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Gratitude is too small a word | Letter

From the Orcas Island Food Bank Board.

It’s the time of year to give, and to give thanks for what we receive.

And we at the Orcas Island Food Bank are overwhelmed with gratitude for what our community has given us during this difficult year.

We offer our deepest thanks for your willingness to support us in feeding two to three times as many customers as we had last year. You helped us to expand our staff, facilities, and services, and to plan for the uncertain economic future we all face.

Where to begin?

• The Orcas Island Community Foundation, funded by community donations to the Community Emergency Response Fund, granted thousands of dollars to get us through our initial tumultuous adjustment period, as we replaced all our staff and volunteers and totally revamped our storage and distribution methods. We are so grateful!

• Literally hundreds of people—many of them new donors this year—have also donated money directly to the Food Bank, either by check or cash or through our OICF website link. We end 2020 confident that our funds on hand plus the ongoing generosity of our community will see us through 2021, no matter what the economy throws at us. We are so grateful!

• Hundreds more have dropped off food, provided supplies, and/or volunteered their skills. For example, our new donation bin and the foundation for our new Coolbot® refrigeration building were both built at no charge by community “angels.” We are so grateful!

• When most of our volunteers needed to step back in the spring because of age, dozens of new volunteers stepped up to take their places. The new folks have been wonderful, quick learners and dedicated workers. We are extremely grateful!

• The Orcas Community Church, Camp Orkila, Orcas Island Freight Lines, and the Lions Club provided us with food transport, extra storage, and preparation space. Orkila’s walk-in coolers and freezers, the Church’s bus and basement space, no-charge deliveries by Orcas Freight, and the 20×30’ tent the Lions lent us for the summer were all indispensable. We are beyond grateful!

• Local producers including Black Dog Farm, Morning Star Farm, Orcas Farm, Maple Rock Farm, Lum Family Farm, West Beach Farm, Family Tides Farm, the 4H Victory Garden, and numerous home growers and smaller farms have generously donated thousands of pounds of produce and fruits this year. More fresh food has come from what we call the “Food Bank Garden,” managed by Patrick Bennett of the Orcas Participatory Agriculture Group, and staffed by volunteers on land made available by Pete Welty; all the produce goes to the Food Bank. We are so grateful!

• When our food supplies got a bit precarious at times, local businesses like Inn at Ship Bay, Kingfish at West Sound, Island Market, the Orcas Co-op, and the Orcas Store helped us procure food. Some went even further by vastly increasing their local donations. We are hugely grateful!

• And last — but anything but least! — we are SO very grateful to our wonderful staff, Manager Amanda Sparks and Storage Supervisors Molly Donovan and Becky Hawley.

Not only do they work long, hard, and efficiently, they have wonderful ideas about how to operate in this new world and how to make our customers feel valued and cared for.

We’ve tried to use all this help wisely and to translate it into not just food, but caring too, for those who need us in these tough times — innovations like turning “ugly” but nutrient-rich produce into fresh, hot soup for our customers twice a week; preparing 300 to-go meals for Thanksgiving dinners, featuring turkey cooked by the Oddfellows; and sponsoring an apple cider pressing for the whole community, to celebrate our island’s bounty and generosity.

We truly couldn’t have done it without you—all of you! And we’re excited to anticipate all we can do together in 2021.