Church volunteers glean food to help the hungry

EDMONDS — They take what otherwise would get tossed, and use it to feed the hungry.

Edmonds Lutheran Church, on 84th Avenue W., organizes a robust community food donation program, including free weekly dinners called “Annie’s Kitchen.”

In addition, the church donates food to students through a backpack program at nearby Chase Lake Elementary.

On Fridays and the last days before long breaks, students in the program are given backpacks full of food to take home.

Volunteers from the church and the school work together to keep it going.

The backpacks are meant to be a safety net for families, the Rev. Julie Josund said.

“It’s just down the street from us,” she said. “A lot of our emphasis is being a place for the community, the whole community that we’re a part of.”

The church is asking for donations to keep the program going.

Vonya King-Norton is a family support coordinator at the school. She helps keep things organized on campus, Josund said.

Roughly $8,000 was raised during the first wave of the church’s campaign.

“It’s just who we are,” Josund said. “It’s how we see our role as a Christian church and as a Lutheran church. Our values are inspired by the life of Jesus. We try to bring light and hope to our neighbors.”

This school year, about 13 Chase Lake families are getting the backpacks every week, King-Norton said. The students are identified by school officials and primarily are those who receive free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. Altogether, the volunteers have filled individual backpacks more than 160 times since September.

“The families are really, really grateful to get this food because it helps them spread out their food budget at home,” King-Norton said.

The church has “gleaners” who collect the food from grocery stores, restaurants and local businesses. The name comes from a Biblical term from when the hungry were allowed to comb farming fields after harvest for missed grain, said the church’s gleaning coordinator, Bob Snyder.

“We take that dented can and that turns into a meal for someone,” he said.

Volunteer Les Kerslake got involved because his daughter works at the school, Snyder said. Kerslake makes a lot of the deliveries at Chase Lake in his pickup truck.

“He’s amazing. I don’t know what we would do without him,” King-Norton said. “He’s like this quiet angel, sometimes you see him and sometimes you don’t, but you go in the pantry and see the boxes of food there and you know that he brought them by.”

Kerslake is a busy volunteer, Josund said.

“He is here every single day, picking up food, driving it to the school,” she said. “Why do people do that? It’s something going on that’s bigger than themselves. They just have a little bit of time and they just want to help. Their faith encourages them to be looking out for others.”

School volunteers, including parents of current and former students, help keep the food pantry organized and fill the backpacks according to family size. Another local church also supplies volunteer labor.

The gleaners collect up to 3,000 pounds of food a week, Snyder said. Anything that doesn’t go to the school or other church food programs goes to the food banks in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

Donations include macaroni and cheese, soup and “any kind of canned goods you can imagine,” Snyder said.

“All of us are volunteers, and we always need more,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Volunteers needed

Edmonds Lutheran Church needs volunteers to help with community food programs. Shifts are available on weekday mornings and on weekends. For more information, call 425-744-8090 or go to www.edmondslutheran.org. For information about volunteering at Chase Lake Elementary, call 425-431-7495.

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