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Citizen of 2008 honors go to food bank director Gergasko donates paycheck to buy food

Gail Gergasko, director of the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, gives of herself and her wages to make the Valley charity a success. She is the North Bend Citizen of the Year for 2008. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Gail Gergasko, director of the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, gives of herself and her wages to make the Valley charity a success. She is the North Bend Citizen of the Year for 2008.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Gail Gergasko dedicates between 15 and 20 hours each week to directing the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, donating her entire paycheck for purchasing food and funding the building’s expansion.

The city of North Bend recognized Gergasko’s dedication by naming her its 2008 Citizen of the Year at its Jan. 20 meeting.

“Anytime you go to the food bank, Gail is there. An awful lot of people are depending on her, especially these days,” North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing said.

As the economy began its downturn last year, the food bank saw demand increase dramatically, and provided over 1,300 different local families with kitchen staples.

“I would be very hungry if they weren’t here,” said food bank patron Karolyn Pearson of North Bend, as she carried a box of produce and bread out to her car on a recent Wednesday.

Gergasko led the effort to increase the size of the facility from 950 square feet to 1,450 square feet to meet growing needs. The project required her to organize a team of volunteers, find construction professionals to donate their time, work with the Mount Si High School media class to create a video to promote the expansion efforts, and raise about $90,000. The project, started in 2007, has allowed the food bank to improve its services.

“Gail is a true community asset who has spearheaded the expansion and influence of the food bank over the last several years. Without her tireless efforts, families in need throughout the Valley would not have the resources to see it through these difficult times,” said North Bend City Administrator Duncan Wilson.

Gergasko organizes volunteers who gather donations and distribute food each Wednesday. She also speaks to local organizations such as the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, churches, city councils, and youth groups to raise awareness about the food bank and the needs of families in the Valley. She often goes to the food bank multiple times a week to meet with groups, such as local Girl Scout troops, who log community service hours through work at the food bank.

“While she has a lot of help from many volunteers, it is her dedication to helping others that makes the food bank tick,” said Gergasko’s husband, Rich.

North Bend re-instituted its Citizen of the Year award two years ago after a long absence. In 2006, the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce was recognized for promoting business even in the midst of the water moratorium. Ward Keller was honored last year for his book of photographs taken by his father, Harold, of life in the Valley from 1942 to 1967.

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