Bellingham Food Bank Newsletter
   Winter 2014
In This Issue
In their own words

As we begin a new year, what are you grateful for?
"A working car that can bring me here."

"We don't have much, but we do have our health."

"My family; they mean everything to me."

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Walt Preston
Nature Lover, Fisherman



Walt has a great love for the outdoors and natural environment. He grew up in southern California where "the beaches were clean and the ocean fishing was amazing." Walt says he and his two brothers and sister had a great childhood. During high school he worked at Knott's Berry Farm, and then he graduated into a complicated world.


Walt knew he'd be drafted to go to Vietnam, yet he didn't believe in the war. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force and served as a military police officer in Okinawa, Japan and Spokane. Walt then came to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University. He also spent time camping in old growth forests, fishing, and diving for ling cod. Walt says even though he didn't have a lot of money, he never had a grocery bill while at WWU.  He was able to live off of the fish he caught and the food he gathered from dumpster diving.      "I ate really well actually."


Walt graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies. "Unfortunately it wasn't very marketable back then." He went to work as a maintenance painter with the VA. Over time he applied for a job painting at the White House; however, the physical exam for that job revealed he needed to retire because of disabilities. Walt went from working and receiving a decent paycheck each month to receiving a meager disability check. Soon he began coming to our food bank.


"I love the people here; they are amazing. This is my socializing for the week." Type II diabetes and other ailments keep Walt at home most days, except for his food bank excursions. "This place is keeping me alive. My disability check and $15 a month in food stamps don't go very far." 


Bellingham Food Bank

Bellingham Food Bank
1824 Ellis Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

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Mike Cohen - Executive Director at BFBFood For Thought
The calendar has turned to 2014, and I do what many do at the start of a new year--reflect. This year will mark my tenth anniversary at Bellingham Food Bank. It's hard for me to comprehend all the changes we have seen, all of the need, and also the incredible community support.

The number of families we are serving is simply staggering, and depressing. In 2013 we provided service for more than 133,000 client visits and distributed over 3 million pounds of food.


I must admit that I felt really tired at the end of 2013. I struggled to remain positive as I saw the ever-growing line of clients. At times, I doubted our capacity to continue to meet the need, to continue to find healthy, fresh food for the thousands that rely on our support.


I asked myself, is it time to move on? Is our food bank as vital as I believed it was? Instead of ignoring these thoughts, I examined them. I visited other food banks in our region, talked to some mentors. I also thought of Margaret.


Margaret Jaime was one of our longest-serving and most dedicated volunteers. She worked hard all of her life, raising a family while working at a cold-storage plant. When she retired from her job, she began volunteering with us. She worked in our old and decrepit facility, in our temporary quarters on State Street during construction of our new building, and served record numbers of people in our current food bank. She helped three days a week, year after year because of the need.


In the last several years, Margaret faced difficult health issues. Although they slowed her down, she remained committed to serving our clients. I'm saddened to say Margaret passed away just before Christmas. We miss her dearly. Yet, her fiery determination lives on in all of us at BFB.


I have more clarity today than I had in late December. I've also had the opportunity to get recharged and re-inspired by Margaret, and others. We have developed innovative and successful programs that have earned us a reputation as being leaders and cutting-edge. And the support we've received has helped us meet the challenges. This has only been possible because of our amazing community and staff.


As we begin 2014, I remain deeply committed to our mission to fight hunger.

I hope you do too.

Mike Cohen
Executive Director

Lorna White
Giving Because She Can


"Years ago, our one paycheck didn't go very far," Lorna reflects. She and her husband Doug have lived in Whatcom County most of their lives. Doug worked for the fish hatchery, and when their three children were young, Lorna worked as a homemaker. They got paid once a month and Lorna would divvy up the money into four envelopes, one for each week's expenses.


"We couldn't afford to buy much." At the grocery store her three children would ask "can we get this?" Lorna often had to say no. However, she believes that it's important that kids have good food. When she heard that the Salvation Army was giving out cheese and peanut butter, she realized "I need to go there for my kids." It was her first and only experience receiving assistance.


When Lorna's children were in school, Lorna went back to work teaching. And in 2005 when she retired, she began volunteering at our food bank. Here she saw other people who were in the same situation her family had been in, or worse. Lorna then decided to also begin making monthly monetary donations to help buy food for the families. "It's a privilege for Doug and me to do this, now that we have it to give. There's not a better place to contribute to."


Every Friday Lorna volunteers sorting and prepping produce. She enjoys meeting and working with people of all ages and from different backgrounds, from high schoolers to seniors. "We all have in common a desire to help our community. It's very uplifting work."


Lorna also volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church sewing beautiful quilts for the homeless. In 2013 her group made and donated 178 quilts for food bank and other human service agencies' clients.


Thank you Lorna for sharing your time and gifts with all of us!

Ronna Reeck
Service Without a Second Thought


If you ever need someone in your corner, Ronna's your gal. She's broken up a fistfight between teenage girls when no one else would step in, protected a mother and child from flying baggage during an emergency plane landing, she's volunteered as an advocate for women who have experienced domestic violence. And she's a compassionate and committed volunteer at Bellingham Food Bank.


Ronna and her husband Dave live on 15 acres in northern Whatcom County. But Ronna isn't home much. Five years ago she quit her job to provide childcare for three of her six grandchildren. Monday through Thursday she's in Lake Stevens caring for the grandkids; she arrives home late on Thursday nights. Bright and early on Friday mornings Ronna's in our prep room sorting veggies and fruits, and then she puts in another four hours helping distribute food. 


"I really like interacting with our food bank families, making them feel welcome, hearing how things are going, and swapping recipes."  And she worries when she doesn't see them for a while, wondering how they're faring. The hardest part for Ronna is seeing so many people in need, especially the children.


Ronna decided to volunteer here three years ago after bringing a family member to pick up food. When she saw the long line of clients, she became determined to lend a hand. Volunteering is now a family affair. Her daughter Tonna works here once a week and all of her grandchildren have helped from time to time. Over the holidays, Ronna and her granddaughter Riley also purchased hats and gloves with their own funds, and distributed them to food bank families.


"I don't understand why more people don't get involved. When we see a need, we should help." 





Together in 2013 we:


Provided service for more than 133,000 client visits


Distributed over 3 million lbs. of food to Bellingham's hungry


Partnered with local farmers to grow nearly 38,000 lbs. of nutritious produce for food bank families


Gleaned 198,000 lbs. of fresh food for Whatcom County families


Built 25 raised-bed vegetable gardens for low-income families


Grew 54,000 lbs. of produce via our Victory Gardens program





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