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STATE OF GIFTS FROM THE HEART

from President Molly Huges

Thanksgiving 2020

As the challenging and stressful year of 2020 comes to an end, we would like to report on how Gifts from the Heart has met and conquered those challenges.

Health and Safety - All volunteers are wearing masks and gloves and practicing social distancing while working in the food bank.  We have moved to a "no-contact" distribution system.  This means that our clients do not get out of their cars or come into the food bank.  Volunteers get their check-in information and bring the food to their cars.  

Volunteers - Many of our regular, long time volunteers are considered high-risk for getting COVID and have had to take a break for working at the food bank.  We have been lucky to have replaced them with Coupeville Lions, Navy and college students during the pandemic.  These new volunteers have shown up for every distribution and have quickly learned how to fulfill our mission of "respectfully providing food to those in need."

NW Harvest/Food Lifeline - We have temporarily lost our partnership with NW Harvest, who has traditionally provided 30% of the food we give away.  We were temporarily set up with Food Lifeline.  While this new partnership did not give us as many options of procuring food, they have been a pleasure to work with and have done the best they can for us.  Gifts from the Heart has also received hundreds of boxes of emergency food from the state this summer.  These boxes contained fresh produce, dairy and protein and were a lifesaver during this time of grocery shortages.

Money - Our community has been unbelievably supportive with cash donations during the pandemic.  Without us asking, they sent in thousands of dollars during the second quarter of the year.  This has been helpful as the price of food has gone up tremendously and more importantly we have lost the ability to purchase food in quantity (case sales).  As grocers around the country have experienced shortages we were no longer able to buy in bulk. 

COVID Grants - Gifts from the Heart received two grants from Island county from their federal COVID Cares funds.  This summer one of our old refrigerators broke beyond repair and we received money to replace it.  We also received a grant to help make up for the increased cost of food purchases.

Food - As a result of the pandemic we have not been able to hold the five largest food drives of the year: Post Office, Hospital, Elementary School, Middle School and High School.  These drives are very important to keep food on the shelves.  We had a good stock of essentials going into the pandemic but that inventory has been depleted. The all important NW Harvest/Safeway foor drive going that happens each holiday season has also changed from us receiving thousands of pounds of essential food to a gift card drive.  While gift cards we can give to our clients is good for a few distributions it will in no way make up for the loss of inventory. Watch for a large community food drive in early 2021.

Need - On any given distribution this year, we are seeing a 10% to 15% increase over last year in families needing food.  We served 141 families for Thanksgiving and expect the same for Christmas, this is a 13% increase over last year.  We have been planning for these holidays since September and every family who showed up received a holiday bag and a turkey.  During the pandemic, Gifts from the Heart has never missed a distribution, run out of food or turned anyone in need away during this pandemic.

Meals 2 Kids (M2K) - This is our weekend backpack program that provides bags of food for students who experience food insecurity when they are not in school.  With the schools closing and normal parent pick-up and bus service having been disrupted, the M2K volunteers have worked hard with our school district partners to keep this program going. This group of volunteers has had to be particularly flexible and creative in getting this critical food home to the students.

Thank you! - Gifts from the Heart is hugely dependent on support from our community and our community did not let us down during this pandemic.  We are so grateful and humbled by your support and will keep working hard to be good stewards of your donations and trust while helping our neighbors with food shortages. 

Molly Hughes
President

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