HarvestFest Relay Races raise $15K
Heavy rain didn’t damper the spirits of relay racer Jim Royall, who was all smiles Saturday as he raced with team Friends of Dorothy representing Gifts from the Heart Food Bank at HarvestFest. - Kate Daniel photo
by KATE DANIEL, Whidbey Examiner Staff Reporter
Oct 12, 2016 at 2:00PM
Heavy rains didn’t damper the fun at HarvestFest Saturday.
The annual event, which took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Coupeville Farmers Market, is a fundraiser for Coupeville’s Gifts from the Heart Food Bank, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization.
“It is a quarter of our annual budget. This fundraiser is a huge deal for us,” said Mayor Molly Hughes, festival organizer and food bank board president. “It’s very important for our operations.”
Despite a steady downpour, six teams turned out donning full costume and makeup to participate in the festival relay races, the festival’s primary fundraising function.
The teams and their respective organizations were the Crop Dusters representing the Coupeville Town Council; Big Red and the Egg-cellent Chickens representing Rosehip Farm and Garden; Friends of Dorothy representing the Gifts from the Heart Food Bank; the Scarlet Runners representing Kettles Farms; the Lady Lions Plus One representing the Coupeville Lions Club; and the Captain Whidbeys representing the Coupeville High School Drama Club.
The Captain Whidbeys were sponsored by the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association and challenged with raising $2,500. The association and affiliated businesses helped them to raise the money and matched the donations the students collected. The team altogether raised over $3,000, more than $400 of which the students raised themselves.
Friends of Dorothy in the three-legged race - Kate Daniel photo
The team also won the People’s Choice Award following the relay.
Rosehip Farm and Garden took the prize for most funds raised, with the drama club tailing behind by just $20.
Rosehip also won for fastest relay time.
Hughes expressed her gratitude for all the dedicated volunteers and ever-enthusiastic relay teams who show up year after year, rain or shine.
“I am so thankful for those teams that continue to come out in that bad weather,” she said, adding that they not only show up, but consistently come decked in some spectacular costumes.
Poor weather has been a negative factor for the festival in recent years, and while teams and volunteers are willing to brave the wet and wind, many prospective market-goers are not.
“The first six years we had beautiful weather,” Hughes said. “The last three years it couldn’t have been nastier.”
For this reason, next year’s 10th annual festival will likely be moved to an earlier date.
“I am 90 percent sure we will be changing the date next year,” Hughes said.
Despite the rain, altogether $15,644 was raised this year.
“We’re going to be 15 on Valentine’s Day and we’re only here by the generous support of our community,” Hughes said. “We really appreciate it.”
Safeway of Oak Harbor, in partnership with NW Harvest, again held a food drive for us from November 1 to December 25, 2015. Each $10 bag contained ten items including peanut butter, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, as well as cans of tuna, green beans, corn, chicken noodle soup and peaches.
This year Safeway kept track of the number of bags sold at the cash register and give us the food by the case every week or two. More work for our van driver, Tom Dale, but fewer volunteers were needed to make daily trips to Oak Harbor. In all, this year's drive meant much less work for all of us when during this extra busy holiday season.
Harvest Fest Relay Races
The 2015 Relay Races were a huge success. Despite pouring rain (again!), we had eight teams compete, and we raised nearly $14,000. Thank you to all who competed, donated money, and worked the day of the Races. The local newspapers and the community rallied to make another successful event.
Winner grabs $750 in food
Tom Rusnak switches off carts during his three-minute shopping spree. Image Credit: Megan Hansen
by MEGAN HANSEN, Whidbey Examiner Co-Editor
Nov 18, 2015
Tom Rusnak of Coupeville raced through Prairie Center Red Apple with speed and determination Saturday.
The rules were simple: Grab as much as you can in three minutes; only grab up to three of a single item; no meat and no alcohol.
Rusnak was the lucky winner of the Coupeville Lions Club annual Shopping Spree. Roughly $1,800 in tickets were sold and in those three minutes, Rusnak managed to grab nearly $750 in food items from about half the store.
“Three minutes went fast,” he said. “I thought I’d get farther.” While Rusnak can keep all of the items from the spree, he opted to donate part of his haul to Gifts From the Heart foodbank.
