Imagine for a moment that you are on vacation far from home. You’re a solo traveler with no one to watch your back. You fall asleep on the bus, and when you awake you find that your backpack is missing. Inside it was your ID, cell phone, and cash. You don’t even own a credit card. What would you do? Who would you turn to? You don’t know how to contact your friends and family, or perhaps you don’t even have friends or family that can help you. There are many reasons people become homeless. Many times it’s a temporary situation, and all they need is a little kindness to make a big difference.
Mary Docherty founded RiverFolk in 2016, and it’s an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving the needs of Clatsop County. Its mission is to meet the needs of Clatsop County’s underserved and homeless community members by filling in gaps from other local agencies. For example, they offer the ID Replacement Program, which because of a generous grant from the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation, has helped over 50 homeless people obtain much-needed identification. Without a valid ID, it’s nearly impossible for someone to receive resources that should be available to help them, such as social services, rent an apartment, or get a job.
RiverFolk also helps the homeless by providing cold weather gear, such as jackets, and hats. It’s difficult to stay warm and dry when you have no home, especially in our rainy and windy weather of the Pacific Northwest. Now envision what it would be like to not have a dresser to store your clothes in or a clothes washer to wash them in. It is the reason why the homeless often wear the same clothes for a very long time. It’s not out of desire; it’s out of necessity.
The nonprofit is also committed to helping feed the hungry. You may have seen their food drive out in front of Safeway. They also support the CCA Regional Food Bank and some local churches that feed the under-privileged. RiverFolks also works with Filling Empty Bellies, another non-profit organization that provides lunch daily for the homeless. RiverFolk prefers to call them unsheltered. On top of it all, they recurrently collect food donations so they can continue of offer Sunday Brunch at the Armory for those in need.
One of the main ways that RiverFolk raises money for its programs is with an annual benefit concert they call “RiverFolk,” hosted by, and featuring, some extremely well-known names in the music world. The organization’s first benefit concert was in March of 2016 and was inspired by a renowned annual concert called WinterFolk, out of Portland, Oregon. The show is produced by Mary’s husband, Scott Docherty, also a gifted performer. It featured three hours of incredible music by such famous musicians as Richard Colombo, one of the founders of Artichoke Music out of Portland, and Laurie Linn. Jill Trenholm wowed the audience, along with Virgil Venditto. Terry and Jerry Holder left the audience astonished with their killer vocals, and Larry Murante, a talented John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner, left the audience astounded. Jean Mann was not about to be outdone and was as amazing as usual.
The 2017 concert kicked it up a notch with Bob Malone (featuring John Fogerty and Ringo Starr), Dan Weber, Alexa Wiley, and the legendary, Tom May. Unfortunately, in 2018, RiverFolk had to skip the concert due to health issues, but they have already begun planning the 2019 show. The line-up and ticket information should be released soon, and tickets always sell out quickly!
Riverfolk depends on dedicated volunteers to assist with their programs and are always on the lookout for passionate people willing to help out with a variety of essential tasks. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate in Clatsop County, contact RiverFolk to see how you can help. They need good people to serve meals, collect donated items, assist in the office, fundraising, coordinating, and more. It’s rewarding work and has a substantial positive impact on Clatsop County.
There are so many people in the area, and around the world, that are suffering, in pain, and just trying to get by from day to day. Unfortunately, poverty is alive and well in Astoria, Clatsop County, and the United States. It’s not just a 3rd world problem. You can make a big difference with a simple donation, or by volunteering your time. There is no minimum dollar donation, and there aren’t a set amount of hours required either. Give what you can, when you can, and know that your generosity will be deeply appreciated and help the less fortunate get back on their feet.