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Food, Blankets, Clothes Distributed to Hungry Migrant Workers

April 20, 1988

CORNELIUS, Ore. (AP) _ Boxes of food, blankets and clothing were distributed to nearly 1,000 hungry migrant workers who have arrived at farm-labor camps well ahead of the summer harvest season.

The food distributed Tuesday was part of the five tons of staples donated by retailer Fred Meyer Inc. at the Salvation Army’s request to feed the 3,000 to 5,000 people who have come early to rural Washington County, west of Portland.

Ten tons of potatoes were donated by Troutdale farmer Howard Winters, who has promised 200 tons more, and 22 tons of dried beans were donated by the Salvation Army.

Maj. Mervyn L. Morelock of the Salvation Army’s Cascade Division estimated it will take $240,000 worth of food to feed the workers for the eight weeks before the strawberry harvest begins. So far, $850 cash has been donated, he said.

The county has about 31 labor camps that house from 12 to 700 workers each. All the camps are full.

″These are clean, respectable, hardworking people,″ said Verla Fuller, director of Housing Services of Oregon, which has distributed food baskets at camps for several years. ″They come to work, not to ask for a handout.

″You can’t help but fall in love with them. They thank us, they share part of their life with us. There are 13- and 14-year-old boys here who don’t have their families with them,″ she said.

Arturo Ruiz, 20, who hitchhiked to Oregon with his older brother, is in the United States for the first time. They came early because they did not know when the season started, and in Mexico there is no way to earn a living, he said.

To survive, Ruiz collects worms in cans and sells them for fish bait. On a good night he makes $10. He expected to earn about $1,500 during the picking season - enough, he said, to live on next year in Mexico.

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