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A youthful spirit of giving
Inside the warmth of the Sequim Food Bank's kitchen, Maggie Christie, a Sequim High School junior,
remembers her first time volunteering quite clearly. It was Thanksgiving 2010 and snowing.
“It was so cold it was warmer in the freezer,” she joked.
Yet, the weather didn't deter her, nor did summer vacations or any number of things that would keep a teenager in bed early Saturday mornings. She and a group of friends help keep the food flowing weekly at the food bank even on holidays.
This year's Thanksgiving festivities open to those in need from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 16-17, and Monday-Wednesday, Nov. 19-21. Volunteers will be handing out 1,300 turkeys and prepared boxes with all the fixings, including a pumpkin pie donated by the Sequim Association of Realtors.
A key ingredient to the holiday rush and weekly output for the food bank has been teen volunteers like Christie. Stephen Rosales, board president of the food bank, said the teens are so reliable he doesn't even call them.
“I can rely on them to be here,” he said.
Rosales has turned over the keys, in a sense, to students on Saturdays to run operations by signing people in and helping give out food inside and out. The student effort began with Samantha Shock, now a senior, three years ago as she fulfilled a community service requirement in order to become a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Shock said she didn't know how the process worked at first, but she quickly learned and soon thereafter began working with friends like Alyssa Habner, Molly Smith, Cheyenne Sokkappa and Christie.
“It's something completely different and it's cool to be intertwined with how the community works,” Shock said.
As many as 10 students help each Saturday, including brothers and a sister of the teens. Community service groups like Scouts help some weeks and on Mondays, a home school family volunteers, too.
The teens say the response has been incredibly positive since they've started.
“A lot of people are so happy because we're helping,” Habner said. “They thank us because we're just here and they're surprised to learn we're just doing this to do it.”
Sokkappa said she always feels like she's making a difference.
“It just feels good to get people what they need,” Christie said.
Since starting, the teens say they've seen a growing number of people from all walks of life needing assistance, including recent high school graduates.
Habner said they often recognize people but it's not a big deal.
“They know they can come in here and be helped and have no judgment,” she said.
Rosales said the food bank has grown to help as many as 3,100 people a month.
Habner attributes the increase to the bad economic times and she said with winter rolling in more new faces are coming in.
However, as need increases and the teens graduate and go off to college, Rosales said more students are willing to step up and work on Saturdays.
The food bank regularly opens 9 a.m.-noon Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Those in need can receive assistance up to twice a month, but are allowed to return more often for bread, eggs and milk. If people need more assistance, they can call to set up an appointment with Rosales at 683-2105 or 461-6038.
He said in the past two months, he met 104 people for additional assistance.
“We try not to turn anyone away and as far as I know we're the only food bank in Washington open on Saturday,” Rosales said.
To be eligible for assistance, you must provide your name, proof of address within Sequim School District boundaries and the number people in your household.