News

PayLess steps in to help families hit by shipyard closure

Donates $20K to Good Cheer Food Bank

BY MICHAELA MARX WHEATLEY

South Whidbey Record

BAYVIEW — While Good Cheer was busy pulling together resources for families touched by the Nichols Brothers shipyard closure, the food bank itself got an unexpected boost from PayLess Foods.

The Freeland grocery store donated $20,000 in food to Good Cheer Monday.

“When we heard about the Nichols Brothers situation, we knew the food bank was going to be affected,” said Kim Blain of PayLess Foods. “We wanted to make sure the entire community had enough food.”

Blain said she has been impressed with how the community has come together since Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, the South End’s largest employer, laid off 185 workers Nov. 2.

“I am proud of how the people of South Whidbey stick together,” Blain said.

It is not clear at this point if the boat builder will reopen or will be closed for good. The company is battling financial trouble related to a pending lawsuit.

With the donation, however, at least one thing is for sure; until the situation is sorted out South End families will have plenty to eat.

Blain said PayLess gave Good Cheer a $20,000 store credit.

“We buy food monthly from PayLess at PayLess’s cost,” explained Kathy McLaughlin, Good Cheer executive director.

“All of our hamburger, lunch meat, hot dogs, holiday turkeys we purchase through PayLess. They credited our account for the month which was a bill for $12,571 and gave us an additional credit for $7,428 to be used in the month to come,” she said.

Immediately after the closure, McLaughlin spearheaded a community effort to let people know about resources available ranging from getting help with bills to getting food. Many South End service organizations joined in.

The food bank always experiences an increase in clients during seasonal or temporary layoffs at Nichols Brothers, but McLaughlin said she knew that more help is needed during a massive layoff and potential closure of the company.

The food bank recently moved to Bayview and the move brought many more families to Good Cheer.

“Since we opened we had an average of 33 families a day. In Langley we had about 11 a day,” McLaughlin said.

She was not certain that the increase was entirely related to the closure of the shipyard.

“We don’t ask,” Mclaughlin said. “But about six families have shared that they came in because of Nichols Brothers.”

Blain added that it is important to know that Good Cheer is not only offering help to the families of Nichols Brothers workers, but to those directly or indirectly touched by the closure.

“Everybody is affected,” she said.

McLaughlin and Blain said it won’t be long until small businesses in the area feel a ripple effect from the layoffs.

PayLess and the Blain family have been longtime supporters of the food bank and have also pitched in for the facility’s capital campaign.

“There are so many ways she has reach out to the food bank,” McLaughlin said.

“They have not only supported us financially, but also by consulting. Kim and her employees have always shared their expertise with us,” she said.

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