Families

Help feed the hungry this winter by volunteering

Volunteer Troy Peterson, left, executive director Mike Cohen, warehouse manager Matt Cooper and grocery rescue driver Melanie Swanson unload donations of food at the Bellingham Food Bank in Bellingham in January, 2015.
Volunteer Troy Peterson, left, executive director Mike Cohen, warehouse manager Matt Cooper and grocery rescue driver Melanie Swanson unload donations of food at the Bellingham Food Bank in Bellingham in January, 2015. The Bellingham Herald

As winter sets in and the holiday season is in full swing, we are reminded to be thankful for what we have and for those who support us.

Many of us want to give back in some way, and luckily there are plenty of opportunities for your family to volunteer and spread some cheer this winter.

The Lighthouse Mission

The Lighthouse Mission offers large Thanksgiving and Christmas meals each year and needs plenty of volunteers to help serve the tasty food.

“We have a little more trouble filling our needs for Christmas day,” said Audrey Myers, volunteer coordinator for the mission. “It’s a great family event. We have a lot of families that come down and participate.”

No experience is needed and kids 8 and older are welcome to volunteer with a parent or guardian. Registration is fast and easy online at the mission’s website. Go to TheLighthouseMission.org, and click on “How You Can Help,” and fill out the online volunteer form.

The Christmas meal will be served from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 25, at Assumption Church.

The mission also keeps an updated list of “Items We Need” on their website. Anyone who hopes to donate those items, which can range from kitchen needs to blankets and towels, can contact Bernie at 360-733-5120, ext. 103.

Bellingham Food Bank

Food drives seem to pop up all over the place around the holidays, and the best thing you can do before hosting one is to check with Bellingham Food Bank.

Here are some food bank suggestions to make sure you can help in the most effective way possible:

First, you could host a targeted drive, such as Food4Tots, to gather baby food and formula.

“Often what a group will do is contact local grocery stores and set up a table or tables outside one or several of those stores and collectively try to bring in 1,000 jars of baby food or donations up to $1,000,” said Mike Cohen, executive director at the food bank.

Raising cash especially helps the food bank, which can buy food a lot cheaper than the average person at the grocery store.

Another option is a Milk Money drive with the goal of collecting $1,000 to help pay for the 1,000 half-gallons of milk the food bank buys each week.

If you want to do a different food drive, Cohen suggests setting a target of how much you’d like to collect of one specific item, and then trying to work with grocery stores or neighbors to meet that goal.

“Whether that’s tuna fish, diapers, or peanut butter, that creates more energy and more of a campaign to the drive,” Cohen said. “We’re always happy to work with people to figure out what items we’re in need of.”

Additionally, some people might not be aware that the food bank can buy food a lot cheaper than the average person at the grocery store. Through partnerships with other hunger relief groups, the food bank can buy 1,000 pounds of food for just $100. That money often goes to buy perishable items, such as yogurt or cheese, fruits and vegetables, Cohen said.

Finally, there’s a new way to help out the food bank. With a recent extension into space finished in July, Cohen said, there is now room for groups to volunteer to gather for a few hours at a time to sort nonperishable food. Groups of four to 15 people can help, and it’s best if they are there for at least two hours, Cohen said.

More information is available at BellinghamFoodBank.org or 360-676-0392.

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