Kelso Eagles food bank flying under the radar, asks for help to meet growing need

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The Kelso Eagles Food Bank is one of Cowlitz County’s best kept secrets. The volunteers who run it want the community to know.

Many people think of the Eagles as just a bar, but members Rick and Wanda McBee said the Eagles are a non-profit organization that supports numerous charities. At Kelso, that work includes a handful of members who volunteer each month to hand out food crates to people going hungry.

There are several other food banks in Cowlitz County, but the need for volunteers has increased, especially with high prices this year, said Cynthia Washington-Matson, a supporting member of the Eagles.

“God put this in my heart to do this,” said Washington Mattson. I had to ask for food for my children.”

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About five years ago, Washington-Mattson began collecting and distributing food, initially for Eagles members only.

“Seeing the growth of Cowlitz County and the number of people going hungry, I wanted to open it up to everyone,” she said.

The Eagles gave her the OK, and Washington-Mattson and her fellow volunteers began handing out food boxes every month.

From the beginning, members of the Eagles and the Longview Presbyterian Church have been donating food, Washington-Mattson said. She says it has increased to

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Groups of five to seven volunteers meet on the second Tuesday of each month to prepare and pack boxes and bags for Wednesday’s rations. The next morning, they add perishables such as eggs and margarine before handing out the food to those in need who visit the door.

Another Eagles member, Roger Elliot, delivers food boxes to people who are stuck at home.

Volunteers have prepared bags with easy-to-open items that don’t require cooking for homeless people who stop by, Carolyn Martin said.

During distributions, Martin sits outside the back door to greet people and tell volunteers how much food each family needs.

“When I’m outside freezing, they’re there,” said Martin.

“Sweaty,” Wanda McBee exclaimed.

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Assembling the box is a lot of work for a group of retirees, but it’s well worth it.

“It gives you a warm feeling that you are doing something good for your community,” said Martin.

“It’s been very fulfilling for us,” says Sandy Wirkkala. “People are very grateful.”

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Kaitlyn Metzger

Volunteers often pay out of their own pocket for groceries to fill the boxes. Washington-Mattson and Wanda McBee usually shop at WinCo for the lowest prices, she said.

A new employee to the group, Bob Rathbun, was charged with dividing a large bag of flour and sugar into smaller servings and placing them in each food box.

“I’ve been there, so this is what I believe,” said Rathbun. “This organization and the world of women, I think that’s why I joined.”

Wanda’s husband and Kelso Eagles secretary, Rick McBee, said the organization receives monthly calls about food banks.

“It helps the community,” he said. “People helping people is our job and the purpose of the Eagles Fraternity.”

a head start

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks partnered with Head Start to help low-income families.

Early Head Start area manager Christine Langley said she reached out to Washington Mattson in the spring of 2020 when pandemic-related closures disrupted her family’s food supply.

Langley says many families in the Early Head Start program have limited transportation, making it difficult to get to other food banks. Early in the pandemic, Head Start began reaching out to her family to find the resources they needed, she said. For people who are short on food, the Eagles have put together boxes to help them survive the moon, said Langley, who said the group will send her to the moon depending on the needs of the family. We offer 8 to 20 boxes of.

“We have family members who share with us that they’re trying to figure out which bill to pay,” she said. You will be able to choose between paying for food or paying for food.”

Kelso Eagles food bank volunteers

From left, volunteers from Aerie 1555 Rob Rathbun, Wanda McBee, Sandy Wirkkala, Carolyn Martin, and Cynthia Washington-Mattson talk about plans for the Kelso Eagles Food Bank. The group provides about 50 boxes of food each month to people in need. They rely on monetary and food donations to make it possible.

Kaitlyn Metzger

Volunteers often do a little extra for the family, such as adding treats or Christmas cards to the box of the month, Langley said.

“Words cannot express how grateful we are to them,” Langley said. “They really have our family in mind. It’s something they appreciate so much that this group thinks of them…we know they’re not just in their tummies. , I feel that it also fills the hearts of the families we work with.

Eagles volunteers said they were happy to see the food bank grow, but they need more food and donations to keep it going.

Earlier this month, the Eagles hosted a spaghetti dinner that raised $2,200 for their food bank, and Saturday night bar bingo donated $120. often makes donations with individual donors, she said.

Rathbun asked grocery stores to donate to the program.

“These people need this food,” he said. “They are a depressed family.”

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