Welcome to the BCS Program Overview!
Applicants: please read through the entire page to prepare for your intake interview.
Existing Participants: Please click on the section you’d like to review.
All participants meet with a Financial Literacy Counselor when they begin the program, and then twice annually. They are here to help all families reach their financial goals in a way that makes sense for them.
All participant families are expected to take re$tart, a 4-session course, at BCS within their first year on the program. We offer other subject-based classes throughout the year for which will be eligible after completing re$tart. You may sign up for upcoming classes online using the link on our BCS Participant Resource Center. All classes will be held virtually until further notice. Participants aged 13 and up, as well as other adults in the home, are encouraged to attend any of the classes offered through BCS (unless otherwise stated).
- Shopping is open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Choose one day and come weekly on the same day. Sign up weekly online for a shopping slot.
- Shopping time is limited to 50 minutes (due to limited parking and shopping carts).
- Only one shopper is allowed on the floor per family.
- Program dues are $80/month and due in the current month for the next month.
- We accept cash and check at the warehouse, we accept debit cards online.
- If you pay with a debit card, you may do so through the Participant Resource Center, and a $3 merchant fee will be added.
- We encourage everyone to set up a direct debit from the checking account to ensure on-time payment.
- All families are required to volunteer two hours per month. Sign up online for a volunteer shift.
- Hours due are added on the 1st of the month.
- All shifts are a minimum of two hours.
- A closing volunteer shift is required every three months. *
- A garden volunteer shift is strongly recommended in your first year. *
- Having more than four outstanding volunteer hours will result in a pause of shopping privileges.
Team at a Glance
- Dino is the financial literacy manager. He and his wife were Birch participants from 2010-2012. He has degrees in financial planning, psychology, and theology.
- Melissa is a financial literacy class assistant. She and her husband are Birch participants since 2022. She has degrees in Theology and Pastoral Ministry and loves working with people.
- Tina is a financial literacy counselor. She cares deeply about people and has a degree in Home Economics and an MBA from Oregon State.
- Beka is the financial literacy administrator. She has worked in the nonprofit world for over ten years and loves hearing families’ stories and celebrating their accomplishments.
- Andy is a financial literacy teacher. He and his wife have six adult children and love answering the question, “How did you survive that?” Andy has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from OSU and a masters in Math Education from PSU.
A Letter from the Financial Literacy Department
Welcome to BCS!
We are excited for what awaits you during your time with Birch Community Services. We know this is a challenging season in your life, and we want to encourage you to take as much time as you need. You are joining a community of people, walking with each other through hard times.
From weekly shopping trips, you will create increased monthly savings for your families. We are excited to hear your plan for these savings. Whether it’s catching up on bills, paying off credit cards or medical bills, or creating a savings account, we are here to help.
After one year, an average Birch family has decreased their debt by $7,000 and increased their savings by $1,000. How much you use Birch is up to you!
We’ll be ready to schedule our first meeting after you’ve been at Birch for 1-2 months. Welcome to a community of people who, just like you and me, are committed to better financial health.
“Birch has relieved the stress of our food bill, which overflows into all areas of life. It has been such a blessing. And the financial wisdom and direction has been an incredible resource that will benefit us for decades.” – Brittany C.
Our Cultural Values
From 1992 to now, we strive to be good stewards of everything that we have been entrusted. Every member of the Birch Community from our employees and participants agree to practice our seven cultural values:
- Relationship Focused. We create value for others in a supportive community that fosters inclusiveness, true belonging, and acceptance.
- Respect and Integrity. We model a culture of honesty, grace, and dependability.
- Teachable. We promote combining self-awareness, ambition, curiosity, and guidance as we strive towards growth through success and challenges.
- Gratitude. We express appreciation for the opportunities provided and the benefit of our community.
- Safety. We empower responsibility to take a knowledgeable, deliberate, and mindful approach to a holistically safe environment.
- Solution Oriented. We encourage a community that works humbly and collaboratively to provide creative strategies to problem solving.
- Celebration. We pause to reflect on successes and setbacks, and rejoice in our collective growth.
We understand that BCS is a new experience for many; it is exciting to make life changes and move forward toward sustainability. During your time with BCS we hope you find relief, encouragement, growth, and, most importantly, hope. Please join us as we partner together to move toward your goals.
