The following article was originally published in November of 2011. Not much has changed in our day-to-day operations since then and we thought it might be nice to re-tell it (with minor updates) during this fundraising time. It pretty much relates the heart and soul of what we do.
It’s a few minutes to five on a chilly Thursday evening when volunteers start arriving at the Food Bank building on Madrona Street to hand out free groceries to individuals who will be stopping by this night. About 10 clients are already in front chatting and commiserating, waiting for the door to open so they can each leave with two packed bags of fresh, frozen and canned foods. Earlier in the day, apples, a huge box of potatoes, loaves of freshly made bread, even cans pet food have been left at the large donation box just outside the side door of the building. These, and a myriad of other items wait on the shelves to go home to a grateful family.
“There are many reasons people come to the Food Bank,” says Food Bank manager, Jeannie Doty. “For most it’s circumstance: a lost job, disabilities limiting their ability to work or a rough time in their otherwise productive life.” By Christmas, it’s anticipated that up to 300 people representing about 90 families will be coming to the Food Bank every week to receive free groceries with no questions asked or judgments made.
The Food Bank has various ways it keeps its shelves stocked besides local residents bringing items directly to its donation box at any time day or night, or to boxes at the Senior Center, Key Bank and other locations on the Island. Local farmers and home gardeners have a “Plant A Row” program in the summer where fresh produce is grown and contributed to the Food Bank. Jeff Rodenberger volunteers a trip to the Bellingham Food Bank once a month and picks up hundreds of pounds of government subsidy items and other foods from Northwest Harvest including frozen vegetables and meats, canned goods, flour, eggs, cereals, beans and pasta. “It’s just something I like to do,” he says.
The Food Bank also receives apples, pears, plums and berries that are dropped off by residents whose trees and bushes bear more than they can possibly eat alone.
And, of course, cold, hard cash keeps the wheels turning. Virtually all monies come from your donations and federal and state grants. “We’re always in need of cash for food purchases not covered by government subsidies, ”says Tom Murdock, president of the Food Bank Board.
Orcas Island wasn’t alone on this chilly night in October. Food Banks across the nation were doing exactly the same. But for our special island, our Orcas Island Food Bank on Madrona Street has a special commitment to its own friends in need who can stop by once a week on either Thursday between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. or Tuesday between 12:30 and 2 p.m.
Fall and winter are especially high-demand months for our little Food Bank with a big heart, and its annual Food and Funding Drive is in full swing. This is where you can help. You may contribute on this web site by going to “How to Help" then click “Donate Online through the Orcas Island Community Foundation,” or cash donations may be sent to PO Box 424, Eastsound, WA 98245.
And if you are someone who could use its help but are reluctant to take that step, we urge you to just go once on a Tuesday or Thursday. You’ll be welcomed with open arms, two full bags of food and a heartfelt “come by again next week!”
A Day in The Life of The Food Bank