Food banks make Peninsula holidays more festive

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>Kay Coleman is assisted by Phil Young with the unpacking of frozen turkey portions at the Ilwaco St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank last week. The turkey was given to recipients for making Thanksgiving dinner.

Thousands in Pacific County turn to food banks to help fill Thanksgiving lardersILWACO - With the holiday season in full swing and a lack of jobs on the Peninsula, the need for help from the likes of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank are evident.

The Ilwaco St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, which is open for assistance the second and fourth Fridays of every month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., had something special for their clientele Friday as they passed out foods designed to make Thanksgiving a delicious one this year.

"They [the turkeys] are excellent," said food bank coordinator Kay Coleman. "There are two hind quarters. I have purchased some like this and they feed four to five people very good."

Coleman said she expected to serve at least 200 people last Friday but was confident that with over 350 turkey portions there would be plenty for everyone. She also mentioned that the need by people in the area is becoming greater with the lack of jobs currently available.

According to a recent report released by St. Vincent de Paul, the state of Washington is the second hungriest state in the nation. And an annual report by the Ilwaco food bank showed over 4,000 homes and almost 11,000 individuals were served almost 80,000 pounds of food in the last year thanks to the over 1,300 hours volunteered by those at the food bank.

"We help a lot of people, but we don't turn anybody down," said Coleman.

Most of the food used by the Ilwaco food bank is given to them by Northwest Harvest, a group that collects and distributes food to approximately 300 hunger programs in Washington State.

"We could not survive without them," said Coleman.

The food bank also uses grants from the likes of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Pacific County Grange Hall Bingo, plus many other local groups and individuals. They also have help from Jesse's Ilwaco Fish Co., which holds any frozen goods for them they can't store on site.

Coleman has a small crew of mostly senior citizen volunteers who work with her at the food bank, whether it be unpacking or preparing boxes of food, or helping recipients through the line. They have a system to serve people as they come in, moving them through the different areas of available foods with assembly line precision. They also give away government surplus commodities that are given to qualifying people once a month.

"We have an extremely nice crew of people in here working," said Coleman. "We are very fortunate."

Coleman also said that anyone can come down and volunteer to help with the program.

The food bank will have special foods again for Christmas, though they will be open a week earlier than usual. They will be giving out holiday foods on the Friday before Christmas, which is the third Friday of the month, due to Christmas falling on the fourth Wednesday of December this year.

The items that are given away are more then enough to make a festive meal including turkey, stuffing, beans and rice, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, plus breads and pastry goods.

"It's just a nice assortment of foods," said Coleman.

The food bank is a function of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which is operated locally by St. Mary's Parish in Seaview. They also operate the St. Vincent's Thrift Store, with a purpose of making money for the other programs run by the church, including the food bank

Frosty Siemroth is the president of the local St. Vincent's chapter and works closely with Coleman to make the operation run smoothly.

"She used to clean the freezers out, she gave me that job now," said Siemroth jokingly. "Sometimes I sweep the floor, sometimes she sweeps the floor, or we find someone else to do it. It's a kind of a mutual operation."

Siemroth said that they are pretty well equipped at the food bank including the use of a couple of chest freezers and a refrigerator.

"The only thing we lack is heat," said Siemroth. "But we got a thermometer on the wall that reads 70 degrees. It's broken and it stays there all the time and it makes everybody feel good."

Coleman adds that despite the fact that she has been involved with various food donation groups for many years, she still really enjoys helping people.

"They're like family members," Coleman said of some of the patrons who have been coming down for a long time. "There's a lot of nice, nice people coming in here."

• For more information about the Ilwaco food bank, contact Siemroth at 642-8401.

• During Thanksgiving week, the ReachOut Food Bank, at 1401 Bay Avenue, Unit C, in Ocean Park will be open Monday, Nov. 25, Tuesday, Nov. 26 and Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. They will be closed Nov. 28 and Nov. 29.

• The Chinook Food Bank is open five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the old Chinook School building.

The food bank, sponsored by Northwest Harvest, has operated for five years in the building and is the only local food bank operating five days a week.

People living in Bay Center, Naselle, Grays River and Chinook are eligible to come in every two weeks for food.

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