A Community Effort from the Start…

To this day, I firmly believe that the success of the Tigard-Tualatin Community Backpack Program embodies the unlimited potential of people working together towards a common goal.  With a strong, determined community, anything is possible.  Tigard is one of those communities, and I consider myself lucky to be a small part of it…

From the beginning, the Tigard-Tualatin Community Backpack Program (then just the Tigard Community Backpack Program) has been a community effort.  On a chilly winter evening in January 2010, the high school aged youth of the Tigard Youth Advisory Council (TYAC) met to discuss projects to fundraise during the upcoming summer.  Familiar with Metzger’s backpack program, founded by school counselor Sue Porter, one of the members suggested starting backpack program for Durham Elementary.  This program could send students in need home with a backpack full food for the weekend.  The members unanimously agreed on the idea and proposed a “Movies Under the Stars” event, which would show three movies over the course of the summer at Durham Elementary School.

Free of charge, local families gathered on Durham Elementary’s large field at twilight to enjoy the screening of a family friendly film, such as E.T. or Toy Story 3.  The movies were played on a giant 30 ft. inflatable movie screen, accompanied by a high quality sound system partially donated by a private resident.   Everyone who participated thoroughly enjoyed the event.  To generate funds, attendees could make financial donations or purchase refreshments sold by the Tigard Police Cadets.   Canned foods were also donated, which were stored and later distributed when the backpack program began in November 2011.

Although the Movies Under the Stars events only raised enough money to run Durham’s backpack program for about a month, the young members of TYAC had started something special.  Officer Sheryl Huiras, the Tigard Police Department’s Youth Programs Manager, founder of the Tigard Youth Association, and supervisor to TYAC, knew that Tigard’s citizens and organizations would jump on board to support this important program.   In particular, Take Action INC., a non-profit that was already supporting 16 backpack programs in the Portland-metro area, offered to support Durham’s Program while resources were gathered from the community.

This is where I came into the mix.   At the time, I was Officer Sheryl’s administrative assistant.  It was Sheryl who gave me the challenge of reaching out to the community to see what resources I could raise for Durham’s backpack program.  The response was greater than I ever hoped.  Whether a resident, a business, a religious group, or a social organization, everyone supported the mission to feed children in need.  The positive feedback taught me something: this was a program Tigard wanted for its children and should be available to every school.  If I could just connect the dots, I knew that Tigard would provide the means to make this program possible.

Today, the Tigard-Tualatin Backpack Program serves 9 schools in the Tigard-Tualatin School District and sends home a backpack full of food with nearly 400 kids each weekend.  The generosity of numerous organizations, countless individuals, and our partners has made this possible.  Truly, this is a community effort.  Want the proof?  Reread this story and look at all of the different individuals and organizations that came together to give this vision life.  Together, we have come far and we have started something special.  More work remains, but with your help, our community’s future (literally) is headed in the right direction.


Charlie Sandbo

April 29, 2013

Tigard-Tualatin Community Backpack Program Coordinator


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