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The Sunshine Division

The Portland Police Sunshine Division provides free emergency food and clothing to people in our community. We wanted to take a closer look at this long time agency and find out why police are involved, and how people can access it's services. Officer Matt Tobey acts as liaison between the Portland Police bureau and Kyle Camberg, is the Executive Director.

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Announcer:
Welcome to Talking Beat, the Podcast for the Portland Police bureau. We're focusing on thoughtful conversations that we hope will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of work performed by Portland Police Officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city. Here's what's on today's show.

Kyle Camberg:
Most charities have office hours, 8:30 to 5:00 or whatever, but the police do not have office hours. It's 24/7, they're in the community, and they're who shows up when there's a 911 call. And so oftentimes there's crisis and poverty associated with that. And our tools, which are food and clothing, I think really come in handy.

Host:
The Portland Police sunshine division provides free emergency food and clothing to people in our community. We wanted to take a closer look at this long time agency and find out why police are involved, and how people can access it's services. Talking to me today is Officer Matt Tobey who acts as liaison between the Portland Police bureau and the sunshine division, and Kyle Camberg, Executive Director.

Host:
So first we're going to make it really clear that Portland Police Sunshine Division is a separate 501C3. It's a non profit that provides emergency food and clothing to those in need in our community, but it acting independently of the Portland police bureau, and we're still partners in many ways. So Matt, right out of the gate, why is it the Portland Police Sunshine Division and why are officers involved?

Ofc. Tobey:
That's because it was actually started by police. It is part of the police bureau's DNA. Officially, it started in 1923, however a year or so before that it started with officers on the street who just recognized, just like we do today, people who needed a little extra help. They saw families who didn't have shelter, they didn't have food, they didn't have sufficient clothing, and so they started to take up collections for that. And they were able to go to local vendors and purchase some of these items, or give it to them themselves. And that's really how it started. It's simply a way for police in the early 20s to make connection with the community because they saw the need. And the core mission is still the same, even though it's not part of the police bureau specifically since around 1963 or so, it is still very much a part of the police bureau culture and who we are.

Host:
So Sunshine has an amazing history, and there's photos of Fred Myer. And yes, for people who haven't lived in Portland their whole life, there actually was a Fred Myer. And our formal commander Bud Lewis, who ran the Sunshine Division in the 60s. And Kyle, you made history, too. You are the first executive director after several years of a sergeant running the division. And as Matt talked about, I know the agency has evolved. So now present day, let's talk about where the Sunshine's at and what you do.

Kyle Camberg:
Yeah. So this has been, to use a term that's thrown around in the police bureau, I'm a civilian. I'm not employed by the city. I've got about 20 years experience in nonprofit management and fundraising and I got hired to work with our small civilian staff, but also thousands of volunteers, and closely with the liaison from the bureau who is now Officer Tobey, before that it was Officer [Filcant 00:03:13].

Kyle Camberg:
And it's such a neat experience to be a part of something that's been around for almost 100 years and really be a caretaker of that tradition. Where we're at today is really on an exponential growth curve in that since the recession, we're serving more than two times the amount of households that we did back in about 2010. We've added a second facility over near David Douglas High School in East Portland. And so we have two buildings essentially that approximately 20000 households are going to come to in the coming year for free emergency food and clothing. And they're going to shop in these facilities that are basically a food pantry, and a clothing room that's not that dissimilar from a Goodwill.

Kyle Camberg:
But of course everything we do is at no cost to those families and individuals in crisis. So we've really grown a lot in the last decade, and that need just continues to skyrocket. So it's something we're there to respond to with these resources. And then uniquely, I get to work with Matt, and that's always an interesting conversation piece for me is a couple days a week I've got an Officer in our office. And Matt is a connector to the community in so many unique ways. He's been able to bring Sunshine Division and our services to so many organizations that we would never, ever had a chance to connect with because most charities have office hours, 8:30 to 5:00 or whatever, but the police do not have officer hours. It's 24/7, they're in the community, and they're who shows up when there's a 911 call.

Kyle Camberg:
And so oftentimes there's crisis and poverty associated with that. And our tools, which are food and clothing, I think really come in handy. And I think Matt would agree with that.

Host:
Yes, let's talk about that Matt. How do officers access Sunshine services? Or how do they act as a conduit?

