When Rick Bentley took over as Executive Director of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank and Thrift Store at the beginning of 2013, he had big shoes to fill. Jeannie Ovenell, the founder, had started the food bank 30 years ago out of the trunk of her car, and had grown it into an incredibly valuable resource for the community. Since taking the reins, Bentley has continued the amazing work while improving the organization in many important ways.
In 2013, Stanwood Camano Food Bank remodeled its space to increase storage and to give the food bank more of a grocery-store feel. Additionally, they automated the check-in process, improved record-keeping, and streamlined operations so that the food bank runs in a smoother and more efficient manner. These improvements are helping Stanwood Camano Food Bank distribute an average of nearly 50,000 lbs. of food to over 450 families per month.
Open to clients on Wednesdays and Fridays, with Grocery Rescue and other food pickups occurring throughout the week along with many other volunteer activities, the Stanwood Camano Food Bank is a bustling hub of activity, and it is a very well-supported organization. The community surrounding the food bank takes it upon itself to do food drives throughout the year, such as the Stanwood Camano School District’s annual Fill the Bus food drive, and the North County Regional Fire Authority’s Explorer program’s food drive for Thanksgiving dinners, as well as many others. In addition to food donations, local businesses, community organizations, and churches provide approximately 60% of the proceeds with which Bentley and his staff purchase food.
Where does the other 40% come from? The thrift store, located in the same building as the food bank, provides the remaining proceeds that support the food bank. Stanwood Camano Food Bank would not be the same, or as big of a resource to the community, were it not for the invaluable support of the thrift store.
There are, of course, challenges that go along with running a food bank. One of the most pressing challenges facing Stanwood Camano Food Bank is storage space. Despite creating more space through remodeling and converting the garage into more storage, the food bank is stretching at the seams and is exploring options for increased storage. Another challenge is the reduction in food stamp benefits, although Rick and his staff and volunteers view it as an opportunity to give more and fill a void.
In the end, Bentley thinks that Ovenell, the founder, would be very pleased with the food bank were she to see it today. Thousands of people in need are being fed by an organization and community that truly cares for their neighbors, and Bentley intends to keep it that way for a long time.