The people packed into the St. Elizabeth Hospital Rainier Room Feb. 9 gobbled up the information presented about a community food program.
Jobyna Nickum, Enumclaw Senior Activity Center manager, Britt Nelson, Plateau Outreach Ministries director and Jackie Madill with Franciscan Health Systems facilitated the meeting to see if there was an interest in creating a community-based program to feed the hungry.
The room, filled beyond capacity with more than 60 community members, was a good sign.
“When people say Enumclaw is special, this is it,” Madill said. “There is so much compassion and hope on the Plateau that there is no way this cannot be successful.”
With an official name yet to be determined, the loosely formed organization is planting seeds of hope. The gathering was an opportunity to talk about the Plateau’s hunger issues and the possibilities for developing a program to meet the hunger needs of the area’s elderly, children and families.
Nickum, Nelson and Madill have been putting their heads together to coordinate efforts to build a feeding program on the Plateau that reaches those in need with nutrition and compassion. It’s thought the effort could be similar to Portland, Ore.’s, Loaves and Fishes.
Madill said the Plateau is generally thought of as an affluent community, but there are great needs just below the surface.
“We are seeing more homeless people on a weekly basis at Plateau Outreach Ministries,” Nelson said, pointing out homeless can include those who are sleeping on a friend’s couch, camping or living in a car. She said homelessness covers a wide range of ages from youth to seniors.
“You don’t think it’s here, but it’s here,” she said.
Nelson also noted free and reduced lunch counts at the Enumclaw School District have grown from 21 percent in 2005 to more than 30 percent, and 33 students are registered as homeless in the Enumclaw School District.
“There’s a lot of creativity here,” she said. “I think the possibilities are endless.”
The senior center has served a hot meal since 1974 and is the only senior center in King and Pierce counties to still serve a hot meal. Its daily lunch program remains strong, but its hot meal program to homebound seniors will disappear.
Nickum said a frozen meal is available, but they are difficult for seniors to prepare. She said there are added bonuses when a volunteer delivers the meal that go above and beyond dropping off a frozen dinner. Volunteers spend time with the seniors while they eat their meal and check on them to make sure they do not need help.
The senior center currently delivers between four and 10 meals a day.
Madill said what they are looking for are people to fill in the gaps – stakeholders and decision makers, funding resources, food that can be prepared locally by a contractor, a volunteer-based delivery system and a part-time coordinator.
The goal would be to serve a hot meal once a day, five days a week, to homebound seniors with their eye on feeding 30 elders on the Plateau by June and 50 by December.
Eventually, the program would expand to include weekend and family meals, special events and a van that could reach youth, families and the homeless.
The group is starting with short-term goals like forming a committee and identifying a structure, clarifying goals and getting started.
“There are some awesome possibilities,” Madill said. “We’re starting off with baby steps before we take off running.”
Anyone interested in becoming a part of the movement can contact Madill at JackquelineMadill@fhshealth.org, Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nickum at email@example.com.