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Volunteers help feed those in need

Craig Patton was expecting to settle into a quiet, uneventful retirement.

The he and his wife, Ellen Patton, volunteered with the social services organization ACCESS Inc. For the past four-and-a-half years, they've worked about 40 hours each month, mainly picking up day-old bread from local grocery stores for distribution to food pantries.

"It's the wife's idea," Craig Patton said. "It wasn't what I intended when I retired. I figured I'd do just pretty much nothing all day long. But she decided we should do a little work for ACCESS, and it's been fantastic. We love it."

On Wednesday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners honored the couple with the September 2017 Jackson County Community Service Award.

Commissioner Rick Dyer said the Rogue Valley has a spirit of engagement, involvement and giving back.

"Folks like you and organizations like ACCESS embody that spirit," he said.

Ellen Patton said she and her husband go out on twice-weekly bread runs.

They visit Safeway, Fred Meyer and Costco. Other volunteers fan out to additional grocery stores in the Rogue Valley that help with the effort to feed people who visit local food pantries. The bread ends up helping those in need instead of going to a landfill.

"We love the people we work with. It's a great organization," Ellen Patton said.

ACCESS Nutrition Program Supervisor Chris Bosse said the Pattons' efforts are much appreciated.

"They're great. They're like family," he said. "They're wonderful people."

ACCESS Food Share provides emergency food boxes to hungry families and individuals in Jackson County through a network of more than 24 food pantries. The program also supplies food to more than 20 agency programs serving low-income people.

Through the Fresh Alliance program, ACCESS collects perishable items from local grocery stores. Volunteers also plant, maintain and harvest crops in ACCESS Food Share Gardens, and the organization encourages local gardeners to grow fresh food for others in their own gardens through the Plant-a-Row initiative.

Other ACCESS programs include energy, weatherization and housing assistance.

For more information on services, as well as donation and volunteer opportunities, call 541-774-4320 or see www.accesshelps.org.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.