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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Birch Community Services Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Financial Counseling, Human Service Organizations, Human Services

Mission: Our 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.

Target demographics: Working, struggling families

Direct beneficiaries per year: 818 Families and Over 65 Agencies!

Geographic areas served: The Portland metro and surrounding areas

Programs: BCS' cornerstone Sustainable Families Program serves financially struggling families with a two-pronged approach: First, by distributing food and other household goods that families choose weekly from our warehouse according to their specific needs. Second, it provides education and individual advising to bolster their financial literacy. Families can regain the freedom to pursue goals that move them away from the cycle of poverty to self-sufficiency, resulting in a positive legacy passed onto their children. We also partner with over 65 local agencies who serve the poor out of the unique expression of their own mission.

Community Stories

24 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services fills a much-needed gap in helping the community. I have found BCS to be amazing in so many respects - I've recommended it to any one I know who is struggling financially. The staff members are helpful, up-beat, and friendly. But really, what makes the organization run, and run so much better than any other I've ever encountered, are the volunteers! The structure of the program - having those who are receiving, giving back, is almost a revolutionary concept. By requiring service, then they empower people, rather than just giving them a handout. For the most part, the volunteers are so happy to be there and help that they work very hard. The amount of gratitude is evident in people's attitudes when they serve and when they receive. BCS also teaches financial classes (which SHOULD be taught in all high school curriculums!!!). I wish more organizations could follow the structure and example of BCS.

Donor

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is so much more than a food bank. The staff truly take the time to get to know each participant and their unique situations. Then, while tangibly helping to reduce expenses for basic needs (food, clothing, etc.), the program asks participants to critically think about their finances and plan for the future. This can be hard work--and not for everyone--but for those who follow through and hold themselves accountable the rewards can last a lifetime. I'm proud to be involved with BCS and the service they provide to our community.

Donor

Rating: 5

I’ve worked with Birch on numerous occasions and I’ve found the people there to be some of the most dedicated people to their cause that I’ve ever met. And their cause is a great one. I don’t think there’s any better place for a family in need to go, to get the help that they need.

Donor

Rating: 5

I love Birch Community Services! I have become a regular donor for several reasons:
• Birch is good for the environment: BCS gleans food and goods that are still usable but that are approaching freshness dates, are out of season (think holiday foods that are still on shelves after the holiday has passed), or are otherwise being ridded by vendors. These goods would otherwise be put in landfills, but Birch collects these foods and supplies gives them to the hungry.

• Birch teaches practical, useful skills that last a lifetime: Birch teaches members how to manage their finances, pay off debt, save for the future, and live within their means. BCS also teaches members how to tend a garden and how to grow some of their own food. They teach communication skills to families and encourage family members to treat each other with mutual respect.

• Birch respects families: BCS works with entire families and includes children in as many age-appropriate activities as possible, such as gardening and helping to decide what spending priorities the family might choose. By doing so, BCS helps to end the cycle of poverty and helps to build up healthy family dynamics.

• Birch puts Christian values at its core: They feed the hungry. They love one another and help families to foster loving relationships amongst themselves. By helping to ease financial stress by teaching financial planning, and by teaching good communication skills, families who are members of BCS tend to stay intact.

• Birch has appropriate expectations: We all know that if expectations are low, correlating results are lesser. If expectations are appropriately high, more can be achieved. BCS expects every family to pitch in and help make their organization run smoothly. This means that families are expected to contribute 2 hours a month of volunteer time and contribute modest monthly dues in exchange for weekly shopping trips.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Birch has been a huge blessing to the working poor families for over 25 years. The people are beyond kind and caring and the products they have are amazing. Can't say enough great things about what they have to share and how they handle themselves. They are a tremendous blessing to the community. - Raccoon

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is an amazing nonprofit that addresses not just food insecurity, but the root of the problem - financial sustainability. Birch's wholistic approach is unparalleled and makes a huge difference in our community!

Donor

Rating: 5

I have supported Birch for a number of years. They change LIVES. It isn't just about food or financial training---they truly care about their community of great individuals who have hit a rough patch and need a "hand-up" not a "hand-out".

