Marysville’s Community Food Bank relies on its volunteers

MARYSVILLE — For Dell Deierling, the decision to volunteer at a food bank was made at one of life’s crossroads.

He’d done well in 14 years working at Microsoft, but wanted to spend more time with his family and find a meaningful calling closer to home.

Deierling was considering teaching math or working for a nonprofit. He opted for the latter after volunteering at the Snohomish Food Bank. That led to his being hired to manage the Marysville Community Food Bank. He got the part-time job four years ago.

“When I first came in and started volunteering, I just felt this was the center of energy in town. This is where it was happening and I’m right at ground level.”

He has seen a lot of need and a lot of good.

Consider the numbers: Last year, volunteers spent 36,160 hours supporting the Marysville food bank, which gave away 1 million pounds of food. Those volunteers — from high school students to retirees — contribute in many ways, as shopping assistants, drivers, cart pushers and produce stockers. Some write thank you letters; one woman polishes the floor.

The food bank serves elderly on fixed incomes, people with disabilities, the unemployed and, in many cases, those with jobs that just don’t pay the bills.

“In the real world, even though they are working, it’s often not enough to get by,” Deierling said. “For some, it’s just temporary challenges and this gives them that boost to keep things going.”

During the course of a year, a thousand volunteers can spend time helping at the food bank. Many are short-timers, such as students working on community service hours or youth groups from local churches trying to do some good. A solid core of 75 volunteers works year in, year out. A handful of those helpers have logged more than 4,000 volunteer hours at the food bank over the years.

Deierling is always on the lookout for more, particularly those willing to shop and interact with clients. With increasing demand on the food bank has come an increasing need for volunteers.

Cindy Psaradelis has been volunteering at the food bank since October. Before that, she was helping serve meals at a church when a young woman told her she should consider helping out at the food bank. She remembers her first impressions: everything seemed well organized and there was plenty to do.

“We get caught up in our own little world and we forget there is so much need,” she said.

She hopes her 16-year-old granddaughter will join her volunteering at the food bank for the life lessons that can be learned.

Psaradelis doesn’t pry into people’s life stories, but she is a good listener when they want to talk. She likes to suggest cooking tips and recipes.

“I get blessed to do this every week,” she said.

Mike Berry has been volunteering at the food bank for many years. His co-workers are a big part of what keeps him coming back.

“It’s a good thing to do and it’s a good bunch of people down here,” he said.

Some volunteers take the food bank to the schools.

Last year they worked with the Lakewood and Marysville school districts by providing backpacks filled with food for children from 11 elementary schools to take home on weekends.

Amy Howell started with 20 students in one school. This year, that number grew to 268.

During the school year, she and her husband collect the food and get help from 17 volunteers at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The group calls itself the St. Mary’s Backpack Ministry.

“It’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, especially when they see you coming in with the bags,” Howell said.

The church has been an important part of the food bank’s mission for many years.

In fact, it started there in the rectory of the church in 1974 when a handful of volunteers provided food to the hungry and homeless out the back door, according to the food bank’s website. In 1987, it was formally organized as a nonprofit organization supported by 12 churches in the community, with oversight provided by a board of directors. Today, it is supported by 18 community churches, service clubs, schools, businesses, volunteers and individuals.

It has moved a few times, but is now close to its roots, across the parking lot from the St. Mary’s church. The land is owned by the Archdiocese of Seattle, which leases the property for $1 a year.

Food comes from many sources. Local grocery stores contribute excess produce, dairy products, pastry and bread. The WSU Snohomish County Master Gardeners and other groups and individuals also provide fresh produce.

Food drives from many groups also help. Last year, the schools provided 40,000 pounds of food.

Deierling doesn’t regret his decision to leave the corporate world. He likes to be a small part of something big and to watch a community take care of its own.

For many food bank users, it is hard to acknowledge that they are in need. The goal is to put them at ease.

“They call and I tell them, ‘We are here for you. Don’t feel bad about it,’” Deierling said. “When someone calls and they are experiencing it for the first time, we try to make them feel comfortable.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

To learn more about the Marysville Community Food Bank, its hours of operation and volunteer opportunities, call 360-658-1054, email marysvillefoodbank@frontier.com or go to www.marysvillefoodbank.org.

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