Retired nurse turns in snowbird dreams to help feed the hungry

Until June, Betty Filsmire had planned to become a snowbird upon her retirement. Then the former nurse and Boise resident, along with her husband, Clifford, a retired food service industry employee, discovered the Bonney Lake area.

Betty Filsmire stores donated perishables at the Bread of Life Food Bank Dec. 9.

Betty Filsmire stores donated perishables at the Bread of Life Food Bank Dec. 9.

Until June, Betty Filsmire had planned to become a snowbird upon her retirement. Then the former nurse and Boise resident, along with her husband, Clifford, a retired food service industry employee, discovered the Bonney Lake area.

One look was all it took.

“We got caught up here last year and found the medical care to be wonderful,” she said. “So we decided to buy and retire here.”

With her newfound community and lifestyle, she added one more outlet to her free time: volunteering.

“My girlfriend got me involved with the food bank,” she said.

She referred to the Bread of Life Food Bank in Prairie Ridge, which serves the community in conjunction with the Bonney Lake Food Bank. Through her volunteerism, Filsmire befriends area citizens in their most vulnerable phases of life.

“She’s there three times a week, three to four hours each,” Director Stew Bowen said. “She is really a dedicated person.”

Alongside a crew of a dozen other volunteers, Filsmire rolls up her sleeves. She receives truckloads of donated food, pet food and toiletries. She also sorts food, dates packages and fills recipients’ baskets based on family size. With each order she completes, Filsmire said she realizes the donations all come when they’re needed most.

“These are really bad times,” she said. “It used to be that (food) was given to poor people who had no education or were unfortunate. Now it’s more of the wealthier type. Now we’re seeing the working class of people who just can’t make it unless they get two jobs. And with the increase in gas, babysitting and all, it’s difficult.”

Filsmire compared the help available today to that of a couple of generations ago.

“I was lucky when my children were little,” she said. “My family babysat. Now, they’re having to pay big wages to have childcare. We’re living in a completely new society. We’re seeing people coming in still working but because of the high expenses, they can’t buy food; or they have to choose between medicine and medical care or their food. If they buy food, they can’t buy the others. We’re getting a different class of people who are trying to be independent.”

Choosing the necessities often means foregoing something as simple as a birthday cake – another area where she and fellow volunteers try to help out.

“When we take baskets out and look at the recipient’s family information, we can see if they have a birthday coming up,” she said. “One little girl had a birthday and we were able to give her a cake.”

They also presented a birthday cake to a widow, who was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I think we had the whole food bank crying,” she said. “It was her first birthday without her husband.”

Filsmire blends that kind of personal touch with a need to give back.

“It’s so rewarding to volunteer,” she said. “I can give back to what’s been given to me. I need people as much as they need me.”

Bowen appreciates the work Filsmire performs.

“To have seniors take up their time to give is touching because these folks have lived quite a bit of life,” he said. “They really understand the need to give back; not for fame or glory but as just part of what life teaches us – that giving is fulfilling.”

“I’ve always been active,” Filsmire said. “It’s just my way of helping the community to do what I can.”

Reach Judy Halone at jhalone@courierherald.com or 360-802-8210.


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