Good Cheer wins an award for its volunteer program

Kathy McLaughlin (right)

Good Cheer Food Bank has received $5,000 and a special award for its volunteer program from Western Washington’s largest hunger relief organization.

The Baview-based food bank was honored by Food Lifeline at the group’s annual conference March 21 in Shoreline. Representatives of the group’s nearly 300 member agencies attended the event.

“We’re thrilled,” said Kathy McLaughlin, Good Cheer executive director. “Once again, it’s because of our volunteers.”

“We just feel our program is an effective and efficient way of using volunteers,” she added.

Good Cheer received the check — which will go to buy more food, McLaughlin said — and one of four awards presented by the regional organization.

The award for community resource development was the second time the agency was honored by Food Lifeline. Good Cheer also received the award in 2008.

McLaughlin said the food bank has a list of more than 400 volunteers, of which about 100 are “hardcore” regulars helping out each day or at least once a week. But the extra volunteers come in handy for special events and in the food bank garden.

“It takes all of them to make it all work,” McLaughlin said.

She said that in 2010, Good Cheer provided food for nearly 25 percent of the local South End population, and that the number of new clients was growing at a faster pace than food and money donations, prompting a renewed effort to recruit volunteers.

Good Cheer staff member Carol Ann was installed as volunteer coordinator to organize the effort.

McLaughlin said that, thanks to the heightened focus, volunteer hours at the food bank increased from 26,366 in 2009 to more than 32,730 in 2010 — the equivalent of 20 paid staff members.

She said that the food bank projects that an average of 784 families will seek assistance each month this year. In January, she added, 837 families were served, the highest monthly total ever. The monthly total for February fell back to projections, she said.

McLaughlin said Good Cheer has been affiliated with Food Lifeline for the past nine years. The regional organization provides food free to its member agencies, and the Good Cheer truck makes the roundtrip to the mainland once a week, she said.

Good Cheer distributes about 55,000 pounds of food a month. McLaughlin said Food Lifeline provided 60,000 pounds in 2010.

“It’s a big resource for us,” she said. “In effect, they provided one month’s worth of free food.”

At its banquet this month, Food Lifeline also presented awards and $5,000 checks to the Snohomish Community Food Bank, Volunteers of America Western Washington and Jewish Family Service.

Food Lifeline officials say the group devotes 96 percent of its revenue to feed hungry people.

Last year, the organization’s officials said it delivered more than 24 million meals through its network of nearly 300 food banks, meal programs and shelters.

Food Lifeline is also a member of the national organization Feeding America. For more information about Food Lifeline, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit or call 206-545-6600.