FOOD BANK HERO
A Passion for Service
On Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 we bring our food bank to Alderwood Elementary School's gymnasium. And one of the people you're likely to see when you enter the gym is our superstar volunteer Bella.
Bella's a sophomore at Squalicum High School and has been volunteering with us for about a year. She often staffs our intake desk where she checks in families coming to pick up food. However, she can be found pretty much anywhere help is needed. Wherever Bella works,
she goes out of her way to help everyone feel welcome.
Melanie Danner, BFB's Satellite Programs Coordinator, really appreciates Bella's versatility. "Bella is mature way beyond her 15 years. Aside from being pretty much willing and able to do any job at our food bank, she has a really big heart.
She is committed to helping people get the food they need."
What are Bella's passions in life? She says without hesitation "Helping people! And, learning!" In addition to volunteering at our satellite food bank at Alderwood, Bella serves on Planned Parenthood's Teen Council, which is a peer education and leadership program for high school students. And she is also involved with the Queer Straight Alliance Club at Squalicum.
Although Bella seems outgoing and confident, she says it can be challenging to feel comfortable in social situations. However, she finds that by volunteering at our food bank and being involved in other activities, she becomes "uplifted by being around so many positive and helpful people." And that
"it feels great working together to make a difference in the community."
What are Bella's future plans? She is excited about the prospects of going to medical school and continuing to help others
, perhaps as a physician with Doctors Without Borders. It's a good thing her other passion in life is learning, as this will mean a combined total of 20-plus years of education!
Whatever Bella does, we know she will give it her all. And those of us lucky enough to be around her will be grateful for and inspired by her efforts.
Thank you Bella for all of your contributions in our community.
Bellingham Food Bank
TTY 711 or 800-833-6388
1824 Ellis Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
Food For Thought
Our Business is Growing
I'm not going to lie, 2016 has had a lot of surprises for our food bank. Some of the surprises have been great and some have been challenging. After talking to some partners who work with food banks across the state I learned how we compare to other hunger fighters.
Bellingham Food Bank is the busiest food bank in the state, giving away significantly more food than most other food banks. We knew we were busy; visits are up 15% this year. But, I didn't know we were that much busier and give out so much more food than others. I'm proud of our work and what our community helps us do, but I'm saddened and angered by the inequity that exists in our small city. Too many people are struggling.
However, we have had some real successes over the past year. In 2015 we really started focusing on increasing access to our services for folks who aren't always able to get to our Ellis Street location.
By partnering with other human services providers, we now have an active, growing, home delivery program. Nearly 100 neighbors now get a box of essential groceries delivered to their home or apartment because they are unable to get to our food bank.
Similarly, we now operate two satellite food banks at Alderwood and Cordata elementary schools. Every Tuesday (Cordata) and Thursday (Alderwood) we transport thousands of pounds of food to the schools to support hungry families in these somewhat isolated neighborhoods. It's an honor to work with school staff to better serve families who need our help but have challenges getting to our downtown location.
And, our food bank family recently grew by one! Our Operations Manager, Drew, and his wife Lily, welcomed their daughter Noa to the world in September. We are thrilled for the new family and hope hunger in our community shrinks as Noa grows.
Food Bank Champions
Joe and Anne Nolting's path to Bellingham has taken them many places. Both grew up in Vermont, lived in and around Alaska for many years, and moved to Bellingham about four years ago.
They have been passionate about their community and supporting those in need regardless of where they call home.
Joe remembers learning about helping others from his grandmother; it was a tough lesson. She sounds like a tough woman.
"She smoked four packs of Winstons a day, played poker, and liked her highballs." Instead of getting one-on-one time with grandma, Joe often had to share her company with homeless people or other needy folks she was feeding. Occasionally, he even had to share her homemade pie. These events clearly had a big impact on Joe and it turns out that his wife learned similar lessons as a child.
Joe and Anne love Bellingham. They enjoy the walking trails, the creative energy of writers and artists, and taking in the city's cultural opportunities.
They also help out a lot. They deliver food bank boxes to homebound community members and distribute free books to kids at the food bank's satellite food pantry at Alderwood Elementary. They believe strongly that nobody should be hungry in this country and view food as community property.
In addition to volunteering at our food bank and with other organizations, they are regular monetary donors to BFB.
"We donate because it makes us feel good, and we consider it our responsibility." Joe says they are also inspired by the food bank's innovative ways of tackling hunger through programs like Food Bank Fresh and the Garden Project.
We are thrilled that the Noltings call Bellingham their home now, and
we are inspired by their commitment to caring for our community.
Finding and Building Community
Melody was born and raised in Los Angeles, and after marriage she lived for several years in San Diego. She and her husband had three children together, and she also worked in medical clinics and provided home healthcare.
She enjoyed working in the medical field and helping others.
After her divorce in 2000, Melody became a single mom. Resources were slim and providing for her family became quite challenging. "They didn't have food banks in California. Sometimes churches might provide a little help. But it wasn't much at all." She relocated to Northwest Washington to be closer to family, and then moved to Bellingham.
"I fell in love with this beautiful city. It's a great community to raise kids." For a time, Melody and her children were homeless. They found resources through the Opportunity Council, and that is when she also learned about Bellingham Food Bank.
One of the things Melody appreciates about BFB is the variety of ways we provide for people to eat healthier foods. She cites the local produce, milk, and other nutritious foods offered here, and also the Garden Project, which helps families grow their own food at home. This is Melody's second year as a Garden Project participant, and she is thrilled to be able to grow things from seeds that will help provide meals for her family.
Melody is currently unemployed due to health issues.
She remains committed to giving back to our community, and continues to find great joy in helping others. She volunteers for several organizations including Unity Care (formerly Interfaith), the cold weather shelter at Garden Street Methodist Church, and at events such as the Jingle Bell Run. Melody also cooks and does chores for seniors living in low-income housing.
"I love coming to Bellingham Food Bank not only for the food, but also because it's a resource center, a social outlet, a place where folks from all walks of life come to meet. We're a community. Volunteers, staff, and clients, we share a smile, a friendly word, swap recipes. People are kind, friendly, they know your name." And Melody is one of the friendliest folks of all.