When things looked low for Barry Birch and his Portland-based nonprofit, he was known to say three words: “God will provide.”
For more than 20 years, Barry and his organization, Birch Community Services, acted as the hands and feet for collecting and sharing God's provisions. Since 1992, Birch Community Services (originally known as Birch Gleaning) has been a membership-based one-stop-shop for the working poor, doling out food and other items for a nominal fee. The organization also runs community gardens and provides classes to its members.
Barry’s calling was to serve people in need. Because of that, he was a regular fixture at Medical Teams International, where in 1993 he started a partnership with the distribution center that would span the years.
Sadly, Barry died on March 31. While he’s gone in body, his spirit and legacy live on.
Barry Birch, surrounded by a pack of furry friends.
Those who worked closely with Barry at MTI remember him for gleaning in the truest Biblical sense. Nothing went to waste. And he was a genuine guy, warm and witty.
“He would accept everything from food to clothing or other materials,” said Neil Gillenwater, who worked as MTI’s warehouse manager from 1997 to 2002. “Very seldom was there something he couldn’t use.”
Barry was also a very appreciative man. In a 1999 letter to MTI, he wrote about what a difference the partnership between the two organizations made.
“Thank you so much for sharing generously with Birch Gleaning,” he wrote. “Your donations have made a significant difference in the success of the organization.”
He was a familiar face around the MTI warehouse, showing up on a weekly basis to see what he could put to use. It was there that he would talk to Gillenwater about his Bible studies or joke around. He always seemed chipper, Gillenwater said, because he seemed to know that God would provide.
Learning of Barry's passing was a shock to many at MTI. He was at the MTI warehouse only a few weeks ago. But he will remain in our thoughts and prayers as a partner in the truest sense who touched innumerable lives. Birch Community Services will live on, as will MTI’s partnership with it.
As The Oregonian reported in its obituary for Barry, the Birch family is planning a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11 at Mountainview Christian Church. Remembrances may be made to the Barry Birch Memorial Fund at Birch Community Services.