For the past 36 years, the Eastern Oregon Mission (EOM) has been the community food bank for greater Hermiston, Oregon. It plays a critical role serving the area's most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, children, low-income individuals, single-parent families, homeless, and recently unemployed. But requests for food assistance keep growing, and the organization is facing challenges.
"We're proud our work serves the community each week, and we're doing all we can to continue to meet increased demand, but as demands go up, so do our costs," said Mark Gomolski, executive director, EOM. "The vehicles we use to do the essential work of picking up daily donations are over 17 years old and have been constantly breaking down, which means we are spending more of our precious funds just on keeping things moving, rather than continuing to help people improve their lives."
Thanks to a grant from Amazon Web Services (AWS), EOM has bought a much-needed pickup truck and trailer, something that will, according to Gomolski, help to "reduce maintenance costs, which are savings we can allocate elsewhere." The grant will also fund EOM's Weekend Backpack Program, which feeds 275 food-insecure students each week when schools are closed.
EOM is one of several local nonprofits and community organizations based in Morrow and Umatilla counties that will be able to expand their work and continue to make a meaningful impact in their communities thanks to a $2 million investment from AWS. The company is making the contribution through its community outreach program AWS InCommunities, dedicated to helping its neighbors and strengthening the communities where AWS operates.
AWS has been present in Eastern Oregon since 2011. Since then, through capital investments totaling more than $15 billion in Morrow and Umatilla counties, AWS data centers and related operations have contributed more than $1.7 billion in GDP to the local economy and supports an average of 2,000 jobs annually—a majority of which are skilled technical roles. Through AWS InCommunities, AWS has invested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, equity, and access; local tech upskilling; and environmental stewardship initiatives. With this new contribution, AWS InCommunities expands its support in these areas and continues to help organizations addressing local community needs.
"With more than 10 years in Eastern Oregon, we're honored to continue to deepen our commitment to these communities. We believe we have a responsibility to make a positive difference in the communities where we have a presence, and with this investment, we will not only continue our support of STEM education, tech upskilling, and environmental stewardship programs, we will also broaden our scope to help organizations tackling food insecurity, homelessness, veteran services, and other crucial initiatives," said Cornelia Robinson, global leader of AWS Inclusion and Outreach.
The donations will help accelerate programs that are already improving the lives of individuals and families in Eastern Oregon. Some of the beneficiary organizations and programs include:
- Nearly $800,000 to nonprofit organizations that support community housing needs, food insecurity, veteran services, and community-engagement events through organizations such as EOM, Boardman Food Pantry, Conrad Skinner Memorial Veterans, Neighborhood Center of South Morrow County, and Irrigon Boardman Emergency Assistance Center.
- More than $800,000 to organizations that help advance STEM education, equity, and access. Recipients include the Umatilla School District Robotics Program and Greater Oregon (GO)-STEM, which drives several initiatives, including the mailing of STEM kits for 4th graders in Eastern Oregon, a Mobile Makers Lab, and an updated lending library for local schools.
- Almost $250,000 to support the development of environmental stewardship programs, such as the expansion of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed program, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation First Foods Garden, and GO-STEM for an Environmental Education grant that will upskill educators in environmental science and its use locally.
- Approximately $150,000 to organizations that help drive job growth through tech upskilling programs and on-the-job training, such as additional scholarships for Blue Mountain Community College Data Center Technician program and Port of Morrow Workforce Training programs.
Separately, AWS has set aside $320,000 for two community funds that will be open to individuals, community groups, and nonprofits that want to start or expand community projects that support any of the following areas: STEM education, environmental sustainability, economic development, and community prosperity and well-being. Through the first fund, AWS will provide grants to more than 20 local projects in Morrow County. The second fund will provide grants for projects in Umatilla County. Both funds will be administered by ChangeX, a nonprofit that connects communities to proven ideas and funding, enabling them to lead impactful projects in their neighborhoods.