Late last year, FISH Vancouver Executive Director James Fitzgerald received an unexpected phone call from Ryan Hurley, president of Hurley Development.
“What kind of dreams do you have?” Hurley asked. “What does FISH want to be able to do in the future?”
Fitzgerald reflected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, FISH volunteers delivered food from the food pantry in downtown Vancouver to neighborhoods across Clark County, specifically to areas where people might have difficulty accessing transportation, or where there was great need for food assistance.
“There were weeks where we were distributing 90 food boxes in a couple of hours out to people,” Fitzgerald said. Many of the individuals and families picking up food had never been to FISH’s food pantry in downtown Vancouver, mostly due to a lack of transportation, Fitzgerald said.
“We realized that we needed a dedicated mobile food pantry that could be set up with the right foods and refrigeration, all the stuff that’s needed to distribute food in some of these areas.”
So, when Hurley called Fitzgerald inquiring about FISH’s dreams, Fitzgerald told him: “We want a mobile food pantry.”
Hurley made that dream come true.
The organization celebrated Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for FISH’s brand-new mobile food pantry, which is fully equipped with refrigerators, freezers, storage space, shelves and more.
“For many years, my staff has been volunteering at FISH,” Hurley said. “We love this organization, and it’s a part of our culture as a company to be invested in our community and to give back. When James and I were talking, he just went through and explained how many kids and elderly people, especially during the pandemic, weren’t eating because they couldn’t make it down to a food bank. And so, it was a really easy decision to get behind a FISH mobile food pantry.”
Volunteers will begin using the mobile food pantry later this month to distribute food across Clark County.
“We’ll go to low-income senior centers, health clinics and places where we know that there are income issues,” Fitzgerald said. “If we can help by showing up with some food at some of the safer homeless areas, the ones that are more sanctioned, that will be an area that we will focus on, as well. Anyone that has transportation issues or health issues or whatever, we want to make food a little bit more accessible for them.”
Hurley Development contributed $60,000 toward the project, and Ryan Hurley brought together a coalition of local organizations to support the project.
Crossroads Community Church contributed $15,000, and LSW Architects covered $6,000 of operating expenses. Specialty Graphic Solutions and Riff_ Creative designed the outside of the mobile food pantry pro bono. FISH footed none of the bill.
“This has been a community effort,” Fitzgerald said at Thursday’s event. “We’re embarking on a new adventure, and we’re going to reach beyond the walls that we have here.”
If the mobile food pantry is successful, Fitzgerald hopes to grow the program in the future. In January, FISH served 1,200 clients. By May, the organization was serving nearly 1,900 clients, and the need continues to grow, Fitzgerald said.
“It’s going to take some creativity and community support and all that to make this happen,” he said.
FISH is seeking volunteers for both its downtown food pantry and the mobile food pantry. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit fishvancouver.org/volunteer.