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Once-closed Carnation Food Bank opens in new space, but with same spirit of service

Elizabeth Wing folds some clothes she is donating to the new Carnation Public Food Bank on Myrtle Street. - Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Wing folds some clothes she is donating to the new Carnation Public Food Bank on Myrtle Street.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Things were slow at the newly opened Carnation Public Food Bank on July 2, but in a good way. In an hour’s time, about eight people stopped in at the Myrtle Avenue building. About half of them were collecting some needed food and clothing items, and the rest were dropping off donations, or just there to chat. And that’s pretty much what Fred Vosk had in mind when he envisioned the re-opening of the food bank.

“I want it to be a local food bank,” he said. “I want the community to feel involved… I’m not looking for big truckloads of food coming in from somewhere else.”

So far, he’s getting it. As clients come in, some are  hesitant, and  most look dubiously at the pale round vegetables in a nearby box. A little encouragement from Stormy Steinbrueck helps to relax everyone.

“Have you tried these?” he asked a woman walking in. “They’re lemon cucumbers, and they are so sweet!”

She picked up a slice from the plate he offered, and was noncommittal.

“Is this going to be your location from now on?” she asked. When she heard “yes”, she smiled and started shopping. “That’s good, because I was getting worried!”

She was worried because for the past six months, there was no weekly food bank in Carnation; Hopelink offered one every other week.

The Carnation Public Food Bank is a new organization, in the process of obtaining a 501(c)(3) non-profit status. It’s also what’s left of the Snoqualmie Tribe Food Bank, which closed on Christmas Eve. That food bank served an average of 100 families a week and sometimes up to 200, Vosk said, operating just down the block and across the street from the current facility.

Tribe officials did not respond to requests for comments on the decision to close the food bank last year, and Vosk says they didn’t talk to the food bank’s two staff members or its volunteers, either.

“The Tribe has been so good to us,” he said, “but they wouldn’t even talk to us about it.”

The tribe operated an area food bank since 1979, mainly due to the efforts of Mary Anne Hinzman, who felt that people should have access to food whether they had legal identification or addresses. Vosk had volunteered there for almost 10 years, and regretted its closure, calling it “a political thing.”

In January, Vosk started negotiating a lease for the former city shop building in Carnation. It was also the former home of the food bank. The building needed an electrical inspection and a few plumbing repairs, Vosk said, and he paid for them, along with the next year’s insurance.

Vosk has been paying for most of the food bank costs himself, with help from spokesman Dick Jones, and from volunteers like Steinbrueck, Laura Pinter, and Dave Presting and his wife, who collect food from grocery stories and other donations.

Donations of money, gift cards, food or clothing are welcome, and needed.

What they don’t need? “We don’t need physical help,” Vosk says drily, gesturing at the shrunken space the food bank now calls home. There wouldn’t be room for more people anyway.

“It’s a two-car garage,” says Presting, with a laugh, but he’s not far off.

There’s noticeably less storage, especially cold storage in the new facility, but it’s not a problem for now while the food bank is rebooting. Besides, Vosk says, the space has other benefits.

“Personally, I like this better, for being client friendly,” he said. The garage doors roll up, for better access, and inside, shelves and tables are stacked with non-perishables, and produce from local farms and gardeners. Outside, tables are heaped with donated clothing.

Elizabeth Wing was adding to the pile of donations.  A teacher at Carnation Elementary, Wing recently joined the food bank’s board, and has encouraged a connection with Hopelink’s food bank, for mutual benefit.

She is optimistic about the future of the food bank, although it’s far from certain. Without sponsors, the food bank is dependent on donations and food drives, like the one Presting’s church is doing. Without non-profit status, Vosk says the organization can’t get help from Food Lifeline or Northwest Harvest. Also, the current lease, at a rate of $50 per month, is up at the end of the year.

“I’m kind of an obnoxiously positive person,” says Vosk, pointing out the obvious. “I can’t see us not getting the support. It’s a food bank!”

Wing is impressed with Vosk and Steinbrueck. “They’re pretty amazing,” she said. “They really believe in being there for those who don’t have a voice, those who can’t.”

Carnation Public Food Bank is located at 31822 Myrtle Street, Carnation, and distributes food from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. To make donations, write to Carnation Public Food Bank PO Box 393 Carnation, WA 98014, or call Vosk at (206) 949-2310.

Carol Ladwig/Staff Photos

The Carnation Public Food Bank, open Wednesdays is run entirely by volunteers, including, from left, Dave Presting, Manager Fred Vosk, and John (Stormy) Steinbrueck.

 

The food bank building, above, in the former Public Works shop. Below, the sign that greets visitors and donators.

Vosk at the desk, with supplies and food sorted on boxes in the foreground.

 

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