Ofc. Tobey:
We have food boxes at all of the precincts, and most of the contact offices, probably 20 or so out of the who knows how many contact offices and rest stops we have, those boxes are 34 to 40 pounds of non-perishable food. And so police can take those at their discretion to anybody at anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People can also call the non-emergency line and, this is what makes it really unique, they can actually call again, anytime of day, day or night, holiday, weekend, whenever, and an officer can actually bring them a box of food directly to the house.

Ofc. Tobey:
So not only does that provide a connection and some immediate food relief, but it also creates a bridge and helps our community understand that we are much more then just law enforcement officers. We are able to help them with some of the most important base needs. So we also have officer referral cards, and those are simply little business cards that all of us can carry. And we can throw any of them on there, and we can give them to, really again at our discretion whoever needs it. And that gives that person to the opportunity to go down to one of our warehouses, either the one on Thompson or the one on East [Aisle 00:06:05] Stark, and they can present that there and they can come out with as much as they could probably carry, and that would get them much further ahead then a simple box of food.

Ofc. Tobey:
But it's something that we have, again, that we can use all the time. And they can simply, again, come down and use our resources at our warehouses. And from that also probably be able to connect with additional resources that we have there including clothing and more visits then just that one time.

Kyle Camberg:
We work really closely with a number of Portland Police bureau members, and sometimes I get those calls directly. And often when that call comes through it's something that is extremely tragic. And again, as a person who's not in law enforcement and doesn't work for the city, those aren't situations I'm really accustomed to being in. And frankly, those are really impactful to me and things that stay with me. One story that really stays with to this day was there was a family, it was refugee family from Southeast Asia, they had fled religious persecution. They had made it to the United States. A number of children and parents living in a small apartment.

Kyle Camberg:
And one of their children actually drowned at the end of summer. And of course the response to that is EMTs, and police, and firefighters. And the very next morning, we had a few of the officers that had responded in our warehouse, and they were sharing the story with me of what had occurred. "There's this family with small children, they're new to this country and they already have lived through a number of traumatic and horrific experiences. And yet, here's another barrier." And these Portland Police Officers, and these EMTs and firefighters are responding to this, and they know that it's right around labor day time, and they know that these kids that are now surviving yet another trauma in their life are going to be going to be school.

Kyle Camberg:
And so we were able to not only get food for that family, but also get gift cards for Fred Myer so that the officers who responded could take those children school clothes shopping, because they obviously had financial needs as well. While it's a very polarizing topic in the media, the very simple fact is that these families have a very short amount of time to acclimate to living here in the Portland Metro area. They have a lot of barriers. They have language barriers, they have cultural barriers. Oftentimes getting good, stable, family-wage employment is really difficult for those families, so basic needs like food and clothing are going to be tough.

Kyle Camberg:
Then you layer in that a lot of these families are coming from war-torn countries, or places where they've been persecuted, so they're dealing with trauma as well. So providing again that basic need of food and clothing, and having the delivery mechanism via police officer that's trying to help them assimilate, I think is an amazing partnership. You won't see that anywhere else. You won't see another charity that is providing a resource, and then a police officer is connecting to a population of people who've already had tremendous barriers and will continue to have a number of barriers.

Kyle Camberg:
So I'm really proud of that. Because again, with a normal charity with 8:00 to 5:00 office hours wouldn't connect to those families. They wouldn't know how to find us, we wouldn't know how to find them. We're making a huge impact with these families, so I'm really proud. It's one of the things I'm most proud of. We're able to get to people who would not know how to access the services that we offer, which is amazing.

Ofc. Tobey:
Yeah. I think that's really one of the greatest benefits of the Sunshine Division. Because food is cross-cultural, it gives us an instant way to make a connection with somebody, especially a refugee community and an immigrant community. So many times where they've come from, or where they've been, their relationship with law enforcement was really quite poor. And the Sunshine Division gives us the tools to make an initial connection and it helps us remove some of those barriers, or to strip away some of this misconceptions that we may have of each other, really. And it helps us to become honestly friends. And it's been amazing how many times we've been able to present someone with food or with clothing, and it's so unexpected, and so unusual, and yet they receive it with great gratitude. And it changed me, it changed my life really. It's helped to see people differently, to recognize the humanity in everyone. And Sunshine Division's given me the tools to do that.

