Bellingham Food Bank Newsletter
Fall 2015
In This Issue
In their own words

What are you most grateful for this time of year?
"Having the whole family together over the holidays."

"Getting more hours at work. The extra pay will help a lot."

"The turkey and other great stuff from the food bank!"

Susan W
Reflections on the
Rhythm of Life

Susan's lived a very fulfilling and interesting 59 years. She says she's been blessed to have had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and the world, as her father was an Air Force officer. She learned to appreciate many cultures and cuisines in her family's travels.

A self-described "Jill-of-all-trades" Susan's also worked hard her whole life. She started supporting herself at age 16 by waitressing in Vancouver, BC, and at 19 worked on a large chicken farm in Welcome, Washington. Susan put herself through college and obtained a degree in elementary and special education. Later she started her own cleaning business in Austin, Texas. She's also taught in tribal schools and worked as a nursing assistant/caregiver for the elderly and people with dementia.

Music has been a life-long passion for Susan. As a teen she went to the Toronto Conservatory of Music studying piano, voice, and music theory. And music is what kept her in Austin. She originally had planned to visit for a few weeks, but ended up staying for nearly 20 years. "Austin is to music as Santa Fe is to art," she says. There she got to meet and mingle with many in the industry, and immerse herself in the music.

Partying was also a big part of the scene in those days. In 1987 Susan found out she was pregnant. This was quite a shock, as she had been told that she'd never be able to have children. Once she learned she was pregnant, Susan decided to focus on becoming a great mom.

Susan first visited our food bank in 2003 as a caregiver, assisting her client who was getting groceries. When Susan became unemployed, she came to get food for herself. Last year she began volunteering with us, sorting bread and bakery items. She says, "I really enjoy my coworkers and the work, and I'm thrilled to be able to give back."

Currently Susan is working part time as a caregiver and is also on the City of Bellingham's hiring list for custodial work. She loves spending time with her partner, daughter and granddaughter, cooking, and of course, playing music.

Bellingham Food Bank
TTY 711 or 800-833-6388

1824 Ellis Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

BFB staff Melanie Swanson and Mike Cohen with Alderwood Elementary staff Janae Hodge and Mikah Smith setting up at the school.

Food For Thought
BFB's New School Pantry

We rarely stand still at Bellingham Food Bank. Although we just recently completed our facility expansion, we are already moving forward with another exciting project. Hunger continues to penetrate all aspects of our community, and that's why we continue working to react with innovative and high-impact programs.

Last year we began talking with the staff at Alderwood Elementary School. This school has the highest rate of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches in Whatcom County, is incredibly diverse, and has a dedicated staff who are seeing far too many kids coming to school hungry. Hungry kids cannot learn.

We also spoke quite a bit with people in the wider Alderwood community and learned that many of the families who are in need struggle to get to our food bank. The bus route from that part of town is challenging, and many work multiple jobs, making it nearly impossible for them to get to our facility. So, we decided to bring our food bank to them.

On October 15th we began hosting our food bank at Alderwood Elementary School on Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The goal of this new project, called the School Pantry program, is to provide families in the Alderwood area with access to the same great food as the families who visit our Ellis Street location. This includes dairy, eggs, protein items and fresh produce, as well as nonperishable groceries.

Our School Pantry is based on others we researched around Washington; however, we're putting our own spin on the concept. We are developing a team of volunteers who will assist us at the school, and we are certain that more than 100 families will soon be getting more of the food they need right
in their own neighborhood. Every week of the year.

We've received some incredible early support from the Sustainable Whatcom Fund of the Whatcom Community Foundation and are really excited to get started. What could be better than providing food to more hungry kids and their families?

We'll keep you posted on our progress!

Mike Cohen
Executive Director

Industrial Credit Union
Feed the Need
Love Affair
Many in our community are aware of the annual Feed the Need Com-munity Food Drive that occurs the third week in October. You hear about it on one of five local Cascade Radio Group stations and have probably been asked to contribute either while walking into any Industrial Credit Union branch or Whatcom County Haggen store. However, the real engine and heart behind Whatcom County's largest food drive is Industrial Credit Union (ICU).

"They don't care about being out in front, they don't care about recognition. All they care about is getting as much food as possible for hungry families," says Mike Cohen, BFB Executive Director. "It's a tremendous amount of work, but they also have a lot of fun doing it."

ICU started the Feed the Need Community Food Drive 21 years ago. They were motivated by the credit union's commitment to supporting the Bellingham community. And also by learning of an employee who had fallen on hard times and needed to start using the food bank when she gained custody of her grandchild.

That first food drive was modest, bringing in about 2,000 pounds of food. However, it started a tradition that now benefits hungry families throughout Whatcom County. ICU's goal this year is to collect 300,000 pounds, and as we go to press, they are still tallying the results. Over the past two decades they have collected an amazing 2,500,000 pounds of food!

"Feed the Need is an activity that exemplifies ICU's core values. All of our staff and their families are involved. It's become a part of our culture. There is no way to measure the real return we receive for our investment," says Kim Sutton, ICU Executive Vice President.

And there is no group that gets into a food drive as much as ICU. Staff dress up, they decorate and transform their branches, and they have their children out asking for contributions. It's a full-on food drive love affair.

The Feed the Need Food Drive has grown and changed over the years, but one thing remains constant--ICU's fierce commitment to and support of our community. And we love them for that.

Patti and Patrick Smith
Not Slowing Down Anytime Soon

Winter's fast approaching and that means the advent of cold and really wet weather. It's a time that prompts some retirees to move to warmer regions and slower-paced lives. That's not the case with Patti and Patrick Smith.

In 2008, these native Arizonians moved to Bellingham. They'd vacationed here in the past and decided they'd love to live here someday. And when their sons and their families moved to the Northwest, they jumped at the chance to join them. Patti and Patrick had volunteered serving meals to hungry families while living in Mesa, and they wanted to help feed the hungry in their new community. They joined our distribution crew in 2009 and have been working hard ever since.

The Smiths believe our volunteers' primary responsibility is to make food bank families feel comfortable. They know it can feel extremely stressful being at a food bank, especially because for many it's the last place they imagined they'd be. And Patti and Patrick do a tremendous job of helping provide not only food for our families, but also a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

So what else has this dynamic duo been up to besides raising a family and now enjoying their grandchildren? Patti worked as the education program manager for the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix coordinating more than 800 volunteers. She also volunteered as a board member for the Museum Association of Arizona. Locally she's helped start up the South Whatcom Library and mentored marathoners with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. She also knits baby blankets for infants through the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society.

Patrick worked as a process engineer with Motorola for 27 years and for a short time with Flip Chips before his retirement. An avid outdoorsman, he loves backpacking and hiking. He's trekked California's Mt. Whitney and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon 19 times! Patrick's favorite local hike is the Mt. Baker Chain Lakes Loop. And for the last several years he's also been a member of the ROMEOS group (Retired Old Men Eating Out), which meets for food and fun and also raises funds for Bellingham Food Bank's Milk Money program.




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 off Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.          


If you're interested in donating lots of turkeys,   please give us a call.