Whatcom View: United Way helps Bellingham Cold Storage connect with values

Salmon is sorted at Bellingham Cold Storage in 2013. In the last 10 years Bellingham Cold Storage and its employees have contributed more than $240,000 to United Way.
Salmon is sorted at Bellingham Cold Storage in 2013. In the last 10 years Bellingham Cold Storage and its employees have contributed more than $240,000 to United Way. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

When A.W. (Arch) Talbot, first came to Bellingham in the early 1940s to purchase a local shipbuilding company called Bellingham Bay Shipyards, he couldn’t have known the amazing legacy he was about to build in our community. Not only did Arch have a successful shipbuilding company for many years, but when the lull in that industry began, he open Bellingham Cold Storage in 1946. In the years following, our company has been committed to our employees, our customers and the community, and we are big supporters of United Way of Whatcom County.

Bellingham Cold Storage fosters an innovative and engaging culture where employees feel welcomed, appreciated, included and inspired. We know that happy and healthy employees make for a successful company. In 2012, Bellingham Cold Storage opened it’s very own primary care medical clinic for all employees and their families, which is free of charge. We are proud of the longevity of our employees’ tenure, our low turnover rate and high level of job satisfaction. We offer a number of programs to recognize the achievements of our employees and encourage them to take an active role in environmental sustainability and community outreach. Some of the things we provide include: free classes in English, math, and U.S. citizenship preparation, up to $500 per year in tuition to employees wishing to continue their education, school program support (sports teams, music programs, field trips, PTA, etc.), literacy programs, and smart commuter programs.

Our company and our employees are active in the community in a variety of ways. We provide free cold storage, warehousing, and donations of surplus food inventory to local food banks. Bellingham Cold Storage provides both ongoing monetary support to Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and have adopted the lower stretch of Squalicum Creek where we host employee restoration projects. We support local 4H projects to inspire and encourage kids interested in Whatcom County’s farming legacy. We also participate in a local “farm share” program, partnering directly with Cedarville Farm for weekly deliveries of local farm goods to employees. Employees serve on several nonprofit boards and volunteer in a variety of capacities around our great city, state and country and are extremely active in our annual United Way campaign.

In the last 10 years Bellingham Cold Storage and our employees have contributed more than $240,000 to United Way. Each year we hold a United Way workplace giving campaign for our employees, and Bellingham Cold Storage generously matches 100 percent of the contributions. We have employees who donate their time to work on our campaign and we conduct multiple presentations in every department in a variety of locations with hundreds of employees. We even allow and encourage employees to volunteer as part of United Way’s unique fund distribution process.

Most importantly the United Way campaign gives us an opportunity to connect with the values that we hold with the highest importance. Bellingham Cold Storage’s core values were developed and adopted by the employees themselves, and these core values guide our daily decisions: teamwork, integrity, quality, accountability and attitude. It’s no coincidence that United Way of Whatcom County aligns so well with our own values. A leader in teamwork, their motto is “Live United.” They utilize volunteers at every level of their work to raise awareness and funds, and to distribute and oversee the use of those funds. Quality, integrity and accountability guide every stage of United Way of Whatcom County’s work as they are committed to transparency and to partnering with efficient and effective programs that are changing lives right here in our community.

You might be wondering: I’ve heard of United Way, but what do they do? Well, they help change the lives of 100,000-plus people in Whatcom County each year. They look at the top issues affecting our community and work with a variety of strategies, projects and programs to solve those issues. Things like raising the high school graduation rate, which takes more than just one program to solve. It takes multiple programs and tactics to make a measurable change. Each year they work with over 40 programs to achieve specific community-wide goals in education, income and health. These programs are reviewed and held accountable for achieving specific goals:

▪ children and youth achieve their potential through academic success;

▪ families achieve financial stability and economic independence;

▪ individuals are healthy, avoid risky behaviors and live a life free from violence and abuse.

United Way is so much more than just a charity. They research current needs, vet and hold accountable all of their funded programs and work to create a stronger community that will benefit everyone. That’s why I believe in United Way and that’s why I am encouraging you to give to this year’s United Way campaign. Your gift to this year’s campaign will help change the lives of kids, families, and individuals. The more that is raised the more people will be impacted and the more programs they can partner with. Give at your workplace or go online to unitedwaywhatcom.org to contribute to this year’s campaign. Let’s make great things happen together!

About United Way of Whatcom County

United Way of Whatcom County runs more than 150 workplace giving campaigns during the fall to benefit Whatcom County’s Community Impact Fund, which focuses on education, income and health. For more information about making a contribution, conducting a United Way workplace campaign, or for more information about United Way of Whatcom County, go online to unitedwaywhatcom.org.


Doug Thomas has been president and CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage since 1999.