Story and photos by Doug Petrowski
Some 220 families and individuals from the area will have a turkey dinner this week, thanks to the efforts of the Concern for Neighbors Food Bank in Mountlake Terrace.
“For a little tiny food bank, we do pretty good,” said the organization’s president Anne Peterson, who has been volunteering with the group for nine years.
The food bank operates at 4700-228th St. S.W. on the grounds of Terrace View Presbyterian Church and hands out food to the needy each Tuesday, 9:30-11:30 a.m. The line for food was a little longer is week, Peterson said, but everyone who came received a supply of staples, fruits and vegetables, bread, dairy products, and either a full turkey or a turkey breast roast, depending upon the size of the family.
The food bank was founded in the basement of a nearby home by five volunteers in 1971 and has now grown to a volunteer crew of about 60 volunteers operating a warehouse, two delivery trucks, two shipping containers, a cooler and a freezer. The food bank also rents space from the church for its operation.
The food provided by the Concern for Neighbors comes from many sources: large charity organizations (Northwest Harvest, Volunteers of America, Food Lifeline), government commodity shipments, local grocery stores (Mountlake Terrace stores QFC, Albertsons and Rogers Market, plus other stores in Ballard and Everett), collections by schools, scout troops, private businesses and community groups, and individual donors. The food bank will also purchase some perishable items, such as milk and eggs.
Some local businesses that have conducted food drives recently include First Security Bank, Getaway Tavern, Back to Action Chiropractic, Fitness 19 and Tina’s Hair Salon, Peterson said.
The large Concern for Neighbors truck makes multiple stops each week at local grocery stores for pickup of food donations, including four pickups each week at the Mountlake Terrace QFC, two pickups each week at the Mountlake Terrace Albertsons, and two pickups each week at Roger’s Market.
Those seeking food must show identification and proof of a local address to receive continuing assistance – “We don’t turn anyone away the first time,” said Peterson. The food bank serves residents of Mountlake Terrace and Brier, and is part of a coalition of Snohomish county food banks so that it can refer individuals to other food banks if necessary.
Many at the food bank on Tuesday were happy to share how grateful they were of its operation. Estefana Tabares, a Mountlake Terrace mother of six, said she had been coming to the food bank since June, and that it was a great assistance to her family. “My husband is an electrician, but has been laid off for awhile,” she said. “He does jobs for some of our neighbors, but having this food is a big help.”
A 61-year-old unemployed counselor (who didn’t want her name used) has been using the food bank for a year. “It’s a good food bank,” she said. “They take good care of us.”
The help provided by the Concern for Neighbors operation doesn’t just end with food; the organization hands out up to $1,200 a month in financial assistance to residents who are being threatened with eviction or a shut off of utilities.
The food bank is also hoping to give away toys and Christmas gifts later in December to needy families. The organization has almost $1,000 set aside for purchasing gifts, plus has received a number of toy donations for giving away, said the group’s treasurer Rhonda Miketinas.
About 30 volunteers are involved on Tuesday mornings, assisting those coming for food through registration, then the distribution area. Spanish and Russian translators are normally on hand to help, although both were out sick this week, causing some backups in the registration area.
Other volunteers help with the food sorting and organizing that occurs on Monday mornings, while others drive the trucks that collect food donations.
The Tuesday morning distributions couldn’t happen without all the work done by volunteers during the week, Peterson explained. “All of that goes on behind the scenes, that nobody ever sees,” she said. Even during the distribution, there are volunteers continuing to sort and stock food donations to insure the food bank’s operations can continue the next week and beyond.
To learn more about the Concern of Neighbors Food Bank, or to make a donation or volunteer to help, visit their website or call 425-778-7227.