DARRINGTON — The hum of car and truck engines and chatter from enthusiastic volunteers provided the soundtrack to a day of service in the community of Darrington.
More than 200 cars cycled through the gravel parking lot of a small Baptist church for four hours Monday. Along the route, a trio of local nonprofits delivered resources and food to anyone in need, no questions asked.
The Darrington Food Bank, North Counties’ Family Services and the Glacier Peak Institute (GPI) organized the “Colors of Fall” resource fair as a reminder that even in their rural town, help is never far away.
“For me, I think it is really important that we don’t have the haves and the have-nots,” said Wyonne Perrault, executive director of North Counties’ Family Services. “Instead, we are just all in the community working together.”
Volunteers descended on cars as lines stretched for blocks along the shoulder of Highway 530.
North Counties’ Family Services distributed bags with prevention and intervention resources, GPI donated carrots and educational activities for kids and the food bank delivered more than 10,000 pounds of food for holiday meals this Thanksgiving.
Before this year, each group tackled the holiday season alone, but with the pandemic driving community needs higher than ever before, the organizations collaborated to expand their impact.
“We decided to come together this year and pool our resources to be able to service more people in our community,” said Marie Haskins, a board member with the Darrington Food Bank.
Operating from the basement of the town’s First Baptist Church, Haskins said the pandemic has pushed the food bank to its limits. Before COVID-19, food distributions would mean 20 or so families seeking support. Now that number is nearing the hundreds each delivery day.
At North Counties’ Family Services, the coronavirus shifted traditional preemptive support to filling families’ basic needs, like food, rental assistance and keeping the lights on.
Perrault got emotional as she discussed Darrington’s increasing needs.
“You don’t know how you’re ever going to have enough to support everyone,” she said. “Those of us who go into human services, we want to empower people and right now, it is just really hard.”
In the isolated town of about 1,500, nearly 30 miles from the nearest city, social support organizations say they often feel forgotten, passed over for grants and out of mind for food donations.
As a result, Darrington residents turn to their neighbors for support.
“In rural communities, we rely on each other a lot more,” said Karly Studley, a program support coordinator for GPI. Founded after the 2014 Oso landslide, Studley said the organization hopes to build resilience by connecting with youth in the Darrington through immersive leadership programs.
“If you need help, someone here is going to help you, that is just how it works,” Studley said. “We know your mom, we know your sister, we know your dog’s name, we know where you live, we will all help each other.”
In the close-knit community, knowing your neighbors can also create fear, embarrassment and stigma in the food bank line.
“We’re not judging,” Haskins said to one anxious woman waiting for food Monday.
Not long ago, Haskins said she benefitted from the food bank’s services. Fortunate to now be on the giving end, Haskins said her goal is to uplift the community and show there is no shame in needing a bit of help.
“They’ re not just a number or somebody who is in need,” she said. “I want them to know they’re important.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.
Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.