PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland church has turned a challenging situation into an opportunity to help thousands as its community pantry steps up to feed all kinds of families this year.

On a Tuesday afternoon, volunteers at the Portland Open Bible Church are hard at work packing food and boxes for a community pantry.

Although it’s a well-oiled machine now, the efforts are the result of a tough time several years ago, when there were three break-ins, according to Betty Brown, the church’s executive director.

“Everybody was getting frustrated,” she said. “Then we realized people were just breaking in and stealing food. They would leave everything that’s in the church. They would just go for our refrigerators and steal food out of the refrigerators.”

So they decided to start a food pantry in one of the most diverse and food-insecure neighborhoods in the Rose City. When the pandemic hit, they turned to technology and built a website allowing people to request the food their family wants to eat in the language they speak.

“All the Spanish community can choose everything they want in Spanish. The Russian community can choose all that they want in Russian,” Brown said. “They all have the same menu, but they basically are able to choose the food that they want based on their family’s needs.”

Volunteers at the church are at the soul of the operation, and they praise Brown’s efforts.

“I think one of the great things that betty has promoted in this program is the dignity, right. But everybody needs food,” volunteer coordinator Mary Frazel said.

In the last two years, their numbers have more than doubled and now the church is on track to serve more than 50,000 people this year.

Currently, the pantry is packing as many as 50 specialty food boxes a week. They say volunteers are always needed along with financial donations. Click here to learn more.