Nourish Volunteers: Randy

The day I met Randy, it was his 69th birthday and just like every Thursday, he was at the Edgewood Nourish Food Bank, volunteering. “The older I get the more I want to be a part of the community,” he explained.

Ten years ago, on the day he retired, his mother sat him down and asked him what he was going to do with his time now. She reminded him that his father was involved in several civic organizations. She suggested he visit the food bank to see if they needed help.

It was an ideal match. A former mechanic at Boeing, Randy said “That’s what I do. I fix stuff. That next Thursday, I came here to the Edgewood food bank and I’ve been coming back every week ever since.”

Now, Randy brings his mechanic’s precision to his volunteering. He explained that they serve 60 people every hour at Edgewood. He’s proud of that and makes sure that people know how the process works before they begin.

Randy greets clients, invites them inside, and assigns them a number. When their number is called, they walk through the food bank aisles to collect their food. “People are so thankful. It’s a family atmosphere, and all the people thank you as they go through.”

Kate, the Edgewood Nourish Food Bank manager said that Randy brings compassion, dignity and respect to his volunteering. “Randy has a heart of gold. When he sees a need, he is right there with a solution. He is well loved by clients, volunteers and staff.” Kate shared a specific story about how Randy saw a need and helped to address it it. “He realized an automatic number system would be helpful for our clients, so he went out and bought one.” Kate said, “I am forever grateful Randy found his way to the Edgewood Nourish Food Bank and into our hearts.”

One of the other volunteers had brought a cake for Randy’s birthday. Before I left, Randy made sure I had a piece to take with me.

Join Randy and sign up to Volunteer.

To learn more about the Edgewood Nourish Food Bank, read our “Get to Know a Food Bank” feature on Edgewood.

Get to Know a Nourish Food Bank: Graham-South Hill

Tucked behind the Holy Disciples Parish building off of 187th in Graham, it might be easy to miss the Graham-South Hill Nourish Food Bank.

“Many people in Graham, South Hill, Puyallup, they don’t know that we are here.” Julie, the Nourish food bank manager says. “If you’re having a hard time, come and visit the food bank. It can seem scary at first, but we’re here to help.”

The food bank has been helping people from this location since 2003. As part of their proposal to purchase the land years ago, the Holy Disciplines Parish committed to establish a food bank on site in addition to their regular offices.

Before the food bank settled in at the building owned by the parish, it moved every few years. Vern and Shirley Pierson, long-time parish members, helped to get a food bank started in the Graham area. “This food bank had about four different locations all over the Graham area before we moved in here.” Julie says.

In its current location, the food bank has its own building with large refrigerators and freezers, plus a separate storage building. Last year, the Graham-South Hill Nourish Food Bank distributed 794,000 pounds of food to people in need.

A community forms among the clients. “Clients watch out for each other.” Julie says. “They check in on each other. If the clients haven’t seen someone for a while, they will start to ask around to make sure people are ok. Sometimes we don’t see people because they got a job and don’t need our help anymore, but sometimes they don’t have transportation to get to the food bank. So, someone will give them a ride.”

The food bank is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but, work happens at the site every day of the week. “We could use more volunteers, even on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the days we restock.” Julie says. She said they especially need volunteers who can lift boxes to restock shelves as well as volunteers who help clients as they pick up food. “It takes at least 12 volunteers every day the food bank is open.”

Katie, Julie’s daughter, has been volunteering at the Graham-South Hill Nourish Food Bank for years. She recently graduated and continues to volunteer. She says, “I think sometimes young people don’t volunteer because they feel like they’re too busy with everything in their lives. But, we really need young people to come in and help too!”

To support the Graham-South Hill Nourish Food Bank, sign up to volunteer or make a donation.

Nourish Volunteers: Sheila

Eleven years ago, Sheila first arrived at the Lakes Area Nourish Food Bank in Lakewood as a client. 

“I had a house, I had a business. I got sick and I lost everything.”

She experienced homelessness for about five months, until she got into an apartment. The food bank helped her get back on her feet.

“Even people who have jobs are just one step from being homeless. You never know what life is going to bring you.” She says. “Things are not for sure.”

Since that first visit to the food bank eleven years ago, Sheila has been coming back to volunteer. She now volunteers twice a week for a few hours each visit.  She does a little bit of everything at the food bank, but she mostly helps with their small clothing bank there. She sorts donations and gets them organized for the clients.

“I can’t do too much physically, but volunteering makes me feel better about myself.” She says. “It’s for my peace of mind that I am here.”

She volunteers to give back. “I don’t feel right just taking and it feels good to give back. It just gives me an opportunity to help others.”

Join Sheila and visit our Volunteer page to sign up.

Serving Food and Dignity

Kelly is like many members of her generation. She works two jobs and has a difficult time making ends meet.

Unlike many others, Kelly is not only supporting herself but also her mother and father, and is helping put her brother through college.

“At the end of every month – when my bills are paid and their bills are paid – I may have as much as $30 left,” Kelly says. “Without the food bank we’d be in so much trouble.”

Food is but one consideration for the 40-year-old landscaper. Her mother suffers from lymphoma and lives in a house with no electricity (heat is from a wood stove). Her father has Alzheimer’s disease. And we’ve all heard what a burden tuition bills can be.

“I’m making it this way,” Kelly says of her trips to the food bank, “I’m lucky, this is helping a lot.”

Kelly says she focuses on meats and dried beans to create stews that can last up to a week. On her food bank trips she also admits to picking up two of her guilty pleasures – mac and cheese and cereal. Those are two items she would otherwise forego in order to provide for the rest of her family.

Kelly says she had tried other food banks in the past but she found Nourish Pierce County to be uniquely welcoming.

“I’m actually allowed to be a person here,” she says. “I get smiles and feel I’m treated with dignity.”

At other agencies she says she was grilled about her income which she admits may look too high for nutritional aid until one takes into account her other responsibilities.

She is quick to smile and announce that her brother will graduate from college soon. Once that financial load is lifted, she is ready to give back to those who helped her.

“It’ll get easier, then I can pay some of it back,” she says. “I’ll volunteer for the food bank, do repairs or landscaping or whatever they need.”

-Chris Fruitrich, retired journalist and food bank volunteer

Your Donation Changes Lives

The Reality of Hunger 

Debbie tears up when she talks about her trips to the Nourish Pierce County food bank. “It’s just temporary … just temporary,” she says.

She and her husband recently suffered through a series of difficulties and suddenly found themselves not able to make ends meet. “Since I lost my job, we’re on one income for five people,” Debbie says. She was working in a warehouse and making a decent wage, but physical limitations and trying to “keep up with the kids” left her out in the cold.

Adding to the woes, both her car and her husband’s died on their way to work just a few weeks apart. After 12 years without car payments, they now have two.

“If it wasn’t for the food bank, we would have to decide between food and paying our expenses,” Debbie says. “This is a godsend. What we get here lets us know we are going to have enough food to last you a week or so.”

Debbie says she likes coming to the food bank, not only for the food but for the company – both food bank volunteers and the fellow clients. “It’s a nice community,” she says, “We always talk and when somebody’s not here we worry about them or try to find out what’s happening and if we can help.”

“And the people in the food bank make you feel welcome. Not like you’re some kind of loser,” she says.

Debbie walks the walk about her food bank friendships. Shortly after she walked away from this interview she took off her scarf so her friend’s dog could be sheltered against the nasty cold.

-Chris Fruitrich, retired journalist and food bank volunteer

Thank you for giving generously to help the hungry in Pierce County.