FEEDING THOSE ON THE FRONTLINES
In the midst of multiple wildfires burning near Estacada, Marvin Flora had been evacuated for two days when he returned to feed those on the frontlines.
Flora is the owner of Lew’s Drive-In, which distributed around 650 meals each day to those fighting the Dowty Road and Riverside fires, as well as those displaced by the flames that ripped through Clackamas County.
“I heard a report of community members helping with the fires. Someone posted that they’d come out and saved their house. These are just neighborhood Estacadians that have come out and put their health on the line to fight the fires,” Flora recounted. “So I said, ‘Well, now I have to do something.’”
The first day, Flora distributed 27 sandwiches. Within three days, this number had grown to 700. “It took us probably three hours just to deliver 27 sandwiches because you couldn’t find anybody,” he said, noting that the program was able to expand with a bit of help from the community. “By the next day, we had people actually calling us and saying, ‘There’s a fire crew down the street.’” Community members also helped with delivering the food.
I put out a call for volunteers (to deliver) on Facebook. I had over 35 calls within minutes of posting,” Flora said. “Our people are spectacular. The amount of people that want to volunteer, we’re turning people away because we already have enough, but every day we get new people that want to volunteer and help out in some way.”
Flora described the project as “definitely a labor of love.”
“We’re here from 3:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night. At night you get really tired, but the next morning someone comes in and thanks you for all you’ve done,” he said. “It’s really been something I’ve never done before in my life. I’m glad we’ve done it. I would do it all over again, no doubt.” Flora also credits the volunteer-run community relief center with supporting Estacada residents in the aftermath of the fires.
“We came together as a community to do that,” he said. “To start something small and see how big it got is just heartfelt. I love it.”
Flora, a 16 year resident of Estacada, opened Lew’s Drive-In at 262 Broadway St. almost seven years ago. He appreciates being part of the close-knit town.
“When you have a small community like this, we help each other out,” he said. “All of a sudden, you get something big like the fires that come in, and everybody helps everybody else. We might not even know who they are, but they need help. In any community like this, whenever it gets bad, what’s when it really becomes the closest. We definitely saw our true colors during the fire.” Flora added that local community members are his favorite part of the job.
“It’s all about the people. You really don’t do this for profit or anything else. It’s just when people walk in, you know their names,” he said. “You sit down and talk to them and they tell you how things are going. It’s like a giant barbershop.”
While growing up in Oakland, California, Flora went to high school and college with Tom Hanks, but said he would choose living in the Estacada community over that any day.
“Estacada is awesome,” he said. “There are so many great people in this town, and people know everybody else. If someone needs help, we’re always there.”