Two hours away from the fast-paced, swirling metropolitan of Portland lies the small town of Astoria, Oregon. And, it is no new kid on the block. Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, with its roots to the ocean running deep. However, this isn’t a story about the history of a quaint coastal fishing town, but rather a story about its heart. The entire community has rallied around friends and neighbors that serve in the United States Coast Guard (USCG) as they endure an unprecedented political standoff.
Astoria is one of 21 cities nationwide that is an official Coast Guard City, a formal designation by Congress to recognize communities that go above and beyond in their support of the Coast Guard family. USCG personnel and their families comprise roughly 10 percent of the local population, and recently, an estimated 1,500 USCG personnel in the area have found themselves working without pay. Combine that with the fact that one of the main local industries in Astoria is tourism, and January is one of the slowest months, one would be quick to surmise that this little community is sitting among a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.
Be that as it may, this little community has not buckled under the financial and political pressures that stands at its gate. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite; when you walk around the town of Astoria on a drizzly day in mid-January you will see hope wherever you go. You will see it in the signs taped in the windows of local businesses offering discounts and free food, you will see it in the bins that businesses have placed out to collect the necessities of food and toiletries for USCG families – but most importantly, it lies in an intangible thread of community and partnership that is woven throughout the community as people come together to support one another.
The tales of generosity are far and wide. Gift baskets and diapers are being left on the doorsteps of Coast Guard families, a bus driver on a route with military children sent each one home with an envelope that contained a ten-dollar bill. The most astounding of efforts is a pop-up food pantry that the community has come together to support.
Local military spouses partnered with the MOMS Club of Astoria and Boy Scouts of America Astoria Troop 211 to create a pop-up food pantry where all federal workers affected by the government shutdown can come to stock their kitchen for the uncertain days ahead. Refrigerators were dropped off to store perishables, food donations from businesses and community members are arriving daily, and volunteers are working tirelessly to collect donations, restock items, and offer hugs and words of encouragement.
Over 1,300 USCG family members and federal workers visited the food pantry this past weekend and the pantry will remain open on the weekends throughout the government shutdown.
While it is true that pantry staples are a drop in the bucket for families meandering a financial tightrope of uncertainty, the community of Astoria is giving their families much more than that. There is a message of camaraderie in this small town that through this difficult time they will not stand alone.Read comments