By Cari Miller
North Center Branch Manager
The Weippe Prairie is where Lewis and Clark had their first encounter with the Nez Perce people in 1805. In late March I had my first encounter with the town of Weippe, even though I had lived within hours for eight years.
The occasion was to take The Idaho Foodbank’s Mobile Pantry to this town of 450. Mobile Pantries provide regular food delivery to 30 locations in Idaho that cannot yet support their own pantries. In Weippe, the monthly Mobile Pantry location is the area’s fire station.
The twisting drive up a hill carved by miles of switchbacks with a loaded twenty-seven foot trailer was surprisingly smooth.
At the top of the hill, the terrain flattened out into a prairie. The town itself looked desolate. The exception was a large, red building prominently labeled Weippe Rural Fire Department. It quickly became evident that the fire station is very much a central meeting place in Weippe.
Chief Carlyle Cahala introduced himself as I climbed out of the rig and led me on a tour of his firehouse. The firefighter gear was neat and orderly, and his trucks were spotless. He was justifiably proud of his 100% volunteer force and his quick response time.
At least 50 people waited for us when we arrived, and we were a half-hour early. Despite the wait, each person who approached the trailer met me with a smile and friendly conversation.
The Idaho Foodbank’s Mobile Pantry served 88 families in Weippe that day. Once the food was distributed, Chief Cahala invited me back out for gold panning – Weippe is located along the Gold Rush Historic Highway – and for their annual rodeo this summer.
I couldn’t help but smile as we drove away. Although hunger is obviously an issue in this area, the people share a very strong spirit. I look forward to my next visit. Who knows, maybe I will find some gold.