Letter: Connecting produce growers with those who need food

Editor,

On behalf of the Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, we’d like to welcome Brandi Blais to the South Whidbey Island community.

Brandi is stepping in as the second-year AmeriCorps VISTA member, serving as the Gleaning Program Coordinator here at Good Cheer Food Bank through Harvest Against Hunger and Rotary First Harvest.

After two decades as a QA/QC inspector — a career that took her from pulp mills around the U.S. to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, Northern Alberta’s tar sands and finally to the potash and uranium mines of Saskatchewan — Brandi decided to shake things up by packing everything she needed into a tiny RV dubbed the “Miss Adventure” and head back to school through ASU’s online program to complete a degree in Technical Communication, with a focus on grant writing while tooling around the PNW with her two dogs.

Serving as an Americorps VISTA was the logical next step to starting a second career.

Diving into the world of nonprofits and the fight against hunger, Brandi is excited about combining her skills and experience with her passion for community to build on the existing program and the work of the first year VISTA, Kelly Pinkley, to strengthen the gleaning program .

If you aren’t familiar with what a gleaning program does, it connects community members who have extra produce — like tree fruit or garden veggies —- with an organization like Good Cheer who can get the food to people in the community who need it.

The gleaning program at Good Cheer is a part of our efforts to reduce food waste and fight hunger on the island, and is almost entirely volunteer led and run.

Good Cheer’s commitment to getting fresh produce to those in our community experiencing food insecurity includes grocery rescue and farm partnerships along with the gleaning program. Through it all we’re supported by the Good Cheer Thrift stores, the tireless work of our staff and volunteers, and the generosity of our donors in the community.

We couldn’t do it without the support of everyone involved, and whatever form that support takes, it is deeply appreciated.

We’re always looking for volunteers to help with the gleaning program, as well as ways to strengthen and expand our community partnerships; you can connect with Brandi at Gleefulgleaners@goodcheer.org if you’d like to learn more about getting involved with Good Cheer, or if you’d like to find out more about how her adventure-filled life brought her to our island!

If you see Brandi and her two friendly cattle dogs in the community, feel free to introduce yourselves.

They’ll be taking in the sights around the island, exploring the beaches and trails and enjoying some of the community events that make the island such a great place to live.

Lissa Firor

Langley

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