Roxie Olsen grew up going to food banks. "I come from an impoverished background, and we did participate in food banks here in Clark County," she said.
So the new president of the Interservice Walk & Knock Food Drive is very aware of how things come full circle. Her family moved away from Clark County when she was a child, but now she's back. She worked as a solid waste support specialist for the city of Vancouver but got laid off. She's not quite needing to return to the food bank for help, she said — but she isn't exactly living in luxury, either.
"From the way I lived before, I'm rich; and I just thank God for all the things I have. I'm blessed in so many ways," she said.
But Olsen is concerned about the people who feel a little less blessed. Times are still tougher than some people realize, but both volunteerism and food donations for Walk & Knock haven't kept up in recent years.
"Rounding up 4,000 volunteers every year isn't easy. We'd like to have 6,000, but more typical is 4,000," she said — except when it even goes below that, she said.
"That's devastating," she said, because it means pickups aren't made everywhere in Clark County, which is the whole point.
Walk & Knock is Clark County's homegrown, annual food drive. It's
held on the first Saturday of every December. Starting at 9 a.m., volunteers fan out across the county to scoop up food donations that people have left on porches, doorsteps or driveways. For years, the donations were transported back to the Port of Vancouver, which donated a warehouse for sorting — but now everything goes directly to the spacious new Clark County Food Bank, which was built last year. From there, it's distributed to the many smaller food pantries in Clark County.
Your job: fill the bag inserted in today's newspaper with nonperishable food donations. Canned meats, tuna, peanut butter, rice, beans, soup, cereal, elbow macaroni, powdered milk, baby food, diapers and toiletries are all welcome. So are cash donations.
This is Walk & Knock's 28th annual outing, and the event is by far the biggest food drive in the county, but Olsen said she's frequently amazed to discover natives who've never heard of it. Meanwhile, she emphasized, it's the same volunteers who faithfully turn out over and over again.
"Many of the volunteers have been there for years and are just awesome in so many ways. They can be counted on," she said. But Walk & Knock needs new blood, too, she said, and at higher levels than just single-day volunteers.
"My job as president is to get the word out that this is an organization that needs constant help," said Olsen, who replaces four-year president Joe Pauletto. (Pauletto said he was only supposed to be president for two years, but had a hard time finding a willing replacement. Eventually he turned to Olsen, his vice president. Both are members of the Hazel Dell Lions, which launched Walk & Knock in 1985.)
Olsen said Walk & Knock meets monthly all year long to keep things moving and get prepared for the first Saturday of the last month.
"We're always looking for people to take leadership roles," she said.
If you're interested in volunteering — at any level — call 877-99-KNOCK (877-995-6625) or visit walkandknock.org. If your donation bag doesn't get picked up on Dec. 1, visit the website to see a long list of drop-off sites, among them many fire stations, Riverview and First Indy banks, Les Schwab outlets and McDonalds restaurants. Drop off your bag by Dec. 3.