News Items

Gifts from the Heart turns sweet 16

By Laura Guido, Coupeville Examiner
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Judy Smith and Anni Campbell
Judy Smith and Anni Campbell volunteer at Gifts from the Heart Food Bank, which is celebrating its 16th birthday on 14 February, 2018.
Photo provided by Molly Hughes

Clients at Gifts at the Heart Food Bank will be in for a rare sweet treat to celebrate the coincidence of two holidays falling on the same day.

Today marks not only Valentine's Day but also the food bank's Sweet 16 birthday.

It also happens to be on one of the organization's distribution days, which only occur on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.

"I just thought it was funny that we'd be open on Valentine's Day and it's our real sweet 16," said Molly Hughes, president of Gifts from the Heart and Coupeville mayor.

Ken Hofkamp, food bank board member and owner of Prairie Center Red Apple, purchased 100 bags of candy and Hughes placed notes on each one that read,"Gifts from the Heart Food Bank is Sweet 16 today! Happy Birthday to us and Happy Valentine's Day to You!"

In 16 years, the food bank has gone from serving one person its first distribution day to between 85 and 95 families each time, said Hughes. The group started in the lobby of "the brown house" on Main Street in Coupeville, went to "literally a closet" in Greenbank, then an unused walk-in refrigerator to their current location at the old Coupeville fire station, she said.

Hughes said as the anniversary approached she started reminiscing about the food bank's history.

Hughes became involved when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper that a group of volunteers would be distributing food on Valentine's Day in 2002. She stopped by to help and kept volunteering with the group from that day on, she said. As more people starting coming to receive food, the group was told they had to find another location.

"We became a little disruptive," said Hughes.

Eventually, the growing operation was allowed to set up shop twice a month at the fire station at the time at 203 N. Main St.

Hughes remembers setting up tables and food behind the fire trucks and having to rush everything out of the way when the fire alarm went off.

When the fire district changed locations, she said the fire chief at the time, Joe Biller, was to credit for allowing the food bank to stay.

"He was really instrumental in getting the fire commissioners to agree to let us rent the old fire station," she said.

Hughes credited a number people for keeping Gifts from the Heart open, including the approximately 40 consistent volunteers, about 10 of which she said have been with the group its entire 16 years of existence. She also acknowledged the importance of all the donors and organizations that hold large food drives every year as a factor in its success.

"It takes an army to get all this done" she said.

Many local businesses regularly contribute to the food bank's supply. Different businesses and members of the community have made programs such as Meals 2 Kids, which sends Coupeville Elementary School students who are in need home with food for the weekend, possible, she said. "We just have such a wonderful community," Hughes said.

"It's their consistent food drives and consistent donors that get us through year after year."

Click for original article in Coupeville Examiner.

Scouting for Food

On Saturday, April 15th, 2017 the Coupeville Cub Scouts and Coupeville Boy Scouts conducted their annual Scouting for Food drive. The Scouts collected numerous bags of food, which they donated to GFTH to help fill our shelves. Thank you to this great group of Scouts, their leaders, and the Coupeville community for another successful drive!

Coupeville Scouts Quinten, Alex, Wesley, Gabe, Jesse, Jack, Jonathan, David, Nicholas, and Isaiah

Coupeville Scouts Alex, Nicholas, honorary member Osvie, and Alexander

Oystercatcher donations

Sara and Tyler Hansen

Sara and Tyler Hansen, owners of the Oystercatcher Restaurant in Coupeville, donate freshly-baked bread every week to the Meals 2 Kids program. Because of their generosity, the weekend bags now include a half loaf of Oystercatcher’s delicious bread for each child.

What a welcome and healthy bonus for all!

In addition, The Oystercatcher regularly donates bread for our clients on distribution days.

Knead & Feed and Lavendar Wind

Did you know that Knead & Feed and Lavendar Wind have been donating baked goods to the food bank once a week for years? The next time you visit Knead & Feed or Lavendar Wind, thank them for their donation and don't forget to support your local businesses that support the food bank.

Meals2Kids Fundraiser


On March 28th, Andreas and Lisa Wuzrainer, owners of Christopher’s, and John Tristao of the musical group "Johnny Bulldog" partnered to organize another fabulous fundraiser for our Meals 2 Kids program. Andreas donated 100% of the full four-course meal and paid his staff to work on their night off; the staff donated their tips; and John and his band donated the music. Thanks to their generosity, the entire price of the event tickets went directly to the Meals2Kids program!

Many thanks go out to all those involved in making this evening a success along with all those who attended to support our community food bank and this important program!

Nonprofit of the year

At the 2017 Coupeville Chamber of Commerce annual Excellence Awards, the Gift From The Heart Food Bank was chosen as the nonprofit of the year. We were recognized for the 15 years of service we have provided to our community and those in need. Both the food bank and our Meals 2 Kids school program were recognized. The Chamber noted that we do our work quietly, without a lot of fanfare, and we had been nominated for flying under the radar for so long. Congratulations to each and every one of you who keeps our programs running, week in and week out. You are all so dedicated and committed to the jobs you do. We could not do it without your faithful service. Thank you!

HarvestFest Relay Races raise over $11,500 in 2017

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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.

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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."

Click for article.

Safeway Food Drive

Safeway of Oak Harbor, in partnership with NW Harvest, again held a food drive for us from November through December 2017. Each $10 bag contained ten items including peanut butter, pasta, macaroni and cheese, as well as cans of tuna, green beans, corn, soup and fruit.

Winner grabs $750 in food

Shopping Spree

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.

Click for article.

Kids' Café

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:

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.