Bethany Barnard

Sporting a shirt she made for her Emergency Meal Program volunteers, Bethany Barnard checks to make sure the to-go boxes are next to the right labels. Barnard and her volunteers spend five to six hours each week prepping meals for the program.

RAYMOND — A newly formed program delivering hot meals to people in North Pacific County was given a boost this month after the Shoalwater Bay Tribe donated $2,500 in support of the program.

The $2,500 was one of four donations the tribe made this month to community groups that stepped up to help people in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. Two of the groups, the Emergency Meal Program and Crisis Support Network, are local to Pacific County. The other two groups, Union Gospel Mission and Chaplains on the Harbor are local to Grays Harbor County.

The Emergency Meal Program began 19 weeks ago in the immediate aftermath of state ordered business closures. Bethany Barnard, 40, began to organize the program almost as soon as the closures were announced. Once a week, she and her volunteers deliver more than 300 meals to people in North Pacific County. One of her delivery drivers’ routes was more than 28 miles.

“Even though some of these folks we deliver to were able to go back to work as the phases have continued, they are still playing catch up,” Barnard said. “One real meal a week gives them that extra money to give toward their electric bill or rent or what have you.”

Barnard couldn’t have made the program happen had not Joe Basil from the Elks Lodge #1292 and other community members stepped up with her to help make it happen, she said. And the donation from the Shoalwater Bay Tribe sparked a trend.

“When the tribe said it was going to sponsor it, it opened the door for other sponsors,” Barnard said.

On Tuesday, July 28, the South Bend Kiwanis Club donated funds to make the meal possible. Another week, the Pacific County Teen Advocacy Coalition donated funds as well as activity packets to families. Individual families have also sponsored meals, such as the family of Adrianne Lartz Lynch and Samuel and Mildred Robinson. Sam Robinson is also vice-chair of the Chinook Indian Nation.

Prior to the sponsorships, Barnard was relying on donations from Elks members as well as the community.

Giving these donations recognizes that these groups are doing what we all must do during this time, said Charlene Nelson, chairwoman for the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. While the tribe awards grants yearly to help local businesses in the area, this $10,000 donation was additional. There is a great need in the community right now, Nelson said.

“If we stand together, it’s just much better for all the people in the county,” Nelson said. “Tribal or non-tribal, we must look out for each other.”

The tribal council donated $7,000 and Willapa Bay Enterprises, the business arm of the tribe, donated $3,000. Shoalwater Bay Casino General Manager Johnny Winokur said helping fund the donations “just seemed like the right thing to do.”

“We see people struggling to make ends meet,” Winokur said. “We need to give back to the community.”

In addition to funding, the Emergency Meal Program is looking for volunteers to help prepare and deliver meals. People can reach out to Barnard by calling 360-580-5651.

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