Signs of economic tough times hit home last week when food banks in Bonney Lake, Prairie Ridge and Sumner distributed more than 600 food baskets for the Thanksgiving holiday.
While those numbers may sound large, the communities’ outpouring of generosity was equal to the cause, said Stew Bowen, director of the Bread of Life and Bonney Lake food banks.
Volunteers at Bread of Life distributed food baskets to 98 families on Nov. 25. The following day, 138 families signed in at the Bonney Lake Food Bank.
The total number was equal to what both food banks served accumulatively last year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The agencies are seeing an increase in first-time recipients.
“Every time we open, we’re seeing new faces,” Bowen said. “There are circumstances in families’ lives that bring them here – whether it’s a change in marriage, health or something to do with their job. We’re seeing the economic stress on marriages, with several single dads and moms coming in for help.
Something Bowen noticed that’s new to food bank circles is how the economy has forced some families to consolidate households.
“We’re seeing children moving back in with parents, siblings moving in with each other and friends moving in with friends just because it’s tough out there,” Bowen said.
One of those families was Alma and her husband – unable to work due to a debilitating disease – and their daughter, who was fortunate to move in with a family member after Alma lost her job in April when the company she worked for shut down. With an annual income near $100,000, the family’s lives were turned upside down. They lost their home as a result.
“I haven’t been able to find work anywhere,” she said. Yet she didn’t complain. “But we’re doing OK.”
At Sumner’s St. Andrews’ Food bank, Food Pantry Coordinator Arlene Evavold has noticed an increased need this holiday season.
“We’re seeing quite a significant increase of 40 to 60 percent in clients per month compared to a few months ago,” she said. “In June, we saw 370 people; the average was about 175 per month. We’re seeing people who just aren’t making their bills, so they need the extra food to make it through. We don’t turn anybody away.”
St. Andrew’s Thanksgiving basket distribution was made possible through networking with community nonprofits, such as Calvary Community Church in Sumner, which donated 250 turkeys and 60 hams.
“Calvary did the food drive and we supplemented,” she said.
The Sumner Food Bank also offered an exchange of food and the Sumner Family Center, sponsored by the Sumner School District, also joined hands with St. Andrews by providing names of families in need, she said.
“We gave our people lots of food – not just Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “We had fresh fruit, vegetables, pasta, soups and cereal.
If the recipients were thankful for the generous gifts, Evavold said she and the other St. Andrews’ volunteers were equally grateful for the chance to serve.
“They probably do more for us than we’ll ever do for them,” she said. “One person who’s very thankful for what you give them just makes your day.”
Reach Judy Halone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8210.