cooperation with Blue Mountain Action Council — drives it back, and unloads it in time for the two-hour Tuesday distribution window.

“Clarence is extremely dependable, and we love working with him,” Thorn says. “He shows up, every week, right on time, just like clockwork.”

Bags of food at the Dayton Community Food Bank await weekly distribution

Bags of food at the Dayton Community Food Bank await weekly distribution

Dependable. There for the long haul. Steadfast and constant.

Also fulfilling these requirements is Aleta Shockley, president of the food bank board of directors, and volunteer of such long-standing that she can’t remember when she first began.

“I started out when the food bank was in the basement of the Dayton Hospital,” Shockley remembers. “They were independent and very small, but they grew as they built connections with other community service, ministerial, and city organizations.” From the hospital the food bank moved onto Main Street where the Washington State University Extension Office presently resides, then off to the fair grounds where they spent a memorable number of years contending with the climate.

Wenaha Gallery celebrates a canned food drive, for the Dayton Community Food Bank, every January

Wenaha Gallery celebrates a month-long canned food drive, for the Dayton Community Food Bank, every January

“It . . . was COLD!” volunteer Ruth Janes recalls. She was remembering the winter of 2008: despite five space heaters, the ink in the pens froze, as did some of the food.

The next move, to the old fire station space on First Street, adjacent to City Hall, is still a bit cool in the winter, warm in the summer, but this does not daunt volunteers who unload boxes, organize food items, transport food to cars using a couple rundown grocery carts that see regular and innovative repairs, and serve community clients. Janes, whose first experience at the food bank was that brutal winter, considers her present job to be one of the most satisfying of all:

“I give out the fun items to clients, things that they may not expect, like the chips, cookies, candy and such. These are the extra things that come in that aren’t necessarily necessities, but they make a difference.”

Making a difference is what it is all about, observes Shockley, who in addition to being there on Tuesday distribution days and serving as the president of the board, writes grants and works tirelessly with other organizations in the community to secure funds and contributions. Relatively new to the mix is the Grocery Rescue Program, spearheaded by Second Harvest Hunger Relief Network, which serves Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. The non-profit organization arranges pick-up of unmarketable but usable food — fresh produce, dairy products, and deli meats — from participating grocers, that it then delivers to a network of food banks.

Wenaha Gallery's annual canned food drive for the community food bank

Wenaha Gallery’s annual canned food drive

It takes a lot of people, a lot of organization, and a lot of human kindness to run a successful food bank, and all of the volunteers agree on one thing:

Dayton is filled with generous, warm-hearted, giving people.

“People of the county are so good to donate to the food bank,” Janes says. “So many businesses, banks, churches, schools, scouts, and others sponsor food drives, not to mention all the individuals that donate EACH MONTH in consistent financial support.”

Shockley agrees, citing the efforts of local churches, school, civic groups, health care professionals, businesses, and the senior center in meeting needs. Several organizations, she adds, focus on working with the children of the area.

“Vacation Bible School kids during the summer have giving and service as part of their curriculum. Adults pile the kids into a wagon and they all come down to the food bank with their canned goods and financial gifts. They get a tour and they can ask questions and learn more.

“They are the future down the road who will be volunteering and giving.”


Wenaha GalleryWenaha Gallery conducts its annual Canned Food Drive, supporting the Dayton Community Food Bank, from now through January 31, 2017. For every canned or non-perishable food or personal care item donated, the gallery offers $2 off custom framing, up to 20% off the total order.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

To learn more about the Dayton Community Food Bank, or to provide financial support, contact Laura Thorn at 509.382.2322 or Aleta Shockley at 509.382.2137.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit the gallery today!

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson and Lael Loyd.



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