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Good Cheer Food Bank has busiest day in its history

Good Cheer Food Bank had its busiest day Monday when it served 115 households.

“That’s 261 people,” said Good Cheer community outreach coordinator Shawn Nowlin.

That’s up from 94 households, which was the previous high for one day.

“It’s definitely a record,” Nowlin said. “The line was out the door from before we opened to just before we closed for the day.”

Well more than a third of the food distributed at Good Cheer typically goes to children and seniors.

Nowlin said that 28 percent of those served are children, 62 percent adults and 10 percent are seniors.

“Fortunately, thanks to the way we’ve purchased food this year, we have been using our money wisely and have been able to keep food on the shelves,” Nowlin added.

If this week’s high numbers of visitors to the food bank continues, Good Cheer might have a hard time sustaining itself with food on the shelves. What is currently needed, Nowlin said, are cash donations to pay for immediate necessities.

An average of 784 people were served per month in 2010. That number is currently at 824 per month. Nowlin said that one way folks can help is shopping at the Good Cheer stores.

“That way everybody wins,” she said.

According to national reports, inflation has increased by 8 percent in the past two years. But in the Puget Sound region, inflation is at 13 percent and climbing. That’s scary, Nowlin said, for Whidbey Islanders with high heating costs.

Recently the food bank surveyed a number of its clients to learn about what is most helpful to them and to provide feedback to its volunteers, staff and the community.

“We also like to get a sense of who we’re serving,” Nowlin said.

What was revealed (besides many comments that had the staff teary eyed) was that in the past three months the clientele has changed decidedly.

“We’ve had people who have not come in for years, or who have never come in,” Nowlin said.

The sobering fact for the food bank is that the number continues to grow, Nowlin noted.

“It was a pretty powerful day on Monday. It’s a day like that that reminds you why you do all the work you do through the year, knowing that day is coming,” she said.

Luckily, there was a full team of volunteers who kept the shelves stocked Monday, Nowlin said.

In the survey, clients added comments about, among other things, what they wanted people to understand about food bank users. One comment summed it up succinctly: “That we are just regular people having a tough time in this economy.”

Good Cheer executive director Kathy McLaughlin is thankful to be part of an organization that makes a real difference in the lives of those in need.

“When people read headlines about unemployment and high poverty rates in the U.S., it doesn’t quite translate into how people are affected in our community,” McLaughlin said.

“What clients shared on this survey puts a human voice to the needs, the worries and the profound thankfulness clients have for the food bank and the community which supports it.”

To view the results of the survey, check out the Good Cheer 2011 winter newsletter online.

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