1 J-nine O.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I recently joined BCS and am so relieved that my family has stable access to food. This program is awesome because it not only gives families access to food, it also provides financial planning and the ability to meet financial goals. It is awesome to have the opportunity to not worry about how tomfeedntje family while also getting some financial relief so that we can start a savings.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My family joined BCS a little over a year ago and are beyond grateful to be part of this life-changing organization. BCS is a financial education program, but they create immediate financial relief for participants by providing them with amazing (and I mean amazing) groceries every week. Their food co-op coupled with Dino’s highly applicable financial Re$tart class has taught us how to stick to our budget—spending money according to our family goals and ultimately create a savings account. We have so much less stress around food and finances! The employees care deeply about participants. They have worked tirelessly during COVID-19 to meet the growing demand of families in need and keep the warehouse clean and everyone in it safe. Thank you, BCS!

2 Kim W.7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am blown away by Birch every time I come in. It's like reverse shopping. You never know what you are going to get and I get to try different brands I would have never dreamed of. The produce, protein, snacks and random goodies are so much fun to pick out for my family. I love the security of knowing that I have food to provide to my family, especially now. I am grateful for how hard each individual has worked at Birch to make sure during COVID everyone is safe and healthy. They are super receptive of feedback and welcoming of all individuals. I boost about Birch often because it's so awesome! I like how goal orientated Birch is too. My goal is to get financially stable and buy a house for my family. I know, big goals. ha! Everyone is super supportive of us getting there and I even have been thinking outside the box of how to bring in extra income to make that happen. I am so grateful for you all! Thank you so much!

2 Brandy W H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Birch program and staff opened their arms to me and my family during a challenging time in life. I was homeschooling and became responsible for both of my parents at once. That was four years ago. We're now stabilized thanks to help from the entire Birch team and program. I am now proud to give two hours weekly to help Birch continue to help families and grow. Thank you for everything, Birch Community!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I signed up for birch community service
And during the pandemic I lost my job.
The food helped They get so many donations. It mind blowing how much they actually throw away and give to pig farmers especially with so many going hungry right now.
With the program you are required to take a re start “program” with Dino
I found him to be very insincere rude and hard to deal with with no fruits of the spirit emanating through him this is supposed to be a Christian-based program which was part of the draw to Birch community services that they were Christian owned and operated this would not be true with Dino as the pandemic hit computers have become very important and although I don’t have a lot of computer experience Dino gave zero compassion understanding or patience and helping myself navigate through what they expected on the computer. He made accusations and assumptions upon an opinion without communication. This man is heartless

Comments ( 2 )

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Suzanne Birch 07/22/2020

I’m happy to know this BCS past participant was able to benefit from the Sustainable Families Program. Although BCS provides food, our priority is to provide Financial Literacy to our families through accountable mentoring and our Re$tart educational finance classes, giving families the tools to succeed. Through these recent and challenging times, we have provided these services via Zoom meetings to support one-on-one relationship and maintain privacy. Our flexible staff, who are all committed to exhibiting our cultural values including respect and integrity, have spent many hours in communicating clear instructions through email, text and phone conversations. We strive to assure our families they are able to receive these crucial services, as well as continue to benefit from food access. Internet access/a cell phone is all that is needed to connect to BCS in these ways. If a participant struggles with technology, we understand the Sustainable Families Program may not be ...(cont.)

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Suzanne Birch 07/22/2020

(cont.) ... the best fit for them at this time, and offer other options and programs that may fit their lifestyle better. It is our desire this past participant is able to access services in their area. BCS has been extremely fortunate to receive over 9 million pounds of food and household items this fiscal year to date. Some of the food we receive is not acceptable for peoples’ consumption, nor will other food carry over to the next shopping day. In our efforts towards sustainability on numerous levels, we are able to share these items with over 25 animal farmers. We are grateful to continue to assist almost 600 families and 70 other non-profits on a weekly basis, and thankful for the many hours they serve at our warehouse, creating value for each person in our community. Suzanne Birch, Executive Directory Birch Community Services

