Holidays are ending; need is not

By Paul Archipley | Dec 24, 2013
Photo by: Paul Archipley Volunteers get ready for the rush last week at the Edmonds Food Bank. People have been particularly generous in helping supply the food bank this holiday season, but volunteers are in short supply and organizers warn the need doesn’t end with the holidays.

The gifts have been opened, Christmas dinner consumed, and exhausted revelers may feel ready for that long winter’s nap.

We’re the lucky ones.

For some, the holidays are more struggle than celebration, especially the struggle to put food on the table.

And that struggle doesn’t end with the holidays.

Ever since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of people needing food assistance has steadily climbed.

Over the past two months, the Edmonds Food Bank (The Carol Rowe Memorial Edmonds Food Bank) has served more than 400 families each week – about 1,800 people – double the number they assisted just a couple of years ago.

Volunteer John Becker estimated they would supply as many as 550 families for Christmas.

Fortunately, at this time of year, people are very generous. The food bank’s shelves were well-stocked, and more than 40 volunteers were on hand last week to assist clients (There was no distribution this week.).

Food bank Director Peggy Kennedy, a volunteer for 31 years, praised the outpouring of support.

“People have been extremely generous this year,” she said. “They have gone all-out.”

Volunteers like Al Rutledge, who headed up two food drives in the past two months at Top Food, helped bring in hundreds of pounds of food and supplies.

Boy and Girl Scout troops also stepped up, as well as numerous individuals who wrote checks.

“One lady handed me a check for $500,” Becker said. “Another lady handed me a check for $3,000!

“She said they had been very blessed and wanted to contribute to the food bank.”

Unfortunately, when the holidays end, people get back to their busy lives, forgetting that those who are less fortunate still need help. The shelves are empty; the volunteers drift away.

“In January, everything comes to a screeching halt,” Becker said.

Not only does the food bank still need donations, it needs motivated volunteers – particularly on non-distribution days.

“I need volunteers who want to take on something steady,” Becker said.

For example, the food bank has 42 pickups every week, from government and social service agencies to grocery stores.

Each food bank has to adhere to a specific schedule or risk losing out on receiving needed supplies.

Retirees looking to make a contribution are always welcome. Likewise, young people, perhaps students looking to burnish their resumes, are encouraged.

But Becker said those volunteers must be dependable.

“We need someone who is available every Thursday, or every Saturday,” he said, “and be dedicated to it.”

To learn more about how you can help, contact the food bank at 425-778-5833 or email foodbank@edmondsumc.org.

If you can’t volunteer, but still want to help, consider making regular donations a part of your weekly grocery shopping list.

In particular, protein is always needed, such as tuna fish or peanut butter. In addition, items for babies and toddlers are in regular demand, including baby food, apple juice, and baby wipes. Of course, you can never go wrong donating money.

Finally, if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.

Kennedy said they are well aware of how hard it can be to take that step.

“People feel like they’re a failure,” she said, “so we try to make it as pleasant as possible.”

The food bank operates out of the Edmonds United Methodist Church, 828 Caspers St., Edmonds.

It is open 50 weeks a year, serving Edmonds residents from 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesdays and then anyone in need beginning at 11 a.m.

For more information, visit the Edmonds Food Bank website at www.edmondsumc.org.

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