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

What do you enjoy about this time of year?
"The sunshine and not having to stand in line in the rain."

"Growing salad greens and tomatoes in pots on my patio. I got the seeds here at the food bank."

"Taking care of my grandkids while they're out of school."

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Bonnie Roberts
How Can I Help You?



Bonnie's a vibrant senior who loves visiting local parks, playing pinochle, watching the WWU Vikings basketball games, attending church, and participating in activities at the Bellingham Senior Center. And she admits to a guilty pleasure of watching professional wrestling on TV, "although it seems a bit silly." She also really enjoys helping others.


Working at the Department of Licensing and then later as a retail clerk, Bonnie assisted the public for many years. While she loved her jobs, she had to retire because of the years of strain on her back due to working on concrete floors. Now living on social security retirement, she's found that although she is frugal and debt free, it's still challenging to live on her income.


"At one point I was depressed as there wasn't enough money for the basics. I struggled to figure out what I should cut out." And then Bonnie learned about our food bank. "I never thought I'd be patronizing a food bank. At first I was a bit nervous, embarrassed. But the people here are so friendly, you never feel judged. And there's always a variety of great food like milk, eggs, produce. I recently got some chicken, potatoes, onions, fresh greens. Everything to make some wonderful meals. And not just for me, but also for my grandkids that I care for."


Bonnie understands that some people feel there's a stigma about needing assistance and might be hesitant to come. "For those who've never been before, I'd say come with me. I'll show you the ropes. I see young people here, old people, students. People like me who just have social security...The food bank helps immensely."


Although Bonnie's income limits her travels and other activities, she remains cheerful and upbeat. With a boisterous laugh she affirms that overall "life is good," as she finds joy in her family, her friends, and her faith. And in continuing to help others. 


To learn more about Bonnie, see this clip on our YouTube channel at





Bellingham Food Bank

Bellingham Food Bank
TTY 711 or 800-833-6388
1824 Ellis Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

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Mike Cohen at the construction site next door.

Food For Thought

With a mix of excitement and anxiety, I am pleased to tell you that we are adding 10,000 square feet to our existing facility. I'm excited because this expansion benefits our entire community. At the same time I feel a bit nervous because it's a big project, and as with everything we do, we want to get it right.

There is a lot of free and nearly free food available for hunger-relief programs, provided there is a central location or "hub" that can receive and redistribute that food. Bellingham Food Bank is our community's hunger-relief hub. This is a side of our organization that many don't know about.

We receive food for more than two dozen smaller food banks and meal programs throughout Whatcom County. Our work as the main distribution center/hub ensures our partners have enough good food to feed hungry families in towns like Blaine, Ferndale, Everson, Lynden, and on Lummi Nation.

Not so long ago, we might receive two semi-trucks of food per month to distribute. Now, as a result of increased need and improved logistics, we  receive two semi-trucks each week. In 2013 we redistributed more than two million pounds of food to our hunger-relief partners. And as visits to our food bank have grown by more than 80 percent since 2007, the amount of food we receive and distribute to other programs has jumped 225 percent in that same time.

Again, the good news is there's a lot of great food out there. However, our current facility does not have the capacity to capitalize on this increased availability. We need and want to do more. That's where this expansion comes in.

We've had great success raising money for this project. We broke ground in early July and construction will be complete in 10 months. Having more warehouse and refrigerated storage space is an investment in the future of food distribution and in our community. I cannot wait to see the results. And I invite you to drop by and see what we are doing.

For more info, please see this article in
The Bellingham Herald. Or email me at


Mike Cohen
Executive Director

Leroy Carlson
Bellingham's Beloved Turtle Man


"Lou Gehrig said he was the luckiest guy in the world, but he was wrong. I'm the luckiest guy in the world." Who could argue with this 84-year-old artist with a heart of gold?


Known to many as the Turtle Man because of his hat covered in turtle pins, this friendly guy is frequently sighted at the Farmers Market and Boulevard Park. However, few probably know about Leroy's challenging early years.


Born in Bellingham in 1930 Leroy said both of his parents were "deaf mutes," and his mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis when he was a year old. Leroy's grandparents traveled from Wisconsin to take care of his family when they learned of his mother's illness. As they had no money, they made their way west by hitchhiking. When Leroy was seven his mother passed away.


Leroy began working at 15 thanks to a forged birth certificate and a cannery in need of workers. He became a crew leader at 18. Later on he went to work at the Georgia Pacific mill for many years until his retirement.


Having grown up "with enough, but not a lot," Leroy recognized later in life how many sacrifices his grandparents made so he and his brother could have a little. "I never saw them eat anything special like an orange." His appreciation for their kindness and generosity inspired him to work hard and to give to others.


So what about the turtles? After he retired, Leroy found he needed a hobby. He began collecting limpet shells until his wife threatened to throw them out. He then created small pieces of art from the shells and other found objects, and people asked to buy his creations. Leroy has since donated more than $10,000 from his crafts sales to Bellingham Food Bank and other local charities.


Leroy says he feels fortunate because "I'll never forget how much help my grandparents got with food when we were little." A lot of us feel we're also quite fortunate to know people like Leroy. 

The Funny Farm Crew
Fresh Food, Friendship and Fun


What's a Funny Farm? It's what you get when you put together a lively collection of retired folks who love good food, gardening and having fun playing in the dirt.


The core group includes Naomi and Roger Murphy, Pat McGraw, Barbara Montoya, and Marit Aldrich. Several years ago they met while volunteering with Small Potatoes Gleaning Project, rescuing produce throughout Whatcom County. Many of the group also then volunteered at our Food Bank Farm. When the farm closed two years ago, Pat suggested they start their own gardening venture. And so the magical seed was planted.


The Murphys live on an acre of land near Ferndale. There the crew works on about an eighth of that acre growing organic produce for their own use and donating the rest to Bellingham Food Bank's Victory Gardens program. "There's a lot of satisfaction growing for people who can't afford fresh fruit and vegetables and in helping to improve the health of our community," says Naomi.


Every Thursday from April through November they share their labor, lunches, recipes and a whole lot of laughter. They also meet for potlucks, barbecues, and jam sessions, where they make raspberry, plum and strawberry jams. Did we mention that they really love good food?


In 2013 the Funny Farmers grew spinach, beets, cabbage, squash, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, strawberries, and more, and they donated 650 pounds of their produce to BFB. In the last year they also grew a few more members when Fran Lebowitz and Jerry and Andrea Fenwick joined the group.


The crew encourages others to "get growing," even in small containers if there's no yard or garden plot available, as "it's so satisfying to plant a seed and then harvest your own fresh food." And for larger garden sites they suggest inviting three or more people to get involved to help share the costs and the work load. And to share in all the fun.


To learn more about the Funny Farm, see our YouTube video at  



Grow extra food in your garden and be a Victory Gardener.

Find more info at 


Rescue local produce as a Small Potatoes Gleaning Project volunteer.


Host a Milk Money fundraiser! For more information visit our Milk Money page at





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