The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar

Splash! Summer guide

HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Saturday, January 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Index couple's ministry provides needed food

  • People gathered on Main Street in Sultan to pick up food donations from local grocery stores delivered by Jim and Susan Coffey on Jan. 16. The Coffeys...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    People gathered on Main Street in Sultan to pick up food donations from local grocery stores delivered by Jim and Susan Coffey on Jan. 16. The Coffeys deliver food every week to people in need in Sultan, Startup, Index and Gold Bar.

  • Jim Coffey and his wife, Susan,of Index, have been delivering food donations several times a week to people in need in Sultan, Index, Startup and Gold...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Jim Coffey and his wife, Susan,of Index, have been delivering food donations several times a week to people in need in Sultan, Index, Startup and Gold Bar, for the past three years.

  • Susan Coffey gives Lyn Jones a hug after delivering food donations from local grocery stores in Sultan on Jan. 16. Coffey and her husband, Jim, have b...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Susan Coffey gives Lyn Jones a hug after delivering food donations from local grocery stores in Sultan on Jan. 16. Coffey and her husband, Jim, have been delivering food to people in need for the past three years.

  • Jim Coffey carries a box of food to a donation drop-off.

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Jim Coffey carries a box of food to a donation drop-off.

  • Tracey Welever talks with Jim Coffey as she picks up some food at a donation drop-off in Sultan.

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Tracey Welever talks with Jim Coffey as she picks up some food at a donation drop-off in Sultan.

  • Jim Coffey (left), Jim Roberts (center), and Stefan Wallin take a break after unloading a truck full of food donations.

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Jim Coffey (left), Jim Roberts (center), and Stefan Wallin take a break after unloading a truck full of food donations.

SULTAN — When the white box truck pulled up to the curb on a cold January afternoon, more than two dozen people — many dressed in several layers of clothing — quickly congregated beneath a vacant storefront awning.
They were both eager and patient.
They knew the unwritten rule: All the food must be unloaded onto the Sultan sidewalk before they can start gathering up their goods.
There is a sense of civility to these weekly proceedings. Although many are hungry, this is not a free-for-all. They know they can take what they need, no matter how much, no questions asked.
"They bring good stuff," said Connie Christie, of Sultan. "It's not garbage. There are a lot of people having a hard time right now. A lot of us would be in trouble without them."
The "them" she referred to are the Rev. Jim and Susan Coffey. The Index couple's Open Hands Ministry provides food and meals to the down-and-out in small towns across the Skykomish Valley. In any given week, they feed 200 people.
It is a relatively new calling for the couple who married three years ago after meeting through a church where services were held in a Marysville livestock auction barn. He once was a water systems manager and had a 10-acre horse farm on Camano Island; she worked in the business office of a Yakima lumber mill for many years.
They traded their steady paychecks for the chance to serve others. Now they rely on donations and an unflinching faith that God will provide.
Jim Coffey, 66, grew up in Edmonds and wears a white horseshoe mustache beneath the brim of his black cowboy hat. He has a friendly, soothing voice.
Susan Coffey, 51, bundles up in a thick coat she doesn't mind getting dirty. It comes with the territory of gathering donated food from Mill Creek and Everett supermarket loading docks. She hugs some of the regulars she's come to know in Startup, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.
Their Open Hands Ministry is part of a national association of Christian ministries. Their church is called "The Plantation" but there isn't an actual building yet. Its motto is "Harvesting one soul at a time." They hope to build the church in Startup some day.
The Coffeys and volunteers Steffan Wallin and Jim Roberts encounter all sorts of people on their routes. Some live in shacks with dirt floors; others, in cars, tiny apartments and tents.
"They are removed, almost invisible," Coffey said.
There are surprising visitors, too. The other day, a well-dressed, professional-looking woman gathered up bags of food. As she was driving off in a Liberty Jeep, she rolled down her window and told Coffey: "This was really, really, really helpful."
Tracey Welever lives in a Sultan duplex with her mother on a fixed income. She said she fell on hard times and lost her home after her husband died of cancer in 2006.
Welever said she's particularly thankful for the fresh vegetables the Coffeys bring.
"You can only eat so many cans of cranberry sauce," she said.
John Youngblood, 50, calls Sultan his home, but he doesn't have an address. His mud-caked shoes and dirt-dusted blue jeans provide a clue to his abode — a tent along the river.
"It's almost like you get lost in time," he said.
There's a rhythm to the Coffeys' lives. They attend church twice on Sundays in Index and Snohomish and make twice weekly trips to Mill Creek and Everett to pick up food. Each Monday, they hand out food and provide a hot meal in Index. They do the same thing in Gold Bar each Tuesday.
Thursdays find them dropping off food in Startup and Sultan.
Their ministry is inspired by Deuteronomy 15:11: "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, 'Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.'"
It boils down to a simple premise, Coffey said.
"We show them the love of the Lord," he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.
Donations
Donations to the Index-based Open Hands Ministry can be made through PayPal to openhandsministry3405@gmail.com
Story tags » IndexSultanFaithCharity

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

HeraldNet highlights

One, singular sensation
One, singular sensation: Everett native reprises touring company 'Chorus Line' role
100 years in the making
100 years in the making: Sixth generation taking its place at honored Lake Stevens farm
One tough, ferocious Dawg
One tough, ferocious Dawg: Three shoulder surgeries haven't slowed down Huskies' Charles
He does it all
He does it all: One-man band takes show on foot at Evergreen State Fair