Walk and Knock hits the streets on Clark County

Spirit of community at its best in food drive

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 
photoAlki Middle School was one of several drop-off points where volunteers loaded food donations into a trailer during Saturday’s annual Walk and Knock food drive. The event benefits the Clark County Food Bank and its partner organizations.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo
photoAbout 3,500 total volunteers turned out for Saturday’s annual Walk and Knock food drive, which benefits the Clark County Food Bank and its partner organizations. The event, held the first Saturday in December, began in 1985.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo
photoHeading into Saturday, the annual Walk and Knock food drive had five times collected more than 300,000 pounds of food in a single year. The event’s best year was 2010, when 335,340 pounds of food was donated.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

Their work done, Mike Lewis gathered the troops once more. It was time to drive the lesson home.

What did you all do here today? Why is that important? What is the Christmas season all about?

Finally, a message:

"I'm proud of you guys," Lewis said.

Lewis had just helped lead a group of Cub Scouts collecting food donations in a Salmon Creek neighborhood. The squad

of second-graders was among thousands of volunteers who hit the streets Saturday for the Walk and Knock food drive, by far Clark County's largest. The event, held the first Saturday of every December, collected more than 300,000 pounds food last year alone.

Olsen didn't have an immediate food estimate for this year Saturday afternoon. But the number of volunteers was down, she said, slowing the process and leading to some missed collections. Olsen said about 3,500 people turned out to help, down from 4,000 or more in past years.

"We do what we can with what we have," Olsen said.

Everything collected from the drive benefits the Clark County Food Bank and its many partner organizations helping needy families. Now in its 28th year, the event takes an army of volunteers and a lot of coordination to be successful, Olsen said.

Lewis, a local den leader with Cub Scout Pack 494, met his group Saturday morning at Alki Middle School, one of several drop-off sites across the county. As the seven children and four adults made their way through their designated neighborhood, knocking on doors, the young Scouts celebrated each bag they collected. One by one, donations filled the bed of a pickup driven by Vancouver resident Marty Alexander, whose son Spencer also took part.

At one point, Lewis' 7-year-old son Jackson said: "We hit the jackpot."

Eventually they brought their load back to the middle school, where a semi trailer was waiting. That's where sector coordinator Jeff Fish spent much of the day, handing out collection route maps first thing in the morning and later helping load the dozens of donation bags that poured in.

For Fish, you might say Walk and Knock runs in the family. His father was among those who helped with the event at its inception in 1985. Now Fish and his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law are all volunteer leaders.

"We're all pretty involved," said Fish, who lives in the Beaverton, Ore.-area but is a member of the Hazel Dell Lions Club. Local Lions have been actively involved in Walk and Knock from the beginning.

Fish said he appreciates how the program brings so many people together -- groups of all kinds, young and old, participate. And volunteers play a variety of roles to make it happen.

James Newsome is among those who worked behind the scenes Saturday. The Vancouver resident, with a Clark County radio club, helped coordinate radio communications to make sure people and supplies got where they needed to be throughout the day.

Before collections even got started Saturday, Newsome knew what to expect. He shared a familiar sentiment for anyone who's been involved with Walk and Knock in the past: the "incredible" way people come through year after year.

"It means quite a bit," Newsome said. "The people that live in Clark County have a big heart. That community spirit still exists."

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.