‘This community comes through’: West Seattle Food Bank celebrates 40 years of ‘neighbors helping neighbors’

May 7, 2023 10:54 pm
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(Photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“We really count on community support – this community comes through.”

That’s what longtime West Seattle Food Bank executive director Fran Yeatts told the nearly 200 community members who gathered last night at The Hall at Fauntleroy to celebrate and support WSFB.

On one hand, it was a classic fundraising gala – dinner, drinks, dessert, donations. On the other, it marked a milestone – 40 years of “neighbors helping neighbors,” as emcee Matthew DiLoreto declared early on. The food bank’s work goes far beyond food – since merging with the West Seattle Helpline three years ago, it also provides emergency assistance to help people stay housed. That is an extra-sizable challenge in Seattle where the cost of living is 49 percent above the national average, DiLoreto said.

Also taking the microphone was WSFB board president David Weld, who observed that the organization provides help that is much-needed in a world where “random” trouble can land people in need, from job loss to illness to family tragedy.

“Because fate delivers these things, there will always be those who through no fault of their own need help. We deliver that help without judgment, and reflexively.” And community help is needed to keep that work going because “the greatest source of (WSFB) funding is individual cash contributions.”

Weld also recounted a proud moment just weeks ago, when rock superstar Bruce Springsteen came to Seattle and for the third time exhorted fans to support WSFB (which had volunteers at the arena and collected almost $20,000 in donations).

Weld showed a brief video clip in which Springsteen, from the stage, described WSFB as “good people doing God’s work.”

Executive director Yeatts has been doing that work for more than 20 years. ‘

She noted that WSFB’s history goes back twice that far, since its origins in a classroom at what was Cooper School (now Youngstown Cultural Arts Center). “Today thousands of people count on us for food, emergency financial support, pet food, diapers, connections to so many other resources …”

WSFB thrives on its connections as well. Each year a community partner is recognized at the event with the Instrument of Change Award, and this year it went to PCC Community Markets (WSB sponsor). Even when the pandemic disrupted the usual “food rescue” methods by which PCC has supported WSFB for decades, they found a new way that turned out to be win-win for both the food bank and local organic growers. The award was accepted by PCC’s Rachel Tefft and Josh Fox:

Other partnerships were spotlighted in a video played for guests – featuring a few of the nonprofits whose clients are served by WSFB, including Transitional Resources and Navos – and a Sanislo Elementary staffer talking about the Backpack Program that provides food for kids to take home, bridging the time gap between meals at school. Kids learn best when their needs – including food – are met, she observed.

The auction, of course, brought a note of fun to the night, in addition to thousands of dollars for WSFB’s coffers.

Donated items ranged from sports memorabilia to vacation getaways to catered dinners to experiences comprising “a year of date nights.” The “dessert dash” alone netted $14,000. And a round of “raise the paddle” donations brought individual donations of up to $5,000.

Among those in attendance, elected officials – State Sen. Joe Nguyen:

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott:

Two Seattle City Council District 1 candidates – Maren Costa:

And, Phil Tavel, with WSFB’s Breanna Bushaw at left and Nichole Casado at right:

Community supporters on hand included Delridge Grocery Co-op‘s Agen Schmitz and LD Arch Design (WSB sponsor) architect Parie Hines:

Many local businesses sponsored the WSFB gala (WSB was among them). The proceeds will help WSFB carry on with a mission that included distribution of 2.2 million pounds of food last year alone and more than 10 other types of services. You of course can help the West Seattle Food Bank any time – here’s how to donate; here’s how to volunteer.

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