Comment: Our superheroes are helping feed communities in need

Volunteers of America food bank staff keep your food donations flowing. You can be a hero, too.

By Steve Woodard / For The Herald

Did you know that there are 19 food banks in Snohomish County?

Volunteers of America, Western Washington has the double honor of serving as the county’s food distribution center and operating four locations: food banks in Everett and Sultan, and two food pantries on Casino Road in Everett.

In 2022, VOAWW distributed 6.1 million pounds of food to more than 163,000 individuals in partnership with local food banks. The national, state, county and city governments are all to be thanked for these collective and agency-specific numbers. Our respective organizational and individual donors like you are owed an immense thank you, as well.

Additionally, one would be remiss to leave out the staff at each location in this public acknowledgement. This diverse collection of fiscal, logistical and political supports is invaluable. Lastly, one other group of servant-leaders in this strategic network warrants special praise for the physical movement of these millions of pounds of nourishing resources. They are the Superpower of Food Assistance: our volunteers.

Neither rain, sleet, snow, or smoke will deter our volunteers from showing up for their shift. Our volunteers know that hunger pains do not stop because the road conditions are less than ideal. Consistently this knowledge strengthens their resolve to be ever present and inviting as our clients arrive seeking a hand up, not a handout. I discussed this observation in separate interviews with KING-5 News and Spirit 105.3 FM media last summer.

With compassion and safety as their paramount concerns, especially during these conditions, our VOAWW Hunger Prevention staff and volunteers work in unison to provide the same high level of care and respect our neighbors in need have come to expect throughout the year when engaging with our organization. I am humbled to have witnessed this sense of duty firsthand as I worked alongside these superheroes both in Sultan after the latest round of dense fires and most recently in Everett where life in the convergence zone during this time of year can leave the ground with so much hail that it looks like snowdrifts, while it simultaneously sets the sky afire with electricity and all but sonic booms. (Thunder and lightning storms in the Pacific Northwest are no joke!)

Under these and other adverse seasonal conditions our dedicated teams direct visitors through our “low barrier” check-in process and deliver goods to their cars upon checkout. Dressed in layers for the weather, a smile never leaves their faces, and their loving energy experienced as shared laughter explodes throughout the environment the entire time.

How and when you choose to commit your personal time is always worthy of mention. Thank you, as well, for every second and every penny you have ever donated to a cause you deemed worthy. Continue to dream bigger.

If you are looking for additional meaningful ways to show up in your community, we invite you to check our VOAWW website for a range of ways to give back, including volunteer opportunities.

To make an impact where and when it’s needed most, you can donate securely on our website and choose the program that means the most to you, including our food bank distribution center that serves areas across Snohomish County. Any gift means someone can connect with resources to help them thrive. We encourage you to join us. Be a superhero!

Dr. Steve Woodard is vice president of of Community Engagement for the Volunteers of America, Western Washington, and serves on the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

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