Ashland resource sites seek other items besides clothes
Water, cellphone chargers, masks and large bins topped the list of needs Friday at a donation and resource distribution site at Ashland High School.
Volunteer hours and clothes are well in hand, but nonperishable food items, toiletries and diapers also remain on the list of needs.
Many people have come to the center to shop for others, co-organizer and teacher Tia McLean said, including nurses shopping for some patients and teachers picking up items for students.
A push recently surfaced at the community level to identify migrant workers, who may be resistant to reaching out to government agencies for help but still need to be connected to services and necessities, co-organizer and teacher Trish Dorr said.
“A huge operation just took place for the last few hours here where they’re gathering things for those families, specifics, and then taking them to those families wherever they’re housed right now,” she said.
Apart from individuals shopping for larger groups — such as one group who transformed a single-family home into a space for three families — McLean estimated about 75 people directly benefited from resources offered Thursday and Friday. Serendipitously, often a car shows up with a full load of exactly what they need for the next group.
“Our first carload was a family that had two little babies in it, and they needed water,” McLean said, tearing up. “That was the most immediate need, and we could get them that, and yesterday that felt so good. Even if that was the only family that directly benefited, it was all worth it.”
Many more families came after and continued to pour onto the pavement at the Mountain Avenue Theater to dig through clothes, pick up cans of food and find basic necessities — AHS teachers and cafeteria staff who lost their homes among them. Whether taking one item or a large bag, knowing the community is showing up for each other has great value, McLean said.
The Ashland Schools Foundation purchased $15,000 worth of gift cards, which were distributed at the AHS resource distribution center this week to families who lost homes, according to AHS Athletic Director Karl Kemper, who assisted at the center Friday.
The centralization of each resource site proved beneficial for people without reliable internet access, who only hear about the sites via word of mouth, Dorr said. Each group continues to coordinate with spaces between Ashland and Medford to send supplies where needed, including to the Talent and Phoenix school districts.
As most people rely on their cellphones for communication today, chargers are in high demand. The school district sent out surveys to elicit feedback from parents regarding highest need, but without a charged device many can’t send a response, Dorr noted. The center will not accept water in used containers such as milk jugs, per COVID-19 safety protocols.
Resource distribution moved inside Friday to avoid the smoke — an added challenge for those without secure indoor shelter. While they shopped, the Mountain Avenue Theater lobby offered some respite from poor air quality.