Lion Penny Barville said Rusnak’s haul was the largest to date. After paying his tab with funds from ticket sales, the Lions donate all remaining proceeds from the raffle to the food bank as well.
from Molly Hughes, June 2015
This FREE breakfast and lunch program was a partnership between GFTH, Coupeville Boys and Girls Club, Food Lifeline, and the USDA.
In the spring, Food Lifeline contacted me to see if we wanted to be a part of this program. USDA pays for it, and Food Lifeline organizes it. This is the same free lunch program that the south end has had for three years and Spin Cafe in Oak Harbor ran for the second summer. Food Lifeline provides the food, delivers it to us once a week, and provides all the marketing material. We just had to come up with the volunteers to run it. How could I say "no" to this offer? There has been a "feeling" in the community that we needed a summer meals program; this was a chance for us to test for that need. Food Lifeline is also trying to establish some partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs; however, they didn't even know we had a Club in Coupeville when they contacted me.
From the beginning, I wanted to develop an entirely new group of volunteers to run this program; I didn't want to ask the current food bank volunteers to take on yet another program, and the Boys and Girls Club did not have the staff to organize it.
Here are the basics of the program:
- Free breakfasts and lunches are provided to anyone 18 years and younger who show up and want them. They don't have to be food bank clients or B&G Club members. No proof of income is needed. All meals are delivered in individual sacks preassembled by Food Lifeline. Breakfasts are shelf-stable sacks consisting of milk, cereal and fruit. Lunch sacks contain fresh food and have five of the following types of items: milk, juice, string cheese, yogurt, carrots, oranges, apples, dried fruit, fruit cups, tuna, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, crackers, hard boiled eggs, etc. Food Lifeline also provides additional shelf-stable lunch sacks for backup. All meals meet the USDA's nutrition requirements.
- The program includes a "share bin" where kids can leave any food they won't eat and other kids can take what they want if they are still hungry. Leftover food is being used by the B&G Club for snacks. I love a program that doesn't waste food!
- This program ran the entire 11 weeks of summer. During the first week we fed most of the B&G Club summer camp kids every day, but the program was open to everyone. We served breakfast at the food bank every day (8:00-8:30) and lunch there as well, except on Wednesdays when we served in Coupeville Town Park (noon-1:00).
- We sent postcards with program information home with every school kid the last week of school. We had posters around town. We had a great write-up in the paper asking for volunteers and talking about the program. We put up a sandwich board outside of the food bank when we were serving. I worked with the newspaper to run another article.
- We got a good response for new volunteers from the newspaper article, and I also contacted several churches and service groups who jumped in to help. Needless to say, figuring out the schedule for two volunteers for breakfast and two volunteers for lunch every single day was the most time-consuming part of trying to get this program up and running in such a short time. We had a group of 22 volunteers show up for a training session along with all four of the B&G Club staff.
- Our GFTH Board Member, Ken Hofkamp, donated a refrigerator to us to store the fresh meals. The Soroptimists, Coupeville United Methodist Church, the Coupeville Lions, and the Parker Road Walking Group each volunteered to take a week of meal service. Some of the GFTH regulars found out about the program and also volunteered. We struggled with space to store all of the food supplies, such as the boxes of shelf stable meals, but slowly figured it out. Because the program is paid for by the government, there are rules to follow and reports to complete. This being our first year, we had a lot to do in a little time, but we pulled together to make the program a success.
Results from first week: We served 60 breakfasts and 120 lunches! This included two breakfasts and 16 lunches to community kids. We even had a surprise inspection from Food Lifeline and passed with flying colors.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Grant
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Central Snohomish Branch, awarded a $1,600 grant to GFTH this fall. As a result of this grant from Thrivent, GFTH volunteers Carol and Darrell Dyer were able to purchase 1776 cans of fruit for our clients at the Fred Meyers store in Burlington, who in turn gave the food bank a discount on this much needed purchase.
Thanks again go to these donors and volunteers whose generosity and hard work make such a positive impact on our efforts to provide healthy food for our clients.
