Leaders across the county support ACCESS fundraising effort. "We have to start functioning more as a region," said Ashland Mayor John Stromberg. "It's about the Rogue Valley."

Mayors from throughout Jackson County are joining forces to feed more hungry local residents.

"Mayors United" hopes to raise $50,000 for ACCESS Inc., which provides food for more than 3,200 families each month.

"The demand for feeding those in need is the top priority in Jackson County," said Gary Miller, ACCESS executive director, at a press conference Wednesday. "That demand continues to rise."

The campaign will culminate in a Mayors United Crescendo Event, planned from 4 to 7 p.m. on June 14 at the Olsrud Pavilion at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point. The celebration will include dancing, live music, wine, beer, appetizers and an auction conducted by county Commissioner C.W. Smith. Tickets will be $25 per person or free with substantial donations.

"Mayors United" is ACCESS' third major fundraising campaign planned this year. Other fundraisers include the Senior Fair in March and a golf tournament scheduled for June 29.

ACCESS already has raised $30,000 in sponsorships from organizations such as Wells Fargo, Pacific Power, Quest, Rogue Disposal and Recycling Inc. and the Jerry and Donnis Lausmann Foundation.

Mayors from Medford, Ashland, Rogue River, Jacksonville, Central Point, Phoenix, Talent, Gold Hill and Eagle Point are participating in the campaign.

"We have to start functioning more as a region," said Ashland Mayor John Stromberg. "It's about the Rogue Valley."

This year ACCESS will distribute about 2.3 million pounds of food to Jackson County residents, including commodities such as rice, beans, canned foods, fruits and vegetables.

"We try to make it as nutritious as possible," said Philip Yates, ACCESS nutrition programs director.

During 2008-2009, demand for food boxes increased about 17 percent over the year before in the county and as much as 27 percent in areas such as west Medford, Yates said. ACCESS reduced the size of the food boxes from a five-day supply to a three-to-five-day supply in order to feed more people.

Over the next two weeks, ACCESS and the mayors will be encouraging community support through direct-mail donations and ticket sales to the grand finale.

"Anybody can lose their jobs," said Stromberg. "In these times you never know who in the community needs help."

To contribute, call the ACCESS donation line at 774-4312 or visit online at www.access-inc.org and follow the "Mayors United" link.

"We've had a major downturn in the economy and the people need to be fed," said Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Beskow at 776-4464 or intern1@mailtribune.com.