Ofc. Tobey:
And what a great way to help welcome them to our community. To help them understand that we are here to help them. To help them become comfortable with our culture, with our city, and especially with police. And to help them understand that we really are here to help and protect them, and to provide them with a safe place to live.

Host:
In addition the refugee population that you're talking about, who else accesses Sunshine services?

Kyle Camberg:
So the number one demographic that comes directly to us at our two locations are families with children. Oftentimes these are working parents, a lot of times it's single moms. That's by far the number one demographic of who comes to the Sunshine Division. And I get that question a lot. And really, it's changed dramatically over the last eight years I've been there. Eight years ago we were sort of digging out of the recession still, you saw a lot of people who's employment might have got blown up, or affected, or negatively impacted by the recession.

Kyle Camberg:
Now you fast forward to where we are today, unemployment's really low, but the cost of living has just grown exponentially in Portland. When you see rent costs that have gone up double digits for four or five years straight for people, cost of healthcare has gone up. Just existing in this city on one income becomes really, really difficult for a lot of families. So families that are working, and are struggling to get by who are check to check are the number one demographic. But it's not just families with children. We see a lot of senior citizens that are on a fixed income, we see a lot of individuals who have had a health crisis or are on disability as well. And we see a lot of veterans families, too. Unfortunately there's a huge population of Oregonians who've been deployed oftentimes to the middle east, and those families when that member of the family comes back oftentimes there's barriers to employment, there's health barriers, there's a lot of different things going on.

Kyle Camberg:
So we see a wide array of people, but the number one common denominator is it's people who are in a time of crisis, who are struggling to get through the month and they need a little help with their basic needs. They need a little help, a little assistance, just because this month's check isn't going to cover all the bills. And so we can hopefully knock out that real basic need of food and clothing for people, so that that's one less thing they have to struggle and worry about.

Host:
So we've talked a lot about food, but as you mentioned before, Sunshine also provides clothing. So tell me how people access clothing, Kyle.

Kyle Camberg:
Yeah. So in our two facilities, in addition to food pantries, we also have these spaces that are run by volunteers where we have gently used clothing available to the families in need. Oftentimes we'll have real basics, jackets, coats, hats, blankets, things of that nature. So that again, a family that's coming in to get a grocery cart full of food can also hopefully get themselves outfitted with appropriate clothing. And the big one is, anyone that has kids knows that it seems like every two and a half months your kid grows out and is into a new size of shoe, or a different jacket. And so children, and outfitting children, is often the number one thing we're doing there.

Kyle Camberg:
And so those are just free resources at each facility. And then additionally we have this great program that started back in the 1980s called Izzy's Kids, there was a woman named Isabella Hoyt who thought it would be a great idea to start a program where we raise funds, we raise money specifically so that we can pair low income kids with a police officer. Fast forward to today, nearly 500 kids throughout the year will do our Izzy's Kids, or better known as Shop with a Cop.

Kyle Camberg:
We do a huge event every summer, we had 275 kids out from about half a dozen different social services organizations this summer. And then additionally throughout the school year, we have about 20 slots a month that get utilized. And that's frankly where Matt comes in extremely uniquely handy to that, because he's connected to so many different people whether it's school resource officers, or just cops that are responding to families in crisis so that we've got that tool, which is essentially a gift card so that a police officer can help out a family with school age kids to go shopping.

Host:
So anyone who has ever been to Shop with a Cop, the big event that you were talking about, really an amazing experience. It's controlled chaos with police officers, with some professional staff members running around with kids, everybody's trying to calculate math in their head, the kids are trying on things in the aisles, and it's a really fun event. And so that, and then combined with an officer just taking a child shopping, the child involved gets a lot of school clothes and much needed supplies. But, how does it impact you, Matt?

Ofc. Tobey:
First of all, it's a lot of fun, honestly. The big event in August is controlled chaos, and it's so fun to see all the kids, and all the officers, and others there to help us out. But really it's the one on one. Today for instance, I'm taking two kids from high school to Fred Myers this afternoon. And I'm taking a kindergartner also from another group. And spending an hour or so with a kid that you may have come across, or not know very well, and helping them shop for clothes. At first it's kind of awkward honestly, especially I'm over 50 now and trying to help a 16 year old girl pick out clothes, that's a little weird I guess for both of us.

