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University of Oregon

Silent Auction Speaks Volumes about Susan Dickens

Every year the University of Oregon participates in the annual Governor’s State Employee Food Drive. In addition to setting up a few barrels for collecting non-perishable food items, the English Department hosts a silent auction, and staff members sell Euphoria chocolate hearts.

The silent auction, held annually since 2007, features unique items often created or donated by students, faculty, and staff. Bidding is open to students, staff, and faculty, and everyone affiliated with the department is encouraged to donate. The items for sale this year included jars of homemade apple butter canned by Karen Ford from Bill Rossi’s Gravenstein apples; a Huichol folk art mask donated by Dan Wojcik; a poetry broadside from alumna Ce Rosenow’s Mountains and Rivers press, matted and framed by Capper’s for a generous discount; a lapis pendant from Molly Westling; baked goods from the kitchen of Lynne Rossi; hand-made baby bibs by Karen Ford; a gardening bucket filled with an assortment of seeds, bulbs, and tools; gift cards from Westraunt Concepts, which were good at Mucho Gusto, Dickie Jo’s, and Dickie Yo’s; and a set of doctoral robes donated by retired alumnus Richard Leeson.

This year all of the donated food and event proceeds went to the FOOD for Lane County (FFLC), a non-profit food bank founded in 1984 that is dedicated to the elimination of hunger by creating access to food. The total amount of money the English Department raised was $4,852.80. That represented $211.20 worth of chocolate (each bag or bar was sold for $3.50 with $1.92 of the purchase price going to the drive) and $953 in cash from the auction; the food barrels weighed in with 196 pounds of food. The University as a whole donated 159,090.80 pounds of food, and event organizers presented FFLC with a check for $27,500. Also, an anonymous donor pledged to match all funds, up to $100,000, collected by FFLC during the month of February. The University’s participation in the Food Drive helped to push the total collected by FFLC to $187,000.

The English Department’s participation is organized and spearheaded by Susan Dickens, who from 2002 until 2007 was a co-organizer with Marilyn Reid before becoming the sole organizer in 2008. Dickens says she volunteered for the position because the drive is “something near and dear to my heart because there are so many individuals who are food insecure, especially children and the elderly.” After her sister’s death two years ago, Dickens learned that her sister and brother-in-law made use of the food boxes that FOOD for Lane County is able to provide. She says, “To me, that just goes to show you don’t really know who needs help with this most basic of needs–it could be your parents, your neighbor, or a colleague.”

Though Susan Dickens volunteers a great deal of time, imagination, and energy to run our food drive every year, few in the English Department know the extent and ingenuity of her efforts.  She is the silent force behind the successful food drive.  We encourage more students, staff, and faculty to donate their hand crafts or hand-me-downs to next year’s silent auction.

For more information about FFLC and volunteer opportunities, please visit their website at www.foodforlanecounty.org. — Bjorn Smars