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Good Cheer Food Bank completes big move to Bayview

Josie Jacob, 5, pushes her mother’s shopping car during the grand opening of the Good Cheer Food Bank in Bayview. - Michaela Marx Wheatley
Josie Jacob, 5, pushes her mother’s shopping car during the grand opening of the Good Cheer Food Bank in Bayview.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley

BAYVIEW — The new Good Cheer Food Bank site in Bayview looks and feels like a grocery store. A brand new, bright, airy and fully stocked grocery store.

Good Cheer opened its food bank Monday at its new location and at noon about five families had been in already to load up on fresh produce, frozen meats and vegetables as well as canned and bagged foods.

The verdict was unanimous: The new place is great.

“It’s more food to choose from. It’s nice and organized,” shopper Linda Jacob said.

“Lot’s of good stuff,” added Josie Jacob, 5, as she perused the aisles with her mom.

Some changes come along with the new home of the food bank.

Kathy McLaughlin, executive director of Good Cheer, said people can now come in more than once a month to stock up on food. Good Cheer has converted to a point system.

“Our whole goal to bring the food bank here was to turn it into a shopping experience anybody would have,” she said. “None of us go to the store only once a month.”

Instead of allowing clients to come in once a month, each household now gets 70 shopping points per month, plus 10 extra points for every additional family member.

A four-person household would get 100 shopping points to spend.

“Before, you could get enough bread to get you through the month, but if you didn’t have the capacity to freeze some of the loafs, you couldn’t get them. Now you can come in more often,” McLaughlin explained.

The switch to the point system means an adjustment period for clients, however.

“It’s kind of confusing,” Jacob said.

That shouldn’t be a problem, as Good Cheer volunteers stand by while shoppers cruise the aisles, ready to answer questions, find food items, help people check out and bag groceries.

McLaughlin beamed with pride as she showed the new facility to clients on Monday.

“We worked on this for six years,” McLaughlin said. “Now, we’re here. It’s a dream come true.”

The new building, formerly a Masonic Temple, boasts 4,400 square feet of space. Roughly 2,400 square feet has been dedicated to storage, sorting and distribution of food.

In the shopping space, a freezer section has been added and fresh fruits and vegetables are on display. A spacious storage area allows Good Cheer to order bigger amounts of food, which lowers the cost of individual items.

“We can store at least 10 times more,” McLaughlin said.

A roomy kitchen for sorting and preparing is set up in the back of the facility on Bayview Road. Good Cheer volunteers and staff are especially proud of their state-of-the-art walk-in freezer and refrigeration system that was bought with a Boeing community grant.

The move has been a community project. Countless volunteers have worked to remodel the building. Workers built display and sorting tables and helped move items from the Langley site to the new Bayview location earlier this year.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland donated 3,480 pounds of food to make sure that Good Cheer was able to meet its opening deadline, McLaughlin said.

After moving the thrift store distribution center to Bayview earlier this year, the next big step is the start of the remodel of the thrift store retail space in Langley, McLaughin said.

“We have to get the remodeling done to increase the retail space, so sales will increase,” she said.

Good Cheer is a nonprofit organization funded from three separate sources: income from its two thrift stores, community donations and a few state grants.

All of the thrift store proceeds are generated by items donated by the community, then recycled and resold at the two retail locations in Langley and Clinton.

The Good Cheer Food Bank helps many on the South End.

In 2006, Good Cheer assisted 2,170 people, including 767 children. That number represents 14 percent of the population of South Whidbey.

And not all clients are unemployed or living in poverty.

At $14 per hour, the annual average hourly wage in Island County is significantly lower than many parts of Washington state. Staples such as food and other items cost more here, however.

“Due to the high cost of living on South Whidbey, we find that we are serving many families where either one or both parents are employed, in other words, the working poor,” McLaughlin said.

Good Cheer is about to head into its busy season.

“The trend is that we’re busier in the wintertime. We think it has to do with seasonal lay-offs,” McLaughlin said. She added that winter months mean less fresh produce from gardens on the island.

The new food bank location is conveniently located near the Bayview bus stop. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., expect Tuesday when the food bank is open noon to 7 p.m. The food bank is closed on Sundays.

To find out how to volunteer or donate, call 221-6454.

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