Innovative Restaurant Model Serves up Affordable Dining Experience for the Needy

Innovative Restaurant Model Serves up Affordable Dining Experience for the Needy

A motivated quintet of local community advocates and business owners plans to offer Willamette Valley residents a new dining experience. The group intends to open a for-profit restaurant, dubbed “Food for Thought Cafe and Infoshop,” in downtown Salem. There, diners will be able to sample locally-sourced, multi-cultural cuisine–but at a fraction of the price other restaurants might charge.

What will guarantee the restaurant’s affordable offerings? A pay-what-you-want business model which allows customers to pay according to their financial means.

Michele Darr, a board member of Food for Thought Cafe, isn’t worried about maintaining a steady revenue stream. “We believe we have a bullet-proof business and sustainment plan,” she told Helen Caswell of Salem Weekly. Darr’s fellow board member, Amanda Hinman, points to Panera Bread Company’s successful pay-what-you-want experiment in Dearborn, Michigan: the project “helped Panera build a long-term strategy devoted to maintaining a loyal return customer base and is serving as a roadmap for others,” Hinman explained.

Jessica Parks directs a pay-what-you-want cafe in Kirskville, Missouri. Parks admits that obtaining financial support from donors constitutes a major challenge for the business: “People were very skeptical at first.” But, she continued, “once they come, taste our food and see it in action they keep coming back.” About 9 in 10 customers at Parks’ restaurant pay the suggested amount for their meals.

For Darr, the pay-what-you-want model is about giving the needy access to an experience which they otherwise would not be able to afford. “Giving low-income people the chance to eat a nutritious sit-down meal somewhere other than a soup kitchen helps [all people] remember that we aren’t strangers, or forgotten citizens . . . we are neighbors,” she said. Darr and her colleagues hope to offer classes and study spaces at their restaurant in addition to tasty cuisine. Ultimately, they aim to create a vibrant community atmosphere which will uplift the needy and transform the way society currently views food assistance.

Darr and her fellow board members welcome donations for Food for Thought Cafe at their GoFundMe page.

Local Non-profit Donates Unused Food to Needy

Local Non-profit Donates Unused Food to Needy

Salem Harvest, a local non-profit, has a plan to reduce food waste and help the hungry. The organization “connects farmers and backyard growers with volunteer pickers” who gather produce which would otherwise go unused, writes Tom Hoisington of Salem Weekly. Salem Harvest then distributes the food free of charge to low-income families, the unemployed, the elderly, and other needy individuals.

According to Hoisington, the organization has collected over one million pounds of fruits and vegetables for the Marion-Polk Food Share and other local food banks since 2010, and boasts 2,600 volunteers. Thus, Salem Harvest is well-equipped to meet Oregon’s exceptional needs: more children, as a percentage of the population, experience hunger here than in any other state.

Salem Harvest benefits not only those who receive produce, but also those who give their time to harvest it. “Harvests offer an opportunity for families to work together in the outdoors, meet local farmers, and gain a better understanding of where food comes from,” explains Hoisington. To learn about opportunities to volunteer for Salem Harvest, visit the organization’s website at

New beach-accessible wheelchairs purchased so visitors can enjoy Cannon Beach

New beach-accessible wheelchairs purchased so visitors can enjoy Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach will soon have beach-accessible wheelchairs so visitors with mobility challenges can enjoy the sand and the surf.

“It’s making our beach, which is free for everyone, free for everyone,” said Pooka Rice, outreach coordinator for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach. “It’s very exciting.”

The Cannon Beach Police Department will oversee the checkout and return process of the wheelchairs. The chairs will be available on the east side of the city hall building and are free to use. They can be reserved and visitors can leave their regular wheelchairs at the Police Department.

“People didn’t even know something like this existed,” Dan Haag said. Haag is the manager of the visitor’s center in nearby Manzanita. “And the reaction is joy just to be able to get down to the beach.”