Coupeville Lions Shopping Spree
The 2014 Coupeville Lions Shopping Spree took place on Saturday, November 15th, at Prairie Center Red Apple. The winning raffle ticket went to the Gifts From The Heart thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. During the three-minute spree, food bank volunteer, Mitch Incarnato, filled several carts and accumulated over $500 worth of food items that will help stock the shelves at GFRH. Thanks to the Coupeville Lions, Prairie Center Apple, and Mitch!
Mitch Incarnato - triumphant!
Mike Pearson, assistant manager at Prairie Center, with Mitch Incarnato
Coupeville Lions, Mike Pearson from Prairie Center, super shopper Mitch Incarnato, and food bank volunteers.
Coupeville High School Food Drive
In 2014, the Annual Coupeville High School food drive has been extended to December 5. The school has collected thousands of items (over 2,500 as of November 20). Here is a picture of some of the students help load the food donations into the GFTH van.
On November 11, 2014, The Coupeville Lions Club Treasurer announced that she had sent a check to the food bank for the Club's annual donation of $1,000 ($100 for the Lady Lions registration for the Harvest Fest Relay Races and the remainder as a $900 donation).
Then, the Club had the raffle drawing for the annual Shopping Spree and...the food bank won! This means GFTH will get to shop for three minutes and get as many groceries as possible as well as choose $50 worth of meat afterward.
Meals 2 Kids
The Gifts from the Heart Food Bank has embarked on a new program to ensure that Coupeville Elementary School children get sufficient food to eat on the weekends. The new program was described in the September 27, 2013 edition of the Whidbey Examiner and is reproduced on this website. A new page on this website is dedicated to this important new program.
Harvest Fest Relay Races
The 2014 Relay Races were a huge success! Despite pouring rain, we had nine teams compete, and we raised over $28,000. Thank you to all who competed, donated money, and worked the day of the Races. The local newspapers, and the community rallied to make another successful event.
- The Safeway food drive is off and running. The food from this drive has continued to improve over the years. This year's bags include a can of tuna, a jar of peanut butter, two bags of pasta, two cans of pasta sauce, and a large can of corn or beans. We will be processing this food in Cheryl's garage and sending it to storage in Greenbank. This arrangement will free up room at the food bank for all the holiday food drives and special holiday food that we purchase. Thank you to all who volunteered to make daily trips to Safeway to pick up these bags!
- The high school extended their annual food drive to December.
- The Elementary School held a food drive in November.
- Our own Jack Tingstad held his annual Model Railroad Open House on November 30th and December 1st. He asked that all who visited bring donations for the food bank. Last year Jack collected 1,000 pounds of food and $300 in donations.
- Many other churches and service groups hold small food drives at their monthly meetings in November and December.
Prairie Center - Holiday Open House
Ken Hofkamp again invited the food bank to participate in their big Holiday Open House event on Friday, December 6th. Ken set up a tent in the parking lot and served free coffee and cookies. There were many other yummy food samples inside the store. Mayor Nancy Conard and I were in the tent from 11:00 to 4:00 greeting people, asking for food donations, and accepting donations. We received $765, including a $200 donation from Prairie Center, and six boxes of food donations. Thanks Ken!
Prairie Center will be selling holiday meals again this year in November and December. Each bag has a turkey, ham, pie, bag of potatoes, and other good holiday food at a great price. Remind your friends that they can purchase a holiday meal for the food bank. Just let the cashier know you want add the cost of a holiday meal onto your total, and Prairie Center will keep track of the meals purchased for us. An easy, meaningful way to contribute during the holidays.
Red Apple Food Drive
Prairie Center also ran their own food drive; they sold a $20 bag of food for $10 and donated them to the food bank. These bags contained many wonderful items and have been put away and are on our shelves ready to give to our clients. The community supported this food drive in a BIG way. Thank you Ken and crew at Prairie Center!
Prairie Center Support
I just want to take a minute to make sure that everyone knows how important Prairie Center is to Gifts from the Heart. They order fresh produce for us all year long, we place huge case sale orders with them, they order and store our holiday turkeys and hams, they accept donations of food and money for us in their store, they promote us in their store flyers, they hold special events for us, they allow local groups to hold food drives for us in front of the store, they let us know about specials and sales, they place special orders for us…the list goes on and on and on. Most of these tasks require their department manager,s and other employees' time and use their limited storage space, but they are always happy to help. I don't know what we would do without 'our little local grocery store.' Thanks Prairie Center!
