WOODLAND — U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez toured a Woodland-based nonprofit Monday afternoon, two months after assuming office.
Gluesenkamp Perez toured the facility, which provides groceries, clothing, and other needed items to many low-income families and individuals every week; she talked to the few who keep the nonprofit afloat about their experiences.
The Woodland Action Center, located at the crossroads of a farm and train tracks, is a nonprofit that offers such supplies as clothing and household items to unsheltered members of both Cowlitz and Clark counties.
The congresswoman provided her signature personal touch that won over so many voters this past election cycle. Gluesenkamp Perez told The Daily News that those responsible for the Woodland Actions Center would wear “special crowns in heaven” for their acts of charity.
The facility has a dual purpose as a thrift store and food bank, providing toiletries and even dog food for clients for pet-owning clients.
Deanna Holland serves as board president for the nonprofit and moonlights as a Woodland City Council member.
She guided the young politico around, at times, a cold, damp building that so many depend on during a challenging time.
Holland told the congresswoman that much of the food comes from Clark County Food Bank, Safeway and Walmart, to name a few.
Large game show-style checks from donors remain in the office from Grocery Outlet, Safeway and the Cowlitz Indian tribe.
“Homelessness looks different in rural communities,” Gluesenkamp Perez said, especially in juxtaposition to how the federal government reacted to the recent bank collapse. Still, when it comes to more established issues, folks are told to “bootstrap it.”
Holland’s main talking point to the congresswoman was the amount of help needed in Woodland.
“There’s a lot of people in my town. I was trying to represent with a lot of different issues (with) only an hour to get it in front of someone in her position,” Holland told The Daily News.
In February, the Woodland Action Center distributed 21,572 pounds of food to 1,131 people in Cowlitz County and 7,095 pounds of food to 372 people in Clark County, Holland said.
Woodland Action warehouse manager Carmen Torres told The Daily News that having a Latina Congress member visiting was “awesome.”
“Woodland is not as cultured as other places, so (to) have her look at what (we’re doing) is awesome,” Torres said.
Torres hopes more members of the Hispanic community come to Woodland Action for assistance: “The Hispanic community (is) shy and scared and don’t really want to be known that they’re here.”
Affordability in Woodland seemed to be the elephant in the room, Holland said. As she told Gluesenkamp Perez, “because of the housing situation, our town has become very gentrified.”
Gayle Singleton, the nonprofit’s treasurer, said: “When we were younger, you could afford to live in this town.”
Holland added there are jobs in Idaho — “if you want to live in a studio, it’s $1,200 a month. Who could afford that?”