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Dear Neighbors, Picture This:
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Picture this: you are 72 years old, female, and only recently arrived in this country from the only home you’ve ever known on the other side of the globe. It’s cold out. There’s a light mist in the air contributing to the chill. It’s 5:00 AM, and you’ve just disembarked from the #7 bus a half a block north of Genesee. You don’t speak any English. In the lightening dawn, you risk your life jaywalking across Rainier Avenue to join the small huddle of other people already gathered under a makeshift shelter outside the Rainier Valley Food Bank, where you will pull up an old milk crate to sit on and wait for the doors to open at 9:30 AM. This is the most important trip of your week.

By the time 9:30 rolls around, there are over 100 other people gathered around you – people of all walks of life, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, stories, religions. At some point you heard your native tongue spoken, and made several new friends. Somehow you navigate the crowd and line, and once you get inside, you see that your long wait was well worth it. Picturing your family back at your tiny flat – your husband who is too ill to be there with you, your sister, your niece, your nephew,...

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An Award for All of Us
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For the past 19 years, folks from all the food banks and meal programs in Seattle have gathered in October for a special awards ceremony to recognize the leaders, volunteers and community partners who make a meaningful impact on the lives of the many who depend on our services. This year’s Mayor’s End Hunger Award for Outstanding Food Bank Staff was presented to me by Mayor Mike McGinn on October 18th at the Palace Ballroom in downtown Seattle.

I do not write about this great honor in order to toot my own horn, but rather to call particular attention to the many people in the family of Rainier Valley Food Bank volunteers, friends, and supporters who truly deserve this award – and what, together, we’ve accomplished this year. While the award plaque may bear my name, that’s only because it’s impossible to fit in such a small space the hundreds of names of those who ought to be recognized for their work in feeding southeast Seattle. It is merely my honor and privilege to serve as a conduit for this community’s generosity and magnanimity.

We at RVFB have made great leaps forward this year. After our legendary food theft last November, the tremendous outpouring of community support suddenly...

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Power of Stories
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At Rainier Valley Food Bank, stories permeate the walls, interweave themselves through human communications both physical and verbal, sometimes clash, sometimes jive, sometimes chip away at preconceptions to reveal new stories hiding in the midst of creative tension. These are stories of hope and of hardship, of pain and relief, of terrible beauty. These are human stories, as human as humanity gets, composed of bare-knuckled, raw, intensity that oftentimes evokes tears, laughter, bewilderment, sympathy and empathy, but always and above all else, profound respect.

I’ve always been a bit of an optimist, but never in my life have I found so readily at hand so many stories that inspire respect for my fellow human beings as there are to be found at the food bank. The stories we witness at the food bank – and these are not stories you simply hear, they are stories that reach straight into the core of the soul, touch the heart and rattle the spirit – can move even the hardest of hearts to open just a little to the ineluctable resilience of the human character. And by “respect,” I’m not talking about social niceties, or behaving politely, although those things have their place. I’m talking real, gritty,...

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The World in Our Lot
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Don’t you love living in the most diverse neighborhood in all of our great nation? Personally, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Seattle. When crowds form in front of Rainier Valley Food Bank on distribution days, it’s a microcosm of the entire globe squeezed into our tiny lot at 4205 Rainier Ave South: Asians, Africans, Europeans, North and South Americans, people from all quarters, large countries, small countries, islands you’ve never heard of, remote mountain villages, speaking a multitude of tongues, and coming from every conceivable background, with a million million stories to tell.

Every Wednesday and Saturday for me and my fellow food bank staff and volunteers are a bit like taking a whirlwind tour of our entire planet. And like travel, sometimes it’s relaxing, sometimes it’s stressful, sometimes it’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen or heard in your life. You see beauty and pain, joy and hardship, frustration and gratitude. Two things are certain: 1. it is never, ever dull; and 2. everybody’s got to eat.

Feeding a global village is rarely a simple matter. And like raising children, it takes the whole village, or in this case, the whole neighborhood. In the first...

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Rainier Valley Food Bank
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Perhaps you’ve driven by the little white clapboard building tucked away from the road at 4205 Rainier Ave South on a Wednesday or Saturday morning.  Perhaps you’ve noticed a crowd of folks lingering in the lot and wondered what the heck all those people could possibly be doing out there. That spot is home to the Rainier Valley Food Bank, where this year, we’re putting food on the table for nearly 10,000 of our neighbors every month.

The crowd is a snapshot of the vast diversity of our zip code itself, and on any given distribution day, you are more likely to hear Cantonese, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Somali, Tagalog, or Spanish than English.  If you’re lucky, you might catch an elderly gentleman in line softly blowing Balkan folk tunes from the old country on harmonica.  You might see a single dad clicking his heels with a smile leaving the building, knowing that his family will not only have food to eat this week, but a variety of quality foods that he and his several kids will enjoy.

I joined this food bank as its executive...

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