Walk & Knock welcomes kindness

About 140 tons of donated food will help see people through year

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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SUNDAY PICKUP

Donors whose food bags weren’t picked up Saturday can call 360-696-6321, Ext. 184, for Sunday pickup. People also can bring food Sunday or Monday to any of 50 sites listed at: http://walkandknock.org/one/volunteer_barrels.htm.

photoFood collected and dropped off at Crestline Elementary is sorted and boxed for loading onto the truck for the Local Food Bank.

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photoBoys from Pack/Troop 449 help with the annual Walk & Knock food drive. (Pictured left to right: Shane Boyd, Harman Goold, Porter Goold, Elijah Boyd, and Ben Goold)

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Justin Lee knows that food will be in short supply this winter for some of his fellow Mountain View High School students. That’s why Lee was happy to join 4,000 other volunteers Saturday in the 27th annual Interservice Walk & Knock food drive.

Lee was among those working at a drop-off site at Crestline Elementary School in east Vancouver. It was one of 11 transition points around Clark County where people who’d toured local neighborhoods brought bags of donated food so the cans, jars and boxes could be crated and loaded on a truck.

“I also work at Open House Ministries, and I know students from Mountain View and the Evergreen school district who get help there,” Lee said. “I definitely know this will help people. It’s nice working in your own community.”

The total take in all those bags and boxes amounted to about 140 tons of groceries.

While it was not a record, “It was a good return,” said Walk & Knock President Joe Pauletto.

The event always is held on the first Saturday of December, but it’s not too late to give.

“There still are barrels out at drop-off sites where people can leave food,” Pauletto said. The organization also will be tallying cash contributions over the next couple of weeks.

This is the first year the Clark County Food Bank will be able to show people just what 140 tons of food looks like. It’s the first year the donations will be unpacked, stored, organized and shipped out again from a new $4.2 million headquarters in Minnehaha. At 22,000 square feet, it’s almost three times as big as the former facility. The food bank will hold off on distribution for one day so it can celebrate its grand opening from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at 6502 N.E. 47th Ave. It will be an opportunity to display the entire weekend Walk & Knock harvest.

Not everything donated Saturday will provide solid nourishment, though.

“We can get some strange things,” Lee said. “Like leftover Halloween candy in Ziploc bags.”

Another young volunteer approached Becky Writt, sector commander at Crestline Elementary, with something even less nourishing: a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It wound up with other toys.

Still, the Walk & Knock is always the Clark County Food Bank’s biggest shelf-stocker of the year, topped by the record of almost 166 tons established a year ago.

Need keeps going up, however, which means less food for hungry people. Although milk is not a “Walk & Knock” commodity, it’s a good way to testify to shrinking resources, according to volunteers who distribute emergency food boxes at FISH of Vancouver.

A family of three used to get a half-gallon of milk, which was supposed to last three days. Now that amount has been cut in half — but it’s still supposed to last three days.

“We’ve had to cut back on some things,” said George Kaufer, manager of the operation. “We will not turn

anybody away, but we are definitely experiencing some hard times. We may have to cut back more.”

It’s not that donations are drying up, Kaufer said. Just the opposite: Supermarkets are still sending along the perishable food that’s hit pull-date deadlines but remains perfectly good; local bakeries are still coming by with extra loaves of bread; more volunteers are showing up than ever before.

What’s also up, and up, and up some more, Kaufer said, is the need. “We are setting records right now.”

FISH of Vancouver now feeds approximately 100 families per day. Each family is allowed to come by once a month. That’s true across all members of the Clark County Food Bank system.

In front of the FISH counter recently, a zigzagging line of eager clients extended all the way out the door and down the block. Behind the counter, the place was swamped with stacked boxes and bags and busy with carts and hand trucks and volunteers assembling and distributing boxes.

When Kaufer took inventory a few days ago, he found the FISH food bank had one-third the stock it had one year ago. Two thousand pounds come in and go out every single day, he said.

“I thought the need would start easing up,” Kauffer said, “but I was wrong.”

Scott Hewitt of The Columbian contributed to this story.