PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Matt Tobey has come to know Crystal Chavez and her kids pretty well. Tobey, a Portland police officer who is PPB’s liaison with the Sunshine Division, met them at a Shop with a Cop event years ago.
It seems like they’re old friends. As he delivered their Thanksgiving meal to them, he asked to see her kids’ Christmas lists.
“It’s a really positive experience. It makes you see things way differently,” Chavez told KOIN 6 News. “There is help out there and they’re there to help you.”
“Being able to show up, it makes that bond between us even stronger,” Tobey said.
Portland police officers have been involved with Sunshine Division since its inception 100 years ago after officers spotted a family in need in the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood.
From that point on there have been food boxes at all the precincts that officers can deliver to families who are often going through a crisis.
That’s how now-retired PPB Capt. John Hren was introduced to Sunshine Division several decades ago.
“We encountered a family of 5 there, a mom and dad and three kids, and they were workers who had been picking cherries in Hood River and the farmer stiffed them,” Hren said. “We got a box of food and took it to them at 3 o clock in the morning, and the kids basically dove in head first. They hadn’t eaten in a while and, wow, if that doesn’t touch your heart, nothing will.”
He stifled tears even after all these years.
It became a passion for Hren. All of his immediate family members have been involved with Sunshine Division, a Hren family tradition for about 50 years.
As an officer he saw they were able to get people in need help at any time of the day.
“Hunger doesn’t go away at 7 o’clock in the evening,” he said. “It’s there at 11. It’s there at 3 in the morning.”
For both Hren and Tobey, it changed how they approached their job.
“It feels great. In a time when as an officer a lot of things aren’t that pleasant and it’s a struggle for us to show up and do our job, this gives us a chance to have an extra bit of light and hope and put a different face on humanity,” Tobey said.
On Saturday, Sunshine Division will deliver food boxes to 2500 homes.
They’re also distributing 1500 meal kits to 20 social service organizations.
But they need drivers for the event.
If you can, volunteer your time to help make someone’s life a little brighter.
The need now is 4 times greater than before the pandemic. Donate to the Sunshine Division.