Dale Sherman, owner of Pioneer Farm, has been cutting his fabulous hubbard squash for us again this year. This squash is a wonderful, fresh, healthy donation that our clients look forward to. Dale donates hundreds of pounds of squash to us each year. Thanks Dale!
We will again have food bank Christmas cards "for sale." For a donation, we recommend at least $10 per card. People can purchase a card to send to a loved one instead of a gift. The front of the card says, "To celebrate the true meaning of the season, a gift has been made in your honor to Gifts from the Heart Food Bank." On the inside of the card is a place to write the name of the person the donation has been made in honor of and whom the card is from. The cards come with bright red envelopes. They are available in the Coupeville United Methodist Church office, which is open until noon every day, and at the Coupeville Town Hall, which is open 8:00 to 4:30 Monday thru Thursday. You can also get cards by calling 678-8312.
We receive many more generous donations from individuals, businesses, churches, and service groups during the holiday season. As you shop in these businesses or run into members of the groups who donate, please thank them for all they do for Gifts from the Heart.
Stamp Out Hunger
May 10 - "Stamp Out Hunger" is our annual Post Office food drive. Leave nonperishable food donations in your mail box, and your postal carriers will pick them up and bring them to us. This is a very important food drive for us, the second biggest of the year!
Memorial Day Parade
May - Annual Memorial Day Parade in Coupeville. Food bank volunteers drive our van in the parade, and the inimitable Gifts from the Heart Grocery Cart Drill Team marched with amazing precision. Thanks to all those who donated nonperishable along the parade route.
Incredible Grocery Card Drill team in action
Freedom from Hunger
August - We partnered with the Prairie Center Red Apple to collect cash for the food bank. This money is used to buy food during the summer when most food banks have a hard time keeping their shelves stocked. By telling any cashier at Prairie Center that you wanted to make a donation to the food bank when you are checking out you made a difference.
Harvest Fest Relay Races
October 11th - This year marked the seventh annual relay races held at the Coupeville Farmers Market. The races started at noon. This is our largest fundraiser of the year. Every year, teams of five are invited to register for this enormously entertaining event. Fun for everyone! Contact the Food Bank for details at 678-8312 or go to this page.
Greening of Coupeville Christmas Parade
December - The world famous Gifts from the Heart Grocery Cart Drill Team will once again be marching in the parade! Please bring your nonperishable food items to the parade route for the drill team to collect. Contact the food bank for details at 678-8312.
Contributors and Fundraising Events
Previous Coupeville Lions Shopping Spree
The Coupeville Lions Club sells Shopping Spree raffle tickets, and the winner gets to shop for three minutes in Prairie Center Red Apple.
In 2013, winners, Coupeville Lions Tom and Teresa Ellis, donated their winning ticket to the food bank. Cheryl Thomas, a food bank volunteer, was our shopper and managed to get over $500 in groceries in three minutes!
Scouting for Food
|These proud scouts show off their donations.|
The Greenbank Boy Scouts, Coupeville Boy Scouts, and Coupeville Cub Scouts have collected food for us during the National Boy Scout "Scouting for Food" food drive. This is a large food drive we look forward to every March.
Living Hope Vacation Bible School Food Drive
|Vacation Bible School members strike a pose in front of their food donations.|
For several years, the Living Hope Vacation Bible School has collected food every day during their week-long Vacation Bible School. This food drive has grown to become our third largest food drive of the year!
Coupeville Middle School Garden
|Ms. Welch and her students show off their tasty harvest of lettuce.|
The 7th and 8th graders in Ms. Terry Welch's class have grown a garden at the middle school and have donated the produce to the food bank for years. They grow early harvest lettuce and spinach in many different varieties. They usually get three harvests from their garden before school is out in June. Our clients appreciate this healthy, organic donation.
Knead & Feed
Did you know that Knead & Feed has been donating bread to the food bank once a week for years? Bread is an important staple and not easy to come by in the quantities we need. The next time you visit Knead & Feed, thank them for their donation and don't forget to support your local businesses that support the food bank.