Ofc. Tobey:
And in the hour as we talk, and as we get to know each other, it's a lot of fun. And you see the change in their countenance, and this little bit of timidness, they become more friendly. And same way with me. It's like, "Okay. I got to know you a little bit." And our understanding of each other may have changed. And sometimes their parents will come, and so get to talk to their mom and their dad, or whoever happens to come with them. And through those conversations, and through that contact, we really become friends. And it's fun because maybe I'll see them later on and they'll say, "Hey, Officer Tobey!", or whatever. It's nice to have that connection.

Ofc. Tobey:
And I think it really helps provide the kids with a positive view of officers. And again, I don't know how much more I can really emphasize the food and clothing are important, but it's really how we make those relationships that's really important. And those things last much longer then a simple visit to Fred Myer.

Kyle Camberg:
Right. But we're able to then also connect to all these other social service organizations, whether that's with Multnomah County, whether that's with Jewish Child and Family Services, Islamic Social Services of Oregon, Boys and Girls Club of the Portland Metro Area. So we're reaching out to all these other organizations to help identify kids, and it allows us growth and interact with all these other organizations that are doing great work.

Kyle Camberg:
Which I think is really important because no one entity can solve poverty, no one entity can solve hunger... Sunshine Division we work with police officers daily, we work with well over 100 other social service organizations, we uniquely work with various city bureaus, county agencies. And so it's just another way that we're working together with a wide array of people and organizations to do what we all want to do, which is help families and help kids.

Host:
So we're going to take a little turn now and talk about the holiday food organization, which I know is talk about controlled chaos, tell me a little bit about what goes on in the holidays, Kyle.

Kyle Camberg:
It's one of the things I'm most proud about, about Sunshine Division and what we're about to do. And again you talk about nearly an 100 year old tradition that started in the 1920s. So some quick stats I guess I would say is number one, between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday we will produce about 4400 of these about a 40 pound box of food. In addition to that, a reusable grocery bag that has frozen turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, bread, and usually dessert. And so we're able to make sure 4400 households get essentially all the food they would need to provide a very large holiday meal, whatever that holiday is that you personally celebrate.

Kyle Camberg:
In December, over half of those meals are actually home delivered by volunteers. A little different then 1923 when people were on foot with baskets of food. We actually use our two facilities and two police precincts to be delivery hubs. So traditionally for the last decade or two, the Saturday prior to Christmas has been called Delivery Day. And so this year approximately 22, 2300 of those meals are going to get home delivered by volunteers, by police officers, by friends and families of police officers. And in some cases people that have been volunteering at the Holidays longer then I've been alive. We mentioned former officer Bud Lewis who's 99, he comes out and helps build the boxes every year. He started that in 1960s. And here he is many, many decades later still helping us.

Kyle Camberg:
And so it's a Portland tradition, it's part of the DNA. It's something we'll always do. The new wrinkle, or what's changed in the last couple of years, is that in addition to those 4400 meals that are going out over about a month's time, we actually are also working with Safeway Albertson's locally to make sure over 20000 sort of the deli-to-go frozen turkey meals get out to the community. And this is another way we partner with a wide array of other social service organizations.

Kyle Camberg:
And so we're going to make sure 20000 of these meals go out in bulk, that's everything from local schools, faith-based organizations, other governmental agencies, other food-related charities and food banks around the metro area. And then some social service organizations that had nothing to do with hunger relief, but are just trying to do something special at the holidays. So a great example is we work with Virginia Garcia, which is a Latino health clinic out in Hillsborough, Cornelius area. Well generally speaking they're a healthcare organization, but at the Holidays, they want to make sure that some of these low income families that they work with are able to get a holiday meal. And so for many, many years they've received approximately 100 of the boxes.

Kyle Camberg:
And so there's well over 75 of these organizations that access these meals. And we provide those completely free. Zero dollars and zero cents. If they can get a truck to our warehouse, we load them up, and that's about as complicated as it is.

Host:
Let's just be clear, that's not just the holidays that you work these organizations and you let them access food?

