This conversation is one in a series of interviews held with nonprofits on Field Day, where we highlight the important work they’re doing in local communities.
Sunshine Division was born out of a volunteer civilian group organized in response to an economic downturn in 1922. This group responded to emergencies across the city, finding themselves primarily addressing poverty by collecting and delivering food to Portlanders in need. With the help of donations, the group was able to expand its services and in 1923, Sunshine Division was officially established.
Today, after nearly 100 years of service, Sunshine Division continues to support Portlanders in need with emergency food and clothing resources, including an Emergency Home Delivery Program that was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since April 2020, Sunshine Division has provided nearly 7.5 million meals to over 300,000 households through its food programs.
We interviewed Kyle Camberg, Executive Director of Sunshine Division, along with their marketing team, to learn more about how the nonprofit has adapted over its 100 years of service to the City of Portland. Without further ado, let’s hear from Sunshine Division!
For readers who may not have heard of Sunshine Division yet, can you provide an overview of your mission and the services you provide?
Sunshine Division has provided free food and clothing to those in immediate need since 1923. We operate year-round to serve Portland’s most vulnerable populations: families with children, seniors, refugees, people with disabilities, and veterans as they face economic challenges to meet basic needs.
Sunshine Division primarily provides food assistance to our community through our two food pantries, bulk food distribution network, and emergency home food delivery program, which started at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. Sunshine Division also distributes free clothing to the community in a variety of ways, most notably the Izzy’s Kids “Shop with a Cop” program that pairs police officers with low-income students for a back-to-school clothes shopping trip.
What does your partnership with the Portland Police Bureau look like?
Sunshine Division was founded in 1923 by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1966. The PPB does not govern nor manage Sunshine Division – they’re a unique partner that helps us tremendously expand our reach to our community. Sunshine Division is the only Portland nonprofit that provides 24/7 food assistance thanks to this partnership. We have food boxes at Portland police precinct stations that first-responders can deliver to the front doors of those who are in crisis.
How are your programs supported by volunteer engagement?
Sunshine Division has facilitated a long history of volunteerism within the Portland community. Prior to the pandemic, Sunshine Division relied upon a loyal group of 2,000+ volunteers to assist us in our daily operations. While we are so grateful that a number of those dedicated volunteers have returned, we would love to welcome even more!
Corporate volunteer partners can also host food drives for Sunshine Division. This past holiday season, one of our corporate volunteer partners hosted one that pulled together more than 28,000 pounds of food!
Volunteers play a crucial role in our operations and make a huge impact on the people we serve by sorting food donations, packing food boxes for distribution, and making home deliveries. We invite anyone interested to learn about our volunteer opportunities and COVID-19 requirements on our website!
If you are interested in learning about becoming a corporate volunteer partner, we encourage you to reach out to Curtis Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right now on Field Day, corporate teams in our beta program can sign up for either packing or delivering emergency food boxes. During activities like these, how much impact can volunteers look forward to having?
Becoming a corporate volunteer partner is an excellent way to engage employees in meaningful team-building activities that have a remarkable impact on our local community! Teams that have volunteered with us in building food boxes have been able to make upwards of 1,200 boxes filled with ingredients for over 32,400 meals in just two short hours.
How do you plan to continue to adapt to eliminate barriers to service for individuals and families in need? What should we look out for from Sunshine Division as it heads into another century of operations?
At the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, Sunshine Division took dramatic steps to ensure equity and accessibility for all members of our community, primarily in enabling medically fragile and homebound Portland and Gresham residents to access nourishing foods during the COVID-19 crisis.
More than two years later, we are still operating our free and contactless emergency home food delivery program. This program alone has served more than 6 million meals to the doorsteps of more than 75,000 of our neighbors in need, with 43.5% of these households identifying as BIPOC. We’ve been able to operate this vital program, which has dramatically increased access to our services, largely due to the 51,000 square foot retail space temporarily donated by the Safeway Albertson’s Foundation.
Even as the pandemic hopefully eases, Sunshine Division is committed to finding a long-term solution that will enable our emergency home food deliveries to remain one of our organization’s core programs. Sunshine Division will soon celebrate our 100th year as an organization and very much looks forward to continuing to make a tremendous impact upon our local community in our next century of service.
For information about obtaining food relief or ways to get involved with Sunshine Division, head to www.sunshinedivision.org.