-Someone in the family is working or actively looking for work
-Willing and able to volunteer monthly
-Willing and able to pay monthly program dues
-Willing and able to discuss financial goals and complete our Re$tart course
Shortly after you start shopping, we’ll let you know that your Financial Literacy Counselor is ready to meet with you. Meetings are through Zoom or in person by request. This first meeting will help establish your financial goals and plans for the future. You will update us throughout the year regarding that meeting, and you will meet every six months to discuss your current financial situation and goals.
All participant families are required to take re$tart, our 4-session finance course, within their first year on the program. Re$tart, the curriculum created by Dino Biaggi, is offered throughout the year. You may sign up for upcoming classes online using the link on our BCS Participant Resource Center. Participants age 13 and up may attend any of the classes offered at and through BCS (unless otherwise stated). We offer other voluntary classes throughout the year. You are welcome to sign up for those after you’ve completed re$tart. The three streams of education are life skills, work skills, and financial management.
Shopping Times and Guidelines
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Last shopper accepted at 6:00 p.m.)
2023 Holiday Closures:
Memorial Day (May 29), Labor Day (Sept. 4), Black Friday (Nov. 24), Christmas (Dec. 25).
Pick a Shopping Day
Participants choose a shopping day and commit to coming on that day. We are coordinating with 850 families and want to make sure each family has fair access to product on a weekly basis. Each week you will sign up for a shopping slot through our online signup portal.
If you are interested in shopping every other week for the same service fee, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about being a 2X Shopper.
- When you arrive at the warehouse, write your first and last name on a piece of paper at the check-in desk and show it to the check-in volunteer to receive the time you should be finished shopping.
- Only one shopper per family is allowed on the floor unless it is arranged prior to shopping.
- Shopping time is limited to 50 minutes. As you shop, stay with your cart and follow the arrows on the ground. Do not revisit areas; new product is brought out throughout the day, so that everyone has a good selection of things to choose from.
- Please read all limit signs and observe the arrows indicating the limit section, even if you’ve seen the limit sign before. Limits can change from week to week. If there is an item that has no limit, take only enough for your family that week. The items in the BCS warehouse are for participant families only. Only take what those in your household can use—not neighbors, extended family, etc. This includes clothing, boots, and anything else in the warehouse.
- Once you have exited the warehouse, do not re-enter the shopping area.
- You may not sell or redistribute anything you receive from BCS. Selling or redistributing items received from BCS will cause your family to be removed from the program immediately.
- If you notice someone intentionally trying to break the guidelines, please bring it to our attention. If a participant continues to be non-compliant, their participation rights can be terminated.
If you are occasionally unable to shop on your chosen day, you may shop on another open day that week. It is not necessary to call us, just sign up for a different day online. If at any time you want to change your regular shopping day, just let us know. If you miss a week because of vacation, illness, etc., you may complete a make-up shop. Make-up shops can either be done on a separate day, or you may include it with your regular shopping by asking for a make-up shop sign from the check-in volunteer allowing you to take twice the limits while shopping. You cannot “save” a make-up shop; it must be completed the week of your return. Please include “make-up shop” in the comments of the signup and let the check-in desk volunteer know that you are doing a make-up shop.
Children in the Shopping Area
If needed, children aged five years old or younger are allowed in the shopping area in a front pouch, backpack, or strapped into the seat of the shopping cart at all times. If your child is old enough that none of these options will work, please arrange for them to be somewhere else while you shop.
Due to our insurance, young children are not allowed on the floor.
Danner Boot Co. graciously donates their returned boots to Birch Community Services. Their donation is based on the criteria that they believe our participants or agency participants are not in a financial position to purchase Danner Boots; therefore, the company is not losing any potential sales. For that reason, we have set up some guidelines to distribute these boots. Please note the requirements and restrictions below:
- If you or another in your household needs boots, you may ask at check-in if you are eligible. To be eligible, you must have completed a closing shift within the last 3 months and only owe the current month’s volunteer hours. Boots are only for those living with you who are listed on your participation form. DO NOT give boots to friends, or family not living with you. Under no circumstances may the boots be sold. Anyone discovered doing this will be removed from the program immediately.
- It is understood that all boots have been returned to the factory and therefore have some sort of defect. Some defects are obvious, while others are so slight that we can’t see them if we look for them.
- Boots are marked in a way that prohibits them from being returned to any Danner Outlet for return or refund.
- None of the boots have an applicable warranty.
- If you receive a pair of boots that do not work for your needs, you may bring them back to the boot area for return or exchange.