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

All of my excess clothes go to Birch. The people they help are working hard to improve their lives. Birch does so much to help and guide the people they serve. Birch is fantastic.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Keri Lapore. In the spring of 2015, a friend of mine shared with me about an organization she was a part of. She said this might be something that could help our family. Our family was going through some hard life changing events and because of this had found ourselves for the first time in our 27 year marriage in financial debt that we could not only pay but were slipping down further. This organization I was told about is Birch Community Services. It is a Christian based organization founded in order to help struggling families with a helping hand and financial education to get them back on their feet and hopefully out of debt to move forward. This organization graciously accepted my family and I. We were on the program for approximately 3 and one-half years. In this time period we were given a bounty full of healthy and yummy food, so much that my family heartily looked forward to my weekly shopping. We also were helped in many other ways including bedding, a mattress, chair and much needed clothes and shoes. The staff was continually helpful and friendly. During this time you are required to take at least one financial class and many more are offered. You are taught how to come up with a strategy to get out of debt and not get back into debt. With this organizations help , we were able to pay off all our bills and learn how to set our self up with emergency savings for any future events. I have in the past and will in the future continue to highly recommend this organization to whomever I come across in that needs this kind of help.

3 Janice Lynne E.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was there many years ago in the very first group of people that crowded onto the front porch steps and into the front room at Barry and Suzanne Birch's home to pick up free food. This would become a journey for many of us through the years as we struggled for financial stability with the assistance of free food which enabled us to meet our other financial obligations.

Suzanne Birch, current Executive Director of what had become Birch Community Services took the reins as head of the organization when Barry passed away several years ago. She maintains her role as leader and visionary of this non-profit organization which continues to provide food and sundry's as well as financial training for those who are a part of this program . We did not have this financial component in the early years and it is a major part of the current BCS organization.

I participated in BCS years ago and since have watched Barry and Suzanne from a distance as this non-profit grew and grew expanding its impact on the community in ever increasing numbers. The BCS non-profit has served and served and served so many of us over the years and was an inspiration even though I have not participated in the program for many years.

As a retiree I live in a 300 apartment HUD building for low income senior individuals. BCS has helped me in recent years provide free food for a Women's Christmas Luncheon which has been a great blessing to the 50-60 ladies that have attended for the past six years.

I continue to marvel at the growth of BCS over the years as a non-profit dedicated to helping feed the poor and lead people out of poverty and into financial stability.

I hope that BCS will receive a "Top-Rated Non-Profit" badge for their service to those in need. Thank you, BCS! Janice Ezell

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is in my opinion one of the wonderful and giving communities I have ever seen. They teach and support us on journeys to get back on our feet. They so kind and want only the best for us. From fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and breads that have been donated to Birch from other companies that also believe in what Birch stands for. They also have boots and clothing among other item that will help anyone in need. We started every day with a prayer of thanks. I loved that the most❣ they taught us it isnt a hand out but a hand up.
There truly is no better community than Birch Community Services.
God Bless them.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We joined one year ago and Birch has been an amazing blessing for our family!!

3 Kori C.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Birch was a huge blessing to our family. I really appreciated that it was a volunteer ran organization and enjoyed my time there.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wonderful, caring organization that benefits the community.

4 Jill C.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is fabulous! They have helped my family out so much. I appreciate Suzanne, the Board of Directors, and Staff as to how they have set this organization up to be equally fair to everyone. I've grown so much. I couldn't make it without it. I love how I can give back, by volunteering, and feel like it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Birch community services is the BEST!!! My family would not make it currently without them. We are beyond blessed to participate. I tell others they are THE BEST KEPT SECRET in Portland for working families!

5 Sheila B.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was first introduced to Birch Community Services several years ago when a group I belong to sponsored a few BCS families during the holidays for Christmas gifts. The families were so very grateful. It was truly a heartwarming experience to be able to help someone in such a small way.
I am most impressed with BCS's values. By providing financial education, BCS teaches their families how to help themselves get out if bad situations into a more stable and secure life. BCS changes lives for generations to come by giving the families "a hand up not a handout". Who wouldn't want to support that mission??