In Manzanita, they’ve had free beach wheelchairs available for nearly 10 years, said Haag. “We’re happy that our partners up in Cannon Beach are providing this for people so when we don’t have them available, we know where to send people.”

Court Carrier, the executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, hopes that wheelchairs will soon be available throughout Oregon’s entire coast.

“We know there’s a lot of other people that have begun doing this,” said Carrier. “And we hope to help spread this idea up and down the entire coast so that everyone makes it their mission to have an accessible beach.”

Cannon Beach currently has two wheelchairs, valued at $2,500 each. The funds for those chairs were privately donated.

The goal is to have 4 or 5 wheelchairs and some specialized walkers available so everyone can enjoy the beach. Fundraising is currently ongoing and anyone interested in making a donation should contact the Haystack Rock Awareness Program or the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce.


Local Boy Signs with Portland Timbers

Local Boy Signs with Portland Timbers

Earlier this month, the Portland Timbers added an exceptional new player to their roster. Five-year-old Derrick Tellez of Portland may be a few feet shorter than his teammates, but Timbers coach Caleb Porter can attest to his skills on the field: “Derrick is an extremely talented young goalkeeper, and we’re excited to have him signed for this weekend’s game against Orlando City,” Porter said.

Derrick, who is battling brain cancer, received his special contract with the Timbers through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The budding soccer star couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than playing with the Timbers. Gavin Wilkinson, president of soccer for the Timbers, also feels enthusiastic about the team’s new arrangement: “We are thrilled to welcome Derrick to the club and help make his wish to sign with the Portland Timbers a reality for him and his family,” Wilkinson stated.

Derrick was scheduled to enjoy an exclusive training session with Timbers players, and to join the team in Orlando City for pregame warm-ups and the National Anthem. The Timbers planned to present him with a customized locker and personalized green jersey. Porter was eager to see his newly-minted player participate in team activities: “We are pleased to have him join our club and look forward to his contributions.”

Hillsboro Classroom Transformed into Hogwarts

Hillsboro Classroom Transformed into Hogwarts

Kyle Hubler, a Hillsboro teacher at Evergreen Middle School, worked this summer to redesign his entire classroom into Hogwarts, the magical, castle-like school in Harry Potter.

The classroom has everything imaginable: feathered pens, brick wallpaper, a chess set, stone owls, cauldrons, and even keys hanging from the ceiling.

In an interview with Koin6, he said, “I’ve been collecting this stuff since I was in middle school. Most of it came from my garage.”

He hopes that by decorating the classroom like the general setting of the favorite children’s novel, he will keep the students’ attention as well as show them that he cares about them. “Once they understand that I care about them, then they can actually start to care about what I’m going to teach them”, Huber stated. “That’s really fulfilling to me.”

View the full interview with Kyle Hubler below:

Young Oregonian Recognized for Community Service

Young Oregonian Recognized for Community Service

Four years ago, 13-year-old Carlie Steele of Amity, Oregon, caught a vision for helping people in need. Watching a telethon for children’s cancer “sparked an interest,” Carlie explained to KOIN reporters. “I thought these kids might want something to play with or something to do when they’re in this rough time.” Carlie faithfully pursued her vision, collecting $2,000 worth of donated gifts for young chemotherapy patients.

After her first project, Carlie felt inspired to keep on giving. She founded “Carlie’s Kindness Campaign,” a certified non-profit organization, to structure her charitable efforts. One Christmas, she organized a drive to collect gifts and card games for overseas military personnel. She developed a 5K run fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Oregon. And she held multiple assemblies at her school “to raise awareness and respect for those who have disabilities.”

Carlie’s campaigns have earned her national recognition: this May, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive a Presidential Spirit of Community Award for community service and to meet Senator Ron Wyden.

Carlie, however, intends to pursue goals much broader than national recognition and fame. “I want to try and end the negativity in the world and show kids my age that being kind is cool, and volunteering is a great thing to do.”