Vicki Smith gets early tips about great grocery bargains and giveaways from supermarket managers she knows, and unsolicited donations from agencies like the Bonneville Power Administration, where she used to be fleet manager. Chuck’s Produce recently donated supplies for 100 Christmas dinners. Bonneville called to offer boxes and boxes of toilet paper.
It happens because she makes the rounds, Smith said, and makes friends. “It’s all about relationships,” said Smith, the longtime executive director of Martha’s Pantry, Clark County’s only basic-supplies resource and community center for people with HIV/AIDS.
“Vicki is an awesome bridge builder,” said senior pastor Jennifer Brownell of the Vancouver United Church of Christ in Hazel Dell. That’s where Martha’s Pantry returned this past fall, a little over two years after an arson fire closed both church and pantry in May 2016.
When that happened, the Vancouver Heights United Methodist Church stepped in with a warm welcome and even an offer to let Martha’s Pantry build a permanent building on its MacArthur Boulevard land. That was a lovely dream that ran right into permitting and financial realities, Smith said. Martha’s Pantry’s annual budget is around $40,000 a year in donations and grants, and nearly all that goes for food bargains, she said; permitting and building to code — complete with sidewalks and plumbing infrastructure, as required — would have cost many times that.
“They were great friends to us, but it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Smith.