- Families are limited to 1 pair of boots per household member per year.
- Please do not forget to write a thank you note to Danner! Just bring it to the office, and we’ll get it to them.
Monthly Program Dues
How to Pay
We have a Pay-Ahead policy. Your $80 program dues are due by the end of the month for the next month. For example, February’s program dues are due by January 31. Dues received February 1 or later are late. Three late payments may be grounds for removal. Payments may not be paid by others on your behalf. In the case of an NSF check, you will be required to pay the program dues again, as well as the $20 NSF fee immediately.
At this time, we accept checks and cash at the warehouse. If you would like to pay with your debit card, you may visit the Participant Resource Center. All debit card transactions will include a $3.00 transaction fee. We encourage everyone to set up a recurring direct debit from your bank account to ensure on-time payments. If you have any questions about payments, please email email@example.com.
Volunteering at BCS
- All volunteer shifts need to be scheduled online. Participants may sign up to volunteer through the link on the Participant Resource Center.
- Each family volunteers a minimum of two hours a month.
- Any adult or teen (14 years and up) living in the family household can fulfill the family’s required volunteer shift.
- Family volunteer requirements cannot be satisfied by helpers outside those in your household and listed on your participation form.
- Warehouse shifts are a minimum of 2 hours and cannot be split by two family members.
- Every family is required to complete one closing shift every three months. This fulfills your 2-hour volunteering requirement that month. Please rotate warehouse shifts between the morning, afternoon, and closing shifts.
- You are expected to work your required volunteer shift every month.
- You cannot “bank” hours for future months. Two hours will always be added on the 1st of the month.
- We strongly encourage you to volunteer one 2-hour shift in the Sunderland Teaching Garden during the March-October season.
- You may not shop for or save items while you are volunteering.
- If you sign up for a volunteer shift and fail to show up, it will be noted on your account. Multiple no-shows may jeopardize your participation in the program.
- There are cold beverages for volunteers located through glass doors in the staff section of the cooler. Feel free to take a beverage during or after your shift.
- If you have any physical limitations, be sure to let the volunteer coordinators know as soon as you check in with them.
- Please wear comfortable clothes, with closed-toed shoes that cover your feet entirely. We suggest wearing warm clothes in the winter as the warehouse can get cold.
- We do not allow pocketknives in the warehouse. We will provide box cutters as needed.
Warehouse Volunteer Hours
- Monday 6:00 am – 8:30 pm
- Tuesday 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
- Wednesday 6:00 am – 8:30 pm
- Thursday 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
- Friday 6:00 am – 8:30 pm
When You Arrive
- Check in at the same door you use for shopping (door #2).
For your first volunteer shift:
- Please ask the check-in volunteer to contact the office to let us know.
- Print your name and start time on the volunteer log sheet.
- Use a Sharpie to clearly print your name on a laminated name tag. Use a blue name tag for your first shift.
- Check in with a warehouse staff member at door #6 to begin volunteering.
- Please check out on the laptop located near the check-in station. If the laptop is not working, include your end time on the sign-in sheet.
- As a ‘thank you’ for your time and service, please help yourself to a ‘volunteer gift’ after you have finished your two-hour shift, logged out, and returned your name tag to the basket. Please ask a staff member if you are unsure where the ‘volunteer gift’ area is located.
For Your Safety
- Always give equipment the right of way. Never expect that operators see or hear you. Do not run quickly in front of machinery or try to ‘sneak by’. Please step back and make eye contact with the operators.
- Absolutely no one may operate our power equipment without authorization. Equipment operators must first be trained and authorized by one of our employees. This includes power jacks, forklifts, the floor scrubber, and the baler.
- Wear a back brace when you are lifting heavy items. We have them in the warehouse, just ask. Gloves are available as well.
- Please do not take calls, text, or use your phone while volunteering (emergencies only).
- Wear shoes that cover your entire foot.
- We strongly encourage you to volunteer one 2-hour shift in the Sunderland Teaching Garden during the March-October season.
- Click here for the Sunderland Garden guidelines.
- All questions regarding volunteering at the garden can be directed to our Garden Volunteer Coordinator, Ashley Schreiner, at ashley@bcsi.
- All garden volunteer shifts need to be scheduled online through our Participant Resource Center.
- After completing a volunteer shift at the garden, please log your time on the volunteer laptop the next time you are at the warehouse. Please log time for any household family members who served at the gardens.
- After you log your hours, you may choose a volunteer gift for your garden shift.
