A South Whidbey food bank is actively working to expand awareness of other community services with the help of a new addition.
This summer, the construction of a 1,500-square-foot building extension of Good Cheer Food Bank was completed.
Community members had the opportunity this week to explore the space, which includes a break room for employees and volunteers, private offices for counseling and a larger entrance to the food bank, where other service organizations are invited to set up tables.
The integration of other assistance-based organizations is all part of Good Cheer’s new Community Connection Program, which aims to promote awareness of housing and utility services, mental and physical health support, family and child-rearing aid and financial and legal counseling, among other things, for food bank users.
Stephanie Turco, a member of Good Cheer’s executive team, said food insecurity has underlying reasons that can be addressed by having access to these other resources.
“Hunger doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there are other reasons why people are needing food,” she said.
With these resources represented at the food bank, Turco is hopeful that it breaks down barriers for customers, who might be seeking something as simple as contact information for an organization.
According to a survey Good Cheer conducted earlier this year, the top three needs besides food are access to affordable housing, medical and dental expenses, and legal or financial services. A total of 300 participants answered the survey.
Good Cheer broke ground on the new building addition in July 2021. During construction, people visiting the food bank filled out a “shopping” list of food items instead of coming into the building. Now, with the work done, they’ve been invited back inside to hand-pick their items again.
A capital campaign raised a total of $430,000 in funds for the project. Over 400 donors contributed anywhere from $5 to $50,000. Additionally, $50,000 was raised for the Community Connection Program, which will help with materials, staff time to coordinate the scheduling of volunteers and community partners.
Other changes around the food bank include new refrigerators and updated shelving units, which were funded by a grant.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Good Cheer significantly reduced its number of volunteers. Now, the nonprofit organization is hoping to recruit some more.
Turco, along with Lissa Firor and Karen Korbelik, make up the executive team for Good Cheer. In March 2022, the three women officially became co-directors of the organization.