Service a Mukilteo institution

MUKILTEO – Keeping people fed takes work.

The volunteers at the Mukilteo Food Bank are more than willing to do it, without pay – some of them for more than 20 years.

It helps that it doesn’t seem like work.

“I look forward to this every other week, because we have so much fun here,” said Cliff Huds-peth, 85, as he handed out bags of meat and groceries. Hudspeth has been volunteering at the food bank for “20-something” years.

“This is a fun group of people,” said food bank director Jack Bateman, owner of the Rosehill Chocolate Factory. Bateman has been with the food bank a decade.

“Did you say this is a funny group?” added volunteer George McConnell.

The exchange is typical of the good-natured banter among the 30 or so people who keep the food bank running. They pick up food from grocery stores and other donors, put bags together, set up tables and hand out food four days a month.

The food bank spent its first 25 years at the former Mukilteo Presbyterian Church in Old Town. When the church sold its original home in December, but had yet to put the finishing touches on its new building at 4514 84th St. SW, the food bank was left without a fixed address.

Volunteers handed out food from a pickup truck parked at the former church for nearly two months before moving to the new building at the end of February. The food bank’s new home has walk-in freezers, plenty of shelf space and a good-sized room in which to set up tables and hand out food.

At the former church, “they kept the food in the old furnace room,” Hudspeth said.

In the new space, tables are set up in a U shape and recipients go down the line at stations. First is Hudspeth’s table, where he hands out prepared bags of groceries and meat.

“They don’t get by me without getting it,” he said.

After that, recipients have their choice from among cereals, canned items, condiments and special items.

On March 22, food bank secretary Mary Lou Robertson handed out Easter baskets with fresh vegetables and dyed eggs. Robertson, 75, has volunteered with the food bank since the early 1980s.

She started volunteering as a way of helping the church, she said. Many, but not all, of the food bank volunteers belong to the Presbyterian church. It’s a way to help people and stay involved in the community, she said.

“I like to come because of the camaraderie,” she said. “It is fun because we meet so many nice people.”

More than 6,000 families used the food bank between 2000 and 2004, Robertson said.

“We have some people that have 10 or 12 people in their family,” she said.

“We have waited for babies to be born,” volunteer Sue Knight said.

With repeat customers, especially, volunteers get to know them and their special food needs and do their best to help.

“The people here have been absolutely accommodating to me and my family,” said customer Kristin Martin of Mukilteo, a single mother who has been coming to the food bank for about two years.

Some volunteers help with other needs, such as language. Zhanna Kochubey, who immigrated from Ukraine, takes time from her job at the Everett Housing Authority to translate for Eastern European families at the food bank. She speaks Ukranian and Russian, and understands Polish, Czech and Bosnian.

Kochubey checks people in at the door, recording their names on a computer.

“They tell me every time they are grateful for the people that are helping them,” she said. In Ukraine, they don’t have food banks for those who need help, she said.

One elderly woman was crying and said, “‘Tell them, thank you very much,’ ” Kochubey said.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Bateman said.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or

Talk to us

More in Local News

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Diane Kay Thompson, center, listens during their sentencing at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville woman sentenced to 2 years for running over, killing husband

Diane Thompson pleaded guilty to manslaughter. “My home was taken, my daughters hate me and I have no money to my name,” she said.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

Thrill-seekers fly through the air on a ride during opening day of the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday, August 24, 2023, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Evergreen State Fair attendance dips 9% from 2022

Slightly over 228,000 people attended the fair this year in Monroe, down from 253,000 last year and 355,000 in 2019.

Most Read