Food bank serves hundreds for Thanksgiving

Community service: South Hill couple grateful for volunteer help they receive

of the HeraldDecember 4, 2013 

November was busy at the Puyallup Food Bank, but that’s a good thing for Shanna Peterson, the director of operations.

Through the holiday season just before Thanksgiving, the food bank served 150 turkeys to families.

“This is the busiest day of the year,” Peterson said last Wednesday. “We usually start distribution at noon, but today, we started at 10:30 a.m., and we will go until all is served.”

Peterson said the food bank served more than 75 families the equivalent of 5,216 meals on Nov. 26. Eighty families were served last Wednesday.

Families were allotted pickup times every five minutes on the day before Thanksgiving. They backed their vehicle up to the food bank door to meet volunteers, who brought them food.

The food bank is a blessing for Jim and Eileene Gillen of South Hill. Two years ago, their world turned upside down when they lost their home to a fire. Jim now has emphysema and collects Social Security disability.

As a professional chef, Jim and his wife lived on $5,000 a month. Now they make about half that much.

“In between waiting for Social Security disability benefits, we lived on our savings,” Jim said. “At first, we didn’t know the Puyallup Food Bank existed.”

Jim and his wife thank their case worker at the state Department of Social Health Services for letting them know about the food bank.

“DSHS doesn’t get enough credit for what they do,” Jim said.

The Gillens said they’re also grateful for the respect they receive from the volunteers at the food bank.

“We’ve been treated very respectfully,” Eileene said.

“They’re all about helping people,” Jim added.

Included in the month’s supply of food the Gillens received last week were cake, donuts, a turkey, potato salad, stuffing mix and yogurt for their grandchildren.

In between families who visited for food was an occasional donation that often came from the most unexpected people.

Ella Crandall, along with her grandmother and brother, stopped by the food bank to donate a bag of non-perishable canned goods. Crandall handed Peterson the bag of food and said she thought the food bank could use it.

“I was thinking of giving it to my school food drive, but then that ended,” said Crandall, who attends an elementary school in Puyallup. “I thought maybe I should give it to the food bank.”

As Peterson looked toward the Christmas season, she said gifts will be available for those who sign up early this month. Those who register must live within the seven Puyallup-area Zip codes and must not be on other agency gift-giving lists.

“We will start distributing gifts around Dec. 15,” Peterson said.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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