Referring New Families
We add families by internal referrals or by online application for those outside of the BCS network. After you have participated in the program for three months and are in good standing (up to date on volunteer time, have 2 or less late notices, have 2 or less missed commitments, and have done a closing shift in the last 3 months) you may refer another family in need by filling out a referral form. Prior to referring a friend, please make sure they read our website thoroughly. If you and the potential participant qualify, you may request a referral form by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leaving the Program
While we are sad to see you go, we look forward to families being able to leave our program because their goals are met. If you no longer need this program, please inform us in writing by emailing email@example.com. You may receive an online exit questionnaire. We use the questionnaire information to improve upon our program to better serve families like you, so please take a minute or two to fill it out!
Being Removed from the Program
Grounds for Dismissal
The Review Committee reserves the right to remove a family or individual for the following reasons:
- Three late notices
- Unfulfilled commitments, including but not restricted to:
- Refusal to take or not attending the financial class
- Refusal to complete the required volunteering obligation or not attending a scheduled volunteering shift
- Refusal to meet or missed appointments with a Financial Literacy Counselor
- Stealing or selling BCS product
- Behavior that doesn’t reflect BCS’ Cultural Values
- More than 30 days without shopping or communication
We do offer an appeal process. If this is your desire, please send your written appeal to Suzanne Birch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compliance with the guidelines demonstrates your commitment to success at BCS. Noncompliance indicates that this program is not the best fit for your family at this time.
The House of David: Birch's History
In November 1995, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Suzanne Birch, wrote the following letter with her late husband, Barry Birch, as a reflection on the origins of what is now Birch Community Services.
The Story behind our home is bittersweet and unforgettable. We share this with you to encourage you in your struggles, during those dark moments when God seems to be so far away.
When Barry and I were married nine years ago, we made a commitment to God and each other to be debt-free. This resulted from the struggles we had been through, each of us carrying lots of baggage into our relationship from past bad choices. This included a substantial debt that I had remaining from extensive problems during my divorce, and we proceeded to chip away at that debt. God graciously gave Bear a huge jump in his income, and within ten months $13,000 was paid in full. As soon as that was paid, Bear’s business (he was self-employed) took another turn, and we were back at our previous income level. We then began to save for a home, as our no-debt commitment included the purchase of a home. As we saved $500, houses went up $2000. It seemed like a hopeless endeavor, and at times we questioned the commitment made years before.
My brother David was living in Portland during this time, working as a nurse. He had bought a split-level home and moved my mom into it to give her security. He enjoyed being a home owner and was forever fixing and updating the house. He encouraged us to do the same, and as we explained this bizarre commitment we had made, he shook his head in disbelief. After all, no one tries to buy a house for cash; it’s a poor use of one’s money and impossible anyway. When we explained that our God, who had capably supplied the money to get us out of debt in those first ten months, was also capable of supplying whatever it took for a house, Dave was convinced we had stepped off the deep end. He had no personal relationship with Christ and had not experienced His mercy and love in his own life, as we had. Dave humored us but also respected our decision and our faith in this powerful God. He had married in 1989, and after several years, the marriage was deeply troubled and floundering, and Dave was struggling. He took a job working as an air nurse for Critical Air Nursing, based out of San Diego. He would fly south for two-week stretches, working different air transports for critically ill patients from one hospital to another. He loved it, but the two-week-on, two-week-off shifts didn’t help his crumbling marriage, and in early March 1993 Dave came over to talk. He had filed for divorce, a mutual agreement between him and his wife, and he was feeling pain and frustration. He believed he would head in a different direction, move to Seattle and get his Physician’s Assistant degree. He was hurting and we hurt for him. We told Dave about the comfort and support God had given us in our times of pain. Bear and I shared the hope of eternity in Christ and the faithfulness of Him. We encouraged Dave to seek Him out and Dave listened openly, asking questions and nodding in agreement. I gave him a book I had just finished, “A Poor Man’s Proof for the Existence of God”, and Dave, who always teased us before, willingly took it to read during his next two-week shift. When he left, tears in his eyes, the three of us hugged and reaffirmed our love for each other. It was a very special time. Several days later Dave called. He was leaving town the next day but wanted to let me know he had been reading the book and found it easy and enjoyable.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH…we had unintentionally started a gleaning program. A friend had told us of bread going to waste at different organizations. We knew of three or four families who could use it and began picking it up on an on-call basis from Union Gospel Mission. Soon UGM gave our name to the Blanchet House, who gave our name to NW Medical Teams, etc., and those three or four families gave our name to their sisters who were out of work and their neighbors who were struggling. We had buns on our sofas, bread in the entry way, boxes on our dining room table. We had no garage in our rental house and no place to put the donations we received. We were excited and perplexed and began to pray about the direction God had for us. What could we possibly do? On March 3, 1993 I was particularly confused and frustrated and asked God to make it perfectly clear to us what He wanted. When I got home from work, I shared that prayer with Bear, and he read to me Oswald Chamber’s devotional (My Utmost for His Highest) for that day:
Feed my Sheep. . . John 21:17
The message was clear and to the point, and as we read Chamber’s explanation of the verse, we knew we were right where God wanted us, no matter how unreasonable it seemed at the time.
