Jeff Rice is the administrator of Sweet Home Emergency Ministries (David Patton/Democrat-Herald)

SWEET HOME — Sweet Home Emergency Ministries (SHEM) relies heavily on its volunteers. It takes roughly 1,000 man hours split between 100 volunteers a month to run the program.

The Sweet Home Ministries Association started a food box ministry in 1980, and out of that came SHEM, which is now its own nonprofit organization.

The program serves about 1,200 people each month with food boxes and 900-1,000 people each month with its hot food meals called Manna, according to Jeff Rice, administrator of SHEM.

The Manna ministry is a cooperation between SHEM and the local Sweet Home churches.

“They provide the volunteers and we provide the food,” Rice said.

SHEM also provides financial assistance, according to Rice. One household is allowed utility financial assistance three times in one lifetime and twice a month. The max allowed is $100.

“That has to guarantee the utility will not be shut off,” Rice said, meaning that if it takes $150 to not have the utility shut off, the payee has to come up with the other $50 or SHEM won’t pay for the utility.

SHEM will also help with rent by paying up to $150 of what is due. Families are only allowed to use this once per lifetime.

SHEM helps with gas assistance to medical appointments, and will help with prescription assistance on occasion.

SHEM has started giving out seeds to anyone who wants them to grow their own food.

“We eventually want to teach people how to grow their own simple garden in a cardboard box,” said Cindy Rice, pantry manager for SHEM. “We are just looking for new ways to help people on the food front.”

Cindy said that they are seeing new families every day.

“With the cutbacks on food stamps, a lot of people are having trouble making ends meet,” she said. “That is what SHEM is here for, those emergency situations.”

According to Cindy, SHEM pushes out 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of food each month.

SHEM gets most of their food from the Linn Benton Food Share. Additional food is donated by local churches, organizations, businesses and individuals.

Hawthorne Elementary School in Sweet Home does a combined canned food and money drive each year.

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“They bring in a lot of donations,” Jeff said.

To qualify for SHEM services, a family has to fit into a certain income. Families fill out paperwork when they go into the office, and a volunteer will be there to help them.


SHEM is always in need of volunteers and monetary donations.

Here are some other donations needed:

Food: Cereal, juice, tuna, soup, vegetable oil, canned fruits and vegetables, fresh garden produce, peanut butter, chili, baking mixes and crackers.

Bulk foods: rice, dry beans, sugar, coffee, oatmeal and flour.

Nonfood: toilet paper, laundry soap, shampoo, dish soap, bedding, dishes, cooking pots and pans, small appliances, diapers, hand soap, hygiene products, school supplies, towels and washcloths and silverwear.

For more information, call SHEM at 541-367-6504 or go to www.shemfoodbank.org.

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