5

Board Member

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is an amazing nonprofit!! My family has been involved with BCS for over 9 years. We started out as participants, years later became volunteer shoppers, and now I'm a board member. I personally have seen the staff, director, and volunteers conduct themselves with such integrity and compassion toward participants and volunteers. The one word that comes to mind when explaining Birch Community Services to others is HOPE. You walk into BCS and are greeted by people who really care to see you and see you succeed!! That gives me and many hope for the moment. As you take your shopping cart through the huge shopping warehouse, you are provided with an abundance of healthy food choices for your family. That gives you hope to tangibly take home with you. Birch Community Services also provides financial classes and mentoring to all families which in turn provides hope for the future!! BCS such a full circle reasource for hard working families in need of a hand up. My family would say volunteering is the best part of BCS!! Families are required to volunteer as part of the program. We always leave feeling like we are making a positive difference and with our dignity intact. Now I serve on the board of directors, and I am thrilled to be a voice for families just like mine.
We are so grateful for all BCS does for our family and all the other families of Oregon and Washington.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 2

While Birch has a wonderful impact on the community and those it serves there are many people skills it is lacking. The treatment of all volunteers is generally good but on some occasions the behavior of the director especially and sometimes specific employees has come into question.
The director can be too specific with clients and actually feel the need to discipline them by meeting with them specifically/confronting them with a "witness" (usually her bestfriend). This makes the client feel picked on. Sometimes she seems to literally stalk a person as they shop to make sure they are following guidelines (specific persons at times). This is very awkward and makes the client have no dignity. Also, this director has been known to really upset people needlessly (people have been noted crying in the break room). I have directly seen the impact on families that have been dismissed or "replaced" by other families loose their sense of well being in a mere day. One miniute the family was a great part of the organization and being greatly blessed and then the next day they are gone. This is really sad when this organization should at least give the family a reason for their dismissal and a notice.
Some in the organization are favored like the directors and office staff to get food boxes made for them and be given the newest nice furniture as a reward. It should be a fair system where "Everything" is a drawing done by the clients not assets distributed to any of the employees including the directors and employees. This organization needs an outside management not influenced by the director or anyone on the board of directors to maintain its integrity and the utmost standards of honesty. Clients here actually pay " dues" so they technically pay the salaries and bonus of all staff. This should come with the utmost integrity and NO taking of the goods for themselves unless they too are participants and happen to win a client led drawing! Outside management is highly advised! The staff is payed a fair wage and should be held to the utmost highest standard in operation.
Office staff has been overheard gossiping about numerous families within the office context where all can be overheard by others. This is unfair and cruel to those participants who have overheard themselves being spoken about in a gossip fashion. The women in the office including the director need to learn more tact in serving the working poor! Favortism for any family for any reason is unacceptable! Security is lacking in the facility to make sure children, especially are safe at all times. No background checks are given on any of the volunteer/participant childcare providers. Criminal elements have been noted in the childcare area while dropping off their kids and sometimes helping in childcare facility.
The overall plan of the non-profit does work to help the working poor. The manners of the company could be greatly improved!

Comments ( 1 )

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Suzanne Birch 01/03/2014

I am pleased this reviewer believes Birch Community Services (BCS) is having a wonderful impact on the community and those we serve. We understand, however, that some we serve may not always have a wonderful experience. While we wish it wasn’t the case for anyone, including this past participant, a few points of clarification are needed.

It is BCS policy and practice that all participants dismissed from our program be reviewed by a team comprised of senior BCS staff. Most dismissals are due to participants who fail to pay their monthly dues, volunteer regularly, and/or follow warehouse safety and equitability procedures. Participants who are dismissed may appeal their dismissal in writing to the Review Committee, at which time the file and notes are taken into consideration. Board members may be consulted in this process.

Child supervision is provided in a room next to the BCS office with a full window viewable to office staff and program participants. Parents are required to sign their child in and out and are required to take their own children to the restroom. Regular children’s overseers have agreed to and passed a background check.

Staff of BCS do not receive preferential treatment. All staff are also members of the BCS program or are shopping volunteers and are required to volunteer extra hours (beyond the hours they work) and to pay the monthly fee just as other participants/volunteers do. Employees are allowed to shop for the food they need in their homes. They are not given preferred access to non-food items and do participate along with all program participants in monthly raffles for special items.

We value constructive input and work to cultivate a culture of learning at BCS. In 2013, program participants and other community volunteers donated 33,000 hours to distribute 7,145,721 pounds of donated food and clothing to families in need.

We’re humbled and grateful to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Suzanne Birch, Executive Director - Birch Community Services, Inc.

Review from Guidestar