Friday, March 12, was a beautiful spring morning, and my mom’s call didn’t fit the scenario. She was hysterical and panicky. . . the plane was lost. What plane? Critical Air’s flight from Bermuda Dunes, California had not returned to base the night before. They were sending search planes over the desert. Bear went to pick up my mom, and we spent the morning in prayer and fear. We sat in the kitchen and I opened my Bible, asking God for a word – – not necessarily whether Dave was dead or alive but a word of hope.
My reading finally led me to Deuteronomy 32:10-12:
In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him:
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions.
The Lord alone led him:
no foreign god was with him.
What did this mean? I could see in my mind the eagle, pushing her babes out of the nest and seeing them fall, only for her to swoop down and catch them before they hit ground. Did God swoop down and catch Dave out of the plane? Was he there with Dave?
At 2:00 we received the call: the plane had been found. It was a non-survivable crash, and the pilot and two nurses aboard were killed. They had delivered their patient and were on the way back to base when the tail fell off the plane, causing an immediate desent, crashing and rolling into a ridge of mountains along the desert edge. We were devastated and began to deal with our grief. Our biggest agony was in not knowing Dave’s eternal status: did he call out for God in those last moments of his life? Had he read the book we gave him and made a commitment on his own? I prayed that God would give me peace in NOT knowing and the grace to be content knowing God was in control. It was difficult, and there seemed to be no answers. We made plans for the memorial service and began to see God’s hand. Dennis, Dave’s insurance agent and good friend, a Christian, called with his consolations. He had been sharing Christ with Dave, and he, too, was concerned. We found the book I had given to Dave, with no marker. Had he finished it? My oldest brother, Sheldon, called on Sunday. Had I spoken to Dennis? Did he say anything? Shel explained that Dennis hadn’t told us everything. A week before Dave was killed he had visited Dennis and changed the beneficiary on his life insurance to me. We were stunned and overwhelmed. We wanted Dave back. It almost made the hurt worse.
We made it through the memorial service and began tying up loose ends. The insurance company needed a death certificate, and we requested one. We began praying about God’s plan for Dave’s money. The responsibility was awesome. We believed that Dave’s insistence for us to buy a home was provided for in this gift. We knew that he would want his mom taken care of and the rest of his family to benefit also. As we prayed, God gave us direction, and we made plans.
When the death certificate arrived, Bear and I stood together and read it line by line. David A. Edner…date of death, March 11, 1993 … place of death, Chiriaco Summit, Eagle Mountain…
Did God swoop down and save David for eternity? We cannot be sure, but we believe He has given us that hope, and our blessed Hope is what sustains us. There are no coincidences with Him.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.
You have seen the fruits of David’s gift to us. As we looked for a home to purchase, we asked God for a specific list of things,
if He approved:
- Four bedrooms (one for an office, one for a guest room)
- Two bathrooms
- A fireplace
- A garage for gleaning
- A purchase price of $80,240 (The balance we had left after we spent the rest of Dave’s money with God’s direction)
He gave us:
- Five bedrooms (an extra for Andy)
- Three bathrooms
- Two fireplaces
- An extra-wide insulated garage
- A family room for entertaining
- A purchase price of $80,500 (Okay, we went over a bit.)
You can see that God provides abundantly and beyond what we could hope for. That is why we do not worry about the warehouse situation. When He is ready, and if it is His plan, we will have it.
The sign above our front door gives credit to those who have made our home, and your gleaning environment, possible: to my brother David, who we love and miss, and to Jesus Christ, descended from the line, or house, of King David, our Provider and Everlasting Hope. Praise Him!
And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.