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

What are you thankful for this year?
"My family."

"My children."

"Great volunteers at the food bank"

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Staying Positive




Michelle has had a tough life. There is no other way to sum it up--but she remains positive and optimistic. "I try to always see the glass as half full." After hearing some of her stories, it's hard to believe she can be so positive.


As a kid, she bounced back and forth between southern California with her Mother and Bellingham with her Father. She said her Mom worked like a dog and she grew up almost spoiled: "We had more than we needed, thanks to her." But, Michelle's Dad was living in Bellingham and she tried several times to move and live with him. Eventually she'd return to California: "He was abusive, but I still loved him."


Michelle had a varied work history. She worked in child-care, was a licensed hair dresser, and was studying to be a teacher. But, as she started having kids, her career slowed down so she could raise her family. Soon Michelle started having a lot of health challenges.


Michelle, her husband Gerald, and their three kids have been living in a motel for the past year. Gerald isn't currently working and Michelle is unable to work. She has PTSD, bipolar disorder, is diabetic, COPD, and has a plethora of stomach and digestive issues. She's lost over 100 pounds over the past two years due to her inability to digest most food. She was found to be disabled several years ago. These days she is confined to a wheel chair.


Michelle's two youngest kids are in school in Bellingham. She is devoted to give them what she can. She admits that it's hard. "Their classmates wear Nike, we shop at Target when we're lucky."


Michelle is at our food bank every Wednesday. Her entire disability income goes to pay rent at the hotel--every single penny. "The food bank is the only way we can survive. "It's the only way I can feed myself and my kids." Michelle is the first to admit to having some bad luck and to have made some bad decisions. All of these things have put her and her family in a pretty tough spot. But we are glad to help. Bad luck and bad choices don't mean you shouldn't eat.
Bellingham Food Bank

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

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Food For Thought
Mike Cohen
Executive Director

As Thanksgiving approaches, our phones begin to ring even more than usual. "Will you be serving a meal on Thanksgiving?" "Can we donate a Thanksgiving meal to a family?" "Can my family come down and volunteer on Thanksgiving?" We get the same types of inquiries near Christmas.


I must admit to feeling a bit schizophrenic at this time of year. People come out in droves to help feed hungry families. We are absolutely overwhelmed with generosity in the months of November and December. Simply put--it's wonderful. It's so appreciated by the thousands that visit our food bank. I cannot tell you how many hugs, kisses, and tears of joy I've experienced handing out turkeys the week of Thanksgiving. As I experience all this generosity, I also know that many only fight hunger around Thanksgiving and Christmas--that's where my brain starts getting confused.


A mentor of mine who ran a food bank in North Carolina used to say, "Christmas isn't a crisis." It was his way of trying to let folks know that many of the families we help in December probably will need help in February, too. Poverty isn't a condition of the holiday season--it lasts longer than that. I want to harness all of the hunger-fighting energy we witness around the holidays and get people to join our effort for the year.


Hunger is not acceptable. Not on Thanksgiving or any other time of the year. I don't mean to sound greedy, but I'd love some help. How do we take the generous nature so many feel during the holiday season and convert them to year-round hunger fighters? We need that donated turkey for Thanksgiving, but we also need your help the remainder of the year. If you help us throughout the year, thank you! If you have any ideas of how to grab onto the energy that starts around Thanksgiving and spread that spirit throughout the year--I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Mike Hammes
Spreading Philanthropy Like the Flu


"Sure, you can write a story about long as it's not about me." Some donors can be a little challenging, but they are worth it. Mike Hammes is a generous and inspiring man, but this isn't about Mike, it's about his friends.


Mike owns Ram Construction and has been a long time donor to our food bank (as well as many other great causes), but he does so much more than donate--he brings others along with him. Mike is a collector of great people. Sit around Café Adagio with him on a Friday morning and you'll be interrupted by many people who swing by to exchange a quick story with Mike.


Right now Mike is sharing his commitment to fight hunger with many of the friends he has collected. Together, they have a pretty audacious goal. Their project is to buy enough turkeys so everyone who visits the food bank will receive a turkey for Thanksgiving. "I just can't imagine anyone not getting to enjoy this holiday that is really all about sharing." Mike is spreading this sentiment to a broad community of friends in Whatcom County. He is helping them understand the depth and impact of their support.


Mike is sharing the opportunity to make a food bank family's Thanksgiving special. He is introducing dozens of his friends to our work. His partners on this project come from all parts of Mike's life. They include Rotarians, attorneys, electricians, firefighters, and so many others. Mike's real skill is being a facilitator of generosity. In the end, this is what philanthropists do. It's more than just giving--it's inspiring others to be involved, too.


I know why people join Mike in his work--his energy is contagious. He gets you excited to be part of something bigger than you could imagine. This Thanksgiving his team of friends is going to do something extraordinary. They are going to make the holiday something to remember for all the right reasons for the 2,000 families that will visit our food bank that week. Afterwards, they will share a smile, a pat on the back, and then move onto their next effort to help our community.


Mike's philosophy is pretty simple: "I just want people to be nice to each other." He's leading by example, which is the best way to lead.

Carol Murty
From Serving the Ultra-Rich to the Rich at Heart


Carol first came here as a client in early 2003.  Soon, she heard that BFB was going to switch from a paper intake system to a computerized system, but hadn't any volunteers who were comfortable with computers. Since Carol had had a lot of computer experience in her work life she thought intake would be a good fit for her. Soon she was volunteering three full days a week, prepping produce in the morning and either staffing the intake desk or the distribution line in the afternoons.


Carol was born into an Irish family in London during WWII. Her father's work took him all over the world, and she attended Catholic boarding schools in London, Vancouver BC and Beverly Hills until she turned 16. Her early life aspiration was to be a nun. However, when she was enrolled in La Jolla High School, this sheltered young woman was introduced to a very fast-paced and different world.


At 19 Carol married, had a child, and then started working in the restaurant business. She found she loved the work and soon was managing a top-tier restaurant in La Jolla. Ten years later, she and her husband divorced and Carol threw herself into her work with a passion. Throughout her 39 years in La Jolla, she held high-paying management jobs for several fine dining establishments, where she mingled with the very wealthy and became accustomed to fabulous foods and fine wines. She traveled extensively, and money really was no object for her.


Then life changed substantially for Carol. In her forties she suffered through several complex health issues, which over time required five stomach surgeries and two brain surgeries. In 1991, she became medically disabled and was forced to retire. Her resources and income plummeted. Carol volunteered for a time in the newborn ward in a hospital and with hospice. Then she moved her mother to Vancouver BC to stay with relatives. By then her mother was suffering from Alzheimer's and couldn't be left on her own. In 1996 Carol moved to Bellingham, and after volunteering at the Alzheimer's Society for five years, she became a BFB volunteer. She won the Whatcom Volunteer Center's Heart and Hands award in 2006.





Want to help make Thanksgiving special for a local family?

Donate a turkey (or two) to our food bank.


Nearly 2,000 families will visit us during the week of Thanksgiving,

and one of the ways we can make it feel like a holiday is with your help. You can drop your donations here Monday through Friday from 8:00-4:00. If you have an interest in donating lots of turkeys, please give us a call.




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