Kyle Camberg:
That's correct. So in addition to what we do at the holidays, which is massive, it's the biggest bulk distribution that we do throughout the year, we also distribute approximately two million dollars worth of food and clothing throughout the year to over 50 social service organizations. That's everything from a pallet of peanut butter, to bulk clothing, or emergency food boxes that we've prepared in the warehouse and then are giving to those other organizations to help people. And again, probably the most important of this, none of that ever costs any of those agencies a penny. Everything that we distribute to an outside organization, or to an individual that comes to us, is always 100% free of charge.

Host:
So what I really think that is cool about Sunshine is how you guys honor your tradition. And I love hearing the holiday stories, but we're going to talk about another holiday event that actually wasn't a tradition, and that's Winter Wonderland. Tell me a little bit about that.

Kyle Camberg:
So a little over four years ago, we were able to access a grant from the Murdoch Trust which really was the seed money to be able to take on and become the owners of the Winter Wonderland light show. It had been around for about 20 years out at Portland International Raceway, we had been a charity that was a part of that, but a for profit entity owned the event. And for those that don't know what it is, it's a two mile raceway which turns into not a raceway in the winter because it's cold and wet, and you can't race cars when it's raining sideways. But what you can do is set up two miles of holiday lights, and you can charge admission to the public, and that's exactly what we've been doing for the last four years as now the owners of this light show.

Kyle Camberg:
It's a holiday light show, there's everything from Santa Claus to dinosaurs for the little kids, to driving through the wreaths, and Matt, your personal favorite is of course the disco tunnel. I know you told me that a [crosstalk 00:22:40]

Ofc. Tobey:
[crosstalk 00:22:40] Disco tunnel.

Kyle Camberg:
The lights [crosstalk 00:22:42] So it's two miles, you're in the comfort of your own car. It's a very affordable family entertainment. And as we all know, in Portland in December the weather can be a little dicey. So you're in your own car with something hopefully warm, and all 100% of the proceeds from the event go to the Sunshine Division so we can provide those free resources we talked about earlier. And it's become our largest fundraiser. So it's been a huge success, we've had record attendance each of the past four years. And it's a hit.

Host:
Okay Kyle, I'm glad you mentioned donations. I'm going to let you give your plug here for a minute. And tell me a little bit more about donations, and how they're used.

Kyle Camberg:
Yeah. So number one, we are a 100% donor funded organization. And what I mean by that is we are not funded, we are not a line item for the city, we are not federally funded. 100% of our operations happens because people like you and I, and companies, and grand foundations, are able to believe in what we do and fund us. And so whether that's donating food, donating clothing, or donating your money, we have to go out and essentially raise those funds every year to make sure the operation continues to grow.

Kyle Camberg:
Something I'm very proud of about the organization is a charity navigator, which is a watch dog, essentially it's the Better Business Bureau for non-profits, does actual auditing of thousands of non-profits every year around the globe, not just domestically. And we have received their four star rating eight years in a row. And the four stars is their highest rating, there is no five star. And approximately 4% of the charities that have ranked can say that. So we are extremely fiscally sound, we are very, very good with the resources that are donated to us. We are nothing if not grass roots and efficient. And we make sure that the greatest amount of your dollar that's donated is going towards our mission, actually over 92 cents on the dollar that is donated to Sunshine Division goes directly towards our mission.

Kyle Camberg:
And I think that's what really speaks to a lot of our donors and volunteers is how efficient we are. We operate out of an 80 plus year old warehouse that was not meant to be a food bank. It is a very clean operation, and we get a lot done with a little.

Host:
And so tell us where we can donate, Kyle.

Kyle Camberg:
Yeah. It's very simple. Sunshinedivision.org. You get to our home page, there is a big button that says, "Donate." And like I said, over 92 cents of every dollar that is donated to the Sunshine Division goes directly to our mission of providing free emergency food and clothing. We are a Charity Navigator four star charity, so you can feel good knowing that any contribution, big, small or between, is going to go directly to providing free emergency food and clothing here in the Portland Metro Area.

Host:
Okay. Well we have some traditions of our own at Talking Beat. And that is we ask all our guests, What's your favorite donut? Matt?

Ofc. Tobey:
Holy cow. Just one? Maple bar is a classic, it'll never go out of style. So maple bars are the best.

Kyle Camberg:
I was going to ask if that's allowed because it's technically not a donut, but yes maple bar would be my go to as well.

Host:
Thanks for being here you guys.

Kyle Camberg:
Thank you.

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Announcer:
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