Recycler of the Year: Non-Profit Organization - Birch Community Services

13 Jul 2017

Birch Community Services was started in 1992. Their mission is to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for meeting their basic needs and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty. They do this by providing education to clients, facilitating a network of food and product donation, and they share their bounty with partner agencies.

Birch Community Services provides clients with access to financial education, job training and professional development, and connecting with community resources and a range of other classes that teach practical skills such as cooking, food preparation, gardening, and the Metro region’s Eat Smart, Waste Less food waste prevention class. Families that participate pay a small monthly fee in exchange for the ability to shop Birch’s warehouse in Gresham. Their clients can shop for household items such as clothing, footwear, furniture, and other items as donated. They can also shop for food items including fresh produce, grains, canned and packaged food, and frozen items.

Birch has active relationships with 250+ food growers, processors, distributors, and retailers. They maintain a fleet of vehicles that travel around the region picking up regular and one-time donations. They also accept donations from individuals and partner with local employers on clothing and food drivers. They serve nearly 800 families locally and they have redistributed 3.5 million pounds of food with 70 other local agencies, which has helped serve another 10,000-15,000 people struggling with hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, and/or chemical dependency issues.

Their operating budget comes primarily from their extensive recycling efforts and the low fee they charge their clients. Birch generated over $60,000 in 2016 from recycling revenue for materials such as cardboard, plastic, paper, shrink wrap, clothing, wood pallets, cell phones, ink and toner cartridges, bottles, aluminum cans, and scrap metal.

2016 by the numbers

  • Food: 9,729,682 lbs. – 280 food growers, processors, distributors, and retailers gave to feed working, struggling families.
  • Household Goods: 453,199 lbs. – companies like Costco and Bed Bath & Beyond provided generously.
  • Clothing: 623,263 lbs. – Generous individuals, companies, and nonprofits gave surplus and used clothing to help working poor families.
  • Work Boots: 31,410 lbs. – Local footwear manufacturers provided new, returned, and demo model boots and shoes to help people secure and retain labor related jobs.
  • BCS relied on 1,000+ volunteers giving over 21,000 hours of service to redistribute over 9 million pounds of product in 2016.
  • Median Time on Program: 32 months - A typical family will spend approximately two years on the BCS program and in that time they will usually make substantial progress on financial goals they identify at the start of the program.
  • Average Increase in Emergency Savings: 98% - Our survey of families who graduated from BCS shows that the typical family spends 32 months on our program and in that time is able to increase their savings by 98%. This savings often represents an emergency cushion that allows families to address an unforeseen car repair or leaky roof with their own money rather than credit.
  • Average Reduction in Monthly Debt: 28% – Through practicing responsibility in the context of accountability, each family identifies and regularly reviews progress toward their goals. During their time on the program, the average family is able to reduce their monthly debt payments by 28%.
  • Hours of Training: 1,447 – Educational classes such as money management, Microsoft Excel, couponing and cooking helped participants save money and learn skills to earn a better income.
  • Birch redistributed 3.5 million pounds of food with 70 other local agencies and in turn help to serve another 10,000 to 15,000 people

Photo: Madeline Allen, Birch Community Services; Photo courtesy of Carter Hubbard