Allison Hundley, one of Bandon’s prime volunteers, is president of the E.A.T. program and has been helping those on limited incomes since 2004. E.A.T., which stands for Everyone At Table, invites those on limited incomes to come and share in a home-style nutritious meal every Tuesday night.
Originally from New Jersey, Allison’s journey to Bandon was circuitous. She stayed on the east side of the country for a while, living in Virginia and Florida, before she made it to the Oregon Coast. Pregnant with her daughter, Allison and her husband were looking for a town on the coast with a hospital. They tried Coos Bay first, and were disappointed, but when they found Bandon, they knew they had found home.
In the early 2000s, Allison was looking for something for a volunteer opportunity where she could put her seemingly boundless energy. In 2004, she started talking with Stephanie Bereson from Holy Trinity Church, who, along with women from six other churches, had the idea to help the less fortunate in Bandon. Before Allison joined the group, the women, Rev. Barbara Mudge; Caroline McKemy; MaryAnne Longworth; Audrey Wells; Trish Spencer; Rev. Robin Hruna, Rev. Sharon Mortensen; Carolyn Goldwasser; and Stephanie Bereson, planned to open a homeless shelter. For various reasons, that didn’t work out, and over the next few months, they concluded that they could help them greatest number of needy people with a meal program. To help confirm this thought, one of the women checked in with the school district and found that 55% of the students in the district received free or reduced lunch.
Just 3 months after Allison and Stephanie started talking, E.A.T., Inc. served its first meal. Gail Nordstrom from Langlois joined the group as a cook shortly before they opened, and she has been cooking ever since. In a short period of time, the seven ladies got involved, made up a board, and organized their new program into a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. E.A.T. is partially supported by donations from church groups but is not a faith-based organization.
Their dream was at first funded by a $1200 grant from Catholic Charities and $180 from donations from a summer visitor at St. John’s Episcopal Church, but through the diligent work of the board to obtain grants, generous businesses and individuals who donate food and money, a cooperative annual fundraiser, and valuable volunteers, the E.A.T. program is still going strong.
Although E.A.T. is its own nonprofit, it is connected to many other groups in the area with similar goals. One of its connections is to the South Coast Food Share (the regional Oregon Food Bank), a program of Oregon Coast Community Action (ORCCA). ORCCA serves as a non-profit umbrella agency that helps administer and support several children’s programs and emergency services on the Southern Oregon Coast from Reedsport to Brookings.
E.A.T. also cooperates with four other nonprofits in Bandon, Coastal Harvest Gleaners, Good Neighbors, the Restoration Worship Center Food Pantry, and Senior Nutrition join with E.A.T. to put on an annual fundraiser they call Bandon Feeds The Hungry Variety Show. Every summer, auditions are held for all kinds of talent, including vocal, comedy, and dance, and the 5 minute acts are performed in early October to an enthusiastic audience. Attendees also enjoy refreshments at a snack bar, a silent auction, door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing.
The Variety Show is one of the annual highlights for Bandon residents as it is a night of good fun and entertainment, but it is also one of the most important sources of income for the five nonprofit groups. The proceeds are split equally among the five groups and are used to fund their programs. Bandon Feeds the Hungry was the brainchild of Coastal Harvest Gleaners’ then president Lynn Silverman. She supervised the shows for several years until Amy Moss Strong stepped in and continued Lynn’s excellent work.
E.A.T. also relies on grants to pay for the equipment used for meal preparation and for other specific needs as well as donations from local businesses, church groups, and individuals, and donations that are accepted (although not required) at the door at the weekly dinners. Securing adequate funding to keep E.A.T. going is a job that requires ongoing work, but in the generous Bandon community, they have not had to struggle too much to keep the program running continuously for 11 years.
The need to feed Bandon’s hungry has not changed in the time E.A.T. has existed. In fact, it seems to have increased. In the 2014-2015 school year, 78% of Bandon School District’s students benefit from free or reduced lunches, and many single and older residents are in need as well. Although some families attend the weekly dinners, Allison, knowing the statistics, would like to see more.
Tuesday night dinner menus vary with the kinds of food donated, but they are always free, home-style, and nutritious. A typical main dish might be meatloaf or chicken with side dishes of potatoes, vegetables, and more. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, E.A.T. was able to serve a spiral cut ham, potatoes, peas, carrots, and apple pies.
Bandon residents can count on a meal every Tuesday night of the year, except for the Tuesday before Christmas and the Tuesday before New Years when the board members are given a small holiday break. The seven tireless and dedicated board members are all volunteers, and some have been on the board since E.A.T.’s inception. The board consists of:
Allison Hundley (president)
Barbara Mudge (vice president)
Gail Nordstrom (cook/treasurer)
Trish Spencer (secretary/assistant cook)
Allison is very grateful to the community and volunteers who help E.A.T. happen, but there is always room for more volunteers and donations. Allison is currently looking for a volunteer to make salad once a month and someone to wash dishes once a month.
E.A.T. serves nutritious home-style dinners for Bandon’s residents every Tuesday night from 5:30-6:30 at The Barn Community Center. Allison encourages folks to come prior to 6:00 when seconds are offered to diners. The dinners are free, but donations are accepted at the door.