Mormons come to aid of Salvation Army's food pantry

When food pantry shelves at the Medford Salvation Army turned up empty twice in recent weeks, members of the Central Point stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sprang into action and now hope to fill at least one large truck with food for the pantry.

Medford Salvation Army Capt. Martin Cooper says few things cause more heartache for him than turning needy residents away because his food pantry shelves are empty.

Cooper, who has traveled and served in various capacities, and at one time fed sandwiches to more than 100,000 homeless each year on the streets of San Francisco, says the local Salvation Army branch has run out of food only one time previously in its 115-year history.

When things have turned dire, community members have stepped up to bridge the gap and he hopes things will be no different during Saturday's emergency food drive.

"We ran out of food two weeks ago in the afternoon two days in a row and we put a sign in the door saying, 'We're out of food,' " Cooper said.

"Someone from the Mormon church who was donating some items for our store saw the sign and inquired and said maybe they could help."

To that end, some 3,000 to 5,000 church members have been put on notice and told to spread the word. Food collection coordinators Dan and Marilyn Milton have spent recent weeks advertising the food drive and hope for help from beyond the local church membership.

Milton said the food drive was a communitywide event for the LDS church's annual community support day.

"Our whole focus is to support the Salvation Army with this food drive because their stock is really low and there has been a lot of demand," he said.

"Every year we have a day we do a service day and we get to choose what we want to do so we want for everybody, not just in our ward, but everyone's neighbors and friends and anybody they can contact, to hopefully help us do this."

Cooper hoped making community members aware of the need for food pantry donations would keep needed food items trickling in for months to come. While the food pantry receives supplies from local efforts, including the Medford Food Project, the pantry is one of the region's busiest with demand at least twice that of years past.

"This is the third time in 115 years that the Salvation Army, here in Jackson County, has run out of food. The first time was two years ago and twice recently," he said.

"We stay open until about 5 in the afternoon and, twice, we've run out at 2 p.m. and had to turn people away. It's an uncomfortable trend that I don't think is just particular to our Salvation Army but probably several food banks. It's hard to have someone show up and ask for food and have to turn them away because you don't have any."

Food collection efforts will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Central Point stake, 2305 Taylor Road.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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