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Food Bank sees increased need
ARLINGTON — As the Arlington Community Food Bank headed into its Thanksgiving distributions, its members touted the increased support they’ve received from volunteers and contributing agencies, even as they hoped it would be enough to meet the increased need that they face.
“Through diligent reports of our distributions to Volunteers of America, we’ve upped their contributions from 4 percent of our food in 2012 to 5 percent in 2013, which is not small,” said Jerrie Inman, a member of the Arlington Community Food Bank Board of Directors, on Friday, Nov. 22. “We have 82 active volunteers, but between Board members and regular volunteers, our families and friends, and the young people that we get from schools and community groups, we’ll probably be close to 100 volunteers during the Thanksgiving week. Of course, we already have close to 475 families signed up for this year, as opposed to the 350 we served last year.”
Inman estimated that the Arlington Community Food Bank has been adding between 10-20 new families each week, with that number running closer to 20 families a week within the past two months.
“The reduction of food stamp benefits at the start of this month was a big factor,” Inman said. “We’re also seeing more homeless people. We prepare special food baskets for them, with food items that they don’t need to cook — jars of peanut butter and cans on non-perishables with pull-open lids. We’ve also seen more kids than last year in our ‘Meals ‘til Monday’ program, which supplies school children with enough food over the weekend to last them between the meals served by their schools. The number of kids in that has nearly doubled since the start of last year.”
Inman deemed the Arlington Community Food Bank’s “centrally located” address, between Smokey Point and the downtown of Olympic Avenue, and its access to public transportation, one block away from a bus stop, as draws for area homeless people. While Volunteers of America has pitched in even more this year, and the community has donated generously toward a new food bank facility, the food bank still has less money to work with, even with grants of $5,000 from Bank of America and $1,000 from Union Bank to help offset expenses such as operating costs.
“From computers and lights to refrigerators and freezers, we have all the same expenses as a grocery store, except we don’t charge our customers anything to shop here,” Inman said. “Kimberly-Clark used to buy us two big cases of toilet paper a month before they closed. We haven’t been able to afford any new peanut butter, flour, rice or sugar since 2012, when those items cost us $26,000 out of our own pockets for the year. It’s wonderful that so many people have supported our efforts to get a new building, and we truly do appreciate it, but those funds are earmarked, so we need to use them for that purpose, even when we need to keep the lights on here.”
While Inman always welcomes more volunteers, the crew on the Friday before Thanksgiving week included both seasoned veterans and newcomers to the Arlington Community Food Bank, the latter including Jordan Bryant and Tanner Young, who were doing mission work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Regardless of what religious beliefs people might have, giving service to others is a benefit to all people,” Young said on Nov. 22. “This is my first time here, and it’s been really fun. There are a lot of nice people here.”
“Service to your fellow beings is service to your God,” Bryant said.
By contrast, Derey Edmonds and her son Brandon, who is disabled, are old hands at the Arlington Community Food Bank. They’ve been volunteering at the food bank since Brandon was 13 years old, before it had moved to its current location. Now 20 years old, Brandon has received exactly the sort of outlet for his talents and enthusiasm that Derey had hoped he would, and he can’t stop from grinning as he helps her sort food.
“I get to work with my friends, and when you can work with your friends, that’s the best job of all,” Brandon Edmonds said. “My mom is a teacher, and she taught me how to add and subtract from counting how much food is in each box.”
“I wanted to give him an opportunity to do some volunteer work, and he’s had different jobs here over the years,” Derey Edmonds said. “It’s helped him develop employable skills that are transferrable to other jobs. So many people are in need, and there have been times when we’ve had so little food to give them. I’d encourage everyone to step up and do what they can. I’ve raised all my kids to do volunteer work, and this is a wonderful place to be able to help meet the community’s needs.”