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Growth, Gratitude, and Reflections on 2021

A message from the Executive Director of Sumner Community Food Bank

As I sit here and write this letter, I find myself reflecting on the man and his family to whom I delivered a package of food to earlier in the day. It’s the day before New Year’s Eve, and the thought that keeps entering my mind is that hunger takes no holidays. There is always a need, always a face, always an opportunity to serve.

I started volunteering at the Sumner Food Bank in June of 2020 after retiring from a rewarding 36-year career at Boeing. I wanted to start this retirement chapter of my life where I felt God had wanted me. I find myself humbled and in awe at the incredible works of His hand, His guidance, and the trust of our Board of Directors as I answered this call to serve as Executive Director in August of 2021. It is a privilege and honor to be a part of a cause that is so much bigger than me.

As we look back and reflect on the past year, it was full of challenges, beginning (and ending) with the pandemic, an attempted merger, and a significant and growing number of those who are challenged with food insecurities. But opportunities and possibilities were born from these challenges. We learned a lot about ourselves, discovered some gaps as an organization, and reinvented the way in which we serve our clients.

So how did we do to serve the food security needs of our community? Here are some of the statistics:

  • In June of 2021, we were able to provide food for 610 clients and 243 households. By December, those numbers had increased to 3,932 clients per month – a 544% increase.

  • Households we served climbed to 1,149 households per month - a 372% increase.

  • We brought in 1.2 million pounds and distributed an incredible 1.4 million pounds of food.

  • Partnered with 14 other food banks and pantries in Pierce, Thurston, and King counties.

  • Served clients spread across 20 cities outside of Sumner, reaching as far as Seattle.

We accomplished a lot in 2021: we added warehouse space to accommodate the increased volume of product, remodeled office areas, added additional vehicles for pick-ups and deliveries, hired a communications specialist, and implemented a new operations model. We also developed a partnership with Unite Us, an agency that connects our clients to local health and social service organizations to address their broader non-food needs.

Of course, all our accomplishments would not have been possible without the amazing staff and volunteers who give selflessly to meet the needs of those in our community. Nor would it have been possible without the partnership that we have established with our most generous donors. The staff and I have had so many cases in which we had a specific product or resource need and on that same day, it would suddenly appear. We just smile and shake our heads in gratitude.

With many accomplishments behind us, there is still more work that needs to be done. We have capital projects that need funding, growing demand that needs to be well managed, and an expansion of our network of partnerships to enhance our support of those in need in our surrounding communities.

I close this letter by sharing my personal experience as director of this food bank. I have come to realize that food insecurity is never an issue of lack of food. Rather, it’s always an issue of lack of community. The way I have witnessed our schools, businesses, faith community, and city leaders come together to address this common cause has been an inspiration in the human spirit. I am forever grateful to be a part of it.

In Humble Service,

Anthony Apeles

Executive Director

Sumner Community Food Bank

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