Tribe donates $300,000 to three food banks

ARLINGTON — An unexpected Christmas present arrived early this year to three local food banks: $100,000 in cash, a donation from The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians.

Sue Keezer, board chair of the Arlington Community Food Bank, said the charity had put in a request for a $25,000 grant this year from the tribe. The tribe has always been a strong supporter of the food bank, she said, and this has been a tough year both in a reduced amount of donations and an increase in need.

“They called us on Friday and they said they had a check for us, but it was only for $7,500,” Keezer said.

She went to pick up the gaily wrapped check Saturday morning. When she took off the wrapping, however, she was shocked.

“I’m just speechless, it’s just overwhelming, really,” she said.

Eric White, vice chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribal Council, said the tribe broke with its usual giving pattern this year to present an early gift to the three food banks, which included the Stanwood/Camano Island Food Bank and Northwest Harvest.

White said the tribe was motivated not just by general holiday spirit but also from hearing about a lot of people in need. While the tribe has supported the Arlington food bank in the past, they reached out to the other charities as well to help more people with their $300,000 gift.

“In our community, we have a lot of tribal members that live in Stanwood, so we reached out to Stanwood,” White said.

“It is undoubtedly the largest single donation we’ve ever received,” said Rick Bentley, executive director of the Stanwood/Camano Island Food Bank.

“When we get $5,000, that’s big news,” Bentley said. “One hundred thousand dollars is almost beyond comprehension.”

The Stillaguamish Tribe typically receives applications for charitable donations through the end of December, with donations given out in January. A second round of donations goes out in July. The tribe donated approximately $3 million to various charities in 2012, White said.

The Stillaguamish Tribe also gives out Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams to food banks. This year the Arlington food bank gave out 373 Thanksgiving baskets, Keezer said.

“Without their donations last year and this year we wouldn’t have had enough turkeys for our Thanksgiving baskets,” she said.

“This community has never let down this food bank,” she said.

Keezer said some of the money will help get through the holiday season and complete construction of a new permanent facility at 19118 63rd Ave. NE. The food bank is renting space owned by the Arlington airport.

The board will meet soon to make plans for the bulk of the donation.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com.

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