It’s been Walk & Knock for 36 years, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the annual Clark County food drive to temporarily take on a new format and a new name: Drive & Drop.
Local donors appeared to be quite willing to make the adjustment. Saturday morning saw a steady stream of cars arriving at the Chuck’s Produce parking lot in Salmon Creek to hand over cash and food donations to a team of volunteers.
“It started before we were even set up,” said volunteer Jack Johnson, president of the Salmon Creek Lions Club.
In a typical year, the store parking lot would be used as a staging area where volunteers would deliver batches of food collected from trips through nearby neighborhoods. With the donors themselves bringing the food this year, the parking lot was reconfigured into a pair of drive-thru lanes to accommodate more cars bringing smaller loads.
Seven additional drop sites were set up throughout the county on Saturday, collecting donations of food, cash and toiletries throughout the morning and early afternoon. Just like in past years, the donations will all go to the Clark County Food Bank.
The drive-thru approach was completely new territory for Walk & Knock’s organizers, but they had several months to plan it. Sector coordinator Joe Pauletto said it became clear soon after the pandemic began to worsen in March that the annual event would likely need to be reworked.
Walk & Knock worked with the Clark County health department to develop and refine the new format over the summer, according to the nonprofit’s president Tom Knappenberger. The stations were set up so that masked and gloved volunteers would unload all the food without the donors getting out of their cars.
Instead of the usual paper grocery bags with printed reminders, Walk & Knock mailed out flyers to spread the word about Drive & Drop. There were some concerns about making sure all the donors got the message, Johnson said, but that was part of why it was important to make sure the event happened on the same day as usual.
“A lot of people know, because we’ve been doing this for so many years – the first Saturday in December is Walk & Knock,” he said.
Knappenberger and Pauletto both said they thought the new format could lead to a drop in donations – Pauletto said he was hoping to see Drive & Drop pull in at least half of the food donations that Walk & Knock garners in a typical year.
But the pace of traffic remained steady in the opening hours Saturday morning, and Pauletto said the Salmon Creek site appeared to be on track to fill all of its available pallet boxes over the course of the day. Knappenberger also said the organization has also seen a higher rate of early cash donations this year through the mail and online.
“Clark County’s got a long history of being really generous during recession years,” he said.
Donors Terry and Diane Smyth of Battle Ground said they’ve volunteered for Walk & Knock in past years, but this time around they decided to bring their donation to the Salmon Creek site.
“You’re still helping, that’s the big thing,” Terry Smyth said.
The couple are regular food bank donors, Diane Smyth said, which gave them a good sense of the kind of donations that would be most helpful, and the Drive & Drop setup gave them another chance to contribute.
“People need it now more than ever,” she said.
The drive-thru setup was a one-day event, but Walk & Knock is also maintaining drop-off barrels at Riverview Community Bank branches, Les Schwab Tire Centers and Cost Less Auto Parts stores throughout the county, which will continue accepting donations of food and toiletries through Dec. 14. A full map of the barrel sites can be viewed at walkandknock.org.