Back in the early 1990s, Fran Walster was a single mother of three small girls who needed help feeding her family. When she couldn’t find any local services to help, she got together with four other women and started the Make Me a Blessing Food Bank. Today, Fran and several other full time volunteers operate what is now the Maltby Food Bank.
Fran is assisted by Natalie Oswald, who took the position after 2 1/2 years of volunteering at the food bank. She said she was touched by the closeness of the volunteers and the fact that all the families are welcomed with open arms into a loving environment.
In the food bank's first year, Fran said, they served about 15 families; today they are serving 100 or more families per week. The all-volunteer staff has grown from 14 to 40, and they could still use your help, Fran said. Most volunteers are part time; some drive the donated van once a week to pick up food, and many more are needed.
When donations do not meet the needs of the community, volunteers will often donate money to make up the difference. They are a very dedicated group who strongly believe in what they are doing.
While the food was being handed out, I talked with one of the volunteers, Scott, who is mostly in charge of the freezer and heavy lifting needed around the food bank. Scott said volunteering at the food bank literally saved his life. Scott said he was in a bad place emotionally after experiencing a divorce, his kids leaving home and losing his job in the economic downturn. He said he needed something outside of himself that could bolster his self esteem and help him to give to others. Helping at the food bank was just what he needed. Two years later he greets clients by their first name, and with a smile on his face talks passionately about the changes in his life.
Scott’s is not the only story that tugs on the heartstrings. Many volunteers are there because they have needed help in their tough times and it's places like the food bank that made a difference during those hard times.
The food bank not only gives out food for families. It also sometimes has fresh cut flowers donated by Albertsons to brighten clients' homes. It gives out birthday bags with gifts left over from Christmas to children, and makes sure to adopt out families, seniors and singles at that difficult time of year to make sure that they feel loved within their community.
How can you help?
Donations for food are accepted at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Maltby, Westhill Inc. Designs/Build in Woodinville and Albertsons in Clearview. The food bank also needs cloth grocery bags in order to reduce the waste from plastic bags used for clients to take groceries home and it collects used ink cartridges, which Fran said raises hundreds of dollars each year.
The food bank is always in need of volunteers on Thursday mornings to prep and sort the food for clients coming in later in the day. Help is also needed on Thursday afternoons when seniors come in from 1:30-5:30 p.m. For more information about the Maltby Food Bank call Fran at 360-668-4429, or her assistant Natalie at 425-344-1490. For the main line at Maltby call 425-344-7900. The Maltby Food Bank is located at 21104 86th Avenue SE, Snohomish Wa 98296. The food bank is a registered non-profit 501(c)3.