Don Fiser

Winner: Extraordinary Volunteer

The room is filled with families waiting for 35-pound boxes of food to emerge on a conveyor belt at Portland’s Sunshine Division, the 85-year-old food relief organization that was once a branch of the Portland Police Bureau. What the families may not know is that almost every box that goes out the door was carefully filled by one set of hands.

Don Fiser began packing food boxes for Sunshine Division 10 years ago after retiring from Portland Community College, where he had worked for 30 years, most recently as vice president of enrollment. “They calculated that I have packed about 50,000 boxes,” says the 68-year-old volunteer. Fiser has come in four afternoons a week for the past decade, and can easily demonstrate how he makes sure each box is nutritionally balanced before it goes out (some 400 needy families receive boxes each month). “While I’m packing these boxes, I just think about how someone is going to be thrilled to take them home, open them up, and see what’s inside,” he says. “That’s the biggest reward for me.”

‘In this economy … it has come down to paying the rent or having enough food.’

Though Fiser has long been the only volunteer box-stocker in Sunshine’s warehouse, this year he had to bring on a few helpers to meet a rise in demand for emergency relief. He points out that most of Sunshine’s clients are employed full time, contrary to stereotypes about the poor. “In this economy, for a lot of people it has come down to paying the rent or having enough food,” he says. “That’s what we’re here for.” —MC Contact: 503-823-2119; sunshinedivision.org