Food bank adds hours, services as needs grow
April 22, 2014
By Peter Clark
As need grows, so does the effort to help.
The Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank announced an extension of its food and clothing bank service hours in April. It will now remain open from 5-7 p.m. every Monday evening in an attempt to serve the growing community who relies on the bank’s services.
“Our numbers have grown substantially from 2012 to 2013,” Executive Director Cori Walters said. “We’ve seen a 23 percent increase from our food customers, and that doesn’t include our clothing banks.”
The Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank provides free food, clothing and related services to individuals and families in need.
The growth affected how well the bank could provide its services.
“On average, we saw 4,000 to 4,200 service hours in a month and that’s grown to 5,000,” Walters said. “Our service hours were really, really busy and kind of chaotic when we were only open two evenings a month. We felt we were doing our working families a disservice.”
By offering evening hours every week, Walters said she hoped to lighten the load on families and on the bank itself.
She said she believed multiple factors led to more families seeking help.
“I think we could have seen the increase because we’re still seeing families that maxed out unemployment,” Walters said. “There’s this belief we’re moving past the recession, but what we see is people are not bouncing back as quickly. With debt or medical issues, they’re just slower to recover.
“We’re also doing more with outreach,” she said. “We think people are learning that we have really diverse programs. The more people learn about them, the more people seek us out.”
The city also plans to expand community offerings in the coming year. City Communications Manager Autumn Monahan said Issaquah’s partnerships with the local organization is nothing new, but the city expects to add a new full-time position to its Sustainability Department to nurture that teamwork.
“The position existed before, but not on a full-time basis,” she said about a new human services manager position. “The position will have a lot of different roles to increase partnerships within the city.”
The city expects to hire that manager in July.
For now, Walters doesn’t expect the sudden influx of new customers to affect the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank’s bottom line.
“At this point, I don’t think there’s going to be any financial impact,” Walters said about the expanded hours. “We just shifted our staff hours around. We’ve been creative and thoughtful in adjusting our services.”
Actually, the bank is looking to expand what it provides to the community. Walters said the staff has begun applying for grants to fund a food delivery program. Though the bank has set no official date to begin, Walters said they are shooting for the middle of summer.
She said the increase in need has created challenges, but she remains steadfast in the organization’s duty.
“That’s our challenge and that’s my job to help people get their basic needs met,” Walters said. “As Issaquah grows, our needs are going to grow. It would be neat if the city helped build relationships and helped build new ones.”
She praised the city for it’s continued support and welcomed the human services manager position.
“That person has an opportunity to build networks and bring training to small nonprofits,” Walters said. “The more involvement we have as a big group of people, the easier it will be for all of us.”