Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NK Fishline's Future in a New Home

On May Day 2014, volunteers at North Kitsap Fishline Food Bank will flip its sign to “closed” one last time, surely to be a poignant and melancholy moment, and an era will end. For 15 years, our building on Third Avenue has been witness to the hopes and dreams, and the fears and tears, of thousands of neighbors who humbly came to its doors during the toughest times of their lives. This building gave its all to warmly greet its visitors, and we could swear that somehow its rooms expanded to meet the swell of demand that is part of every downward economic cycle. 

From a building the same size as an average home, millions of meals were distributed, thousands received help to keep their homes or to keep them warm, thousands more had holiday meals or birthday gifts for their children who would have otherwise gone without. From the nine household visits a day that were typical when we first opened on Third Avenue, our daily average is now 120. The amount of food, people and supportive services necessary to sustain that level of need has grown in proportion, requiring increases in storage capacity, refrigerated space, office space, and parking.

It is remarkable that we’ve been able to make it work as long as we have. Our staff and volunteers have been so resourceful and patient. Most remarkable, though, is the support of our loving community — they have always kept the food and donations flowing through good times and bad.

As well as this building has done its job, it could no longer contain this kind of growth and expansion. A larger, more suitable space was finally found which could host the exciting programs that only needed a little elbow room to grow. 

Our community then came together, and a vacant Poulsbo RV showroom transformed to the welcoming safe haven which would become its new destiny. Excitement began to build, and donations came in from contractors, construction suppliers and so many groups, businesses and individuals. Volunteers spent their Saturdays painting and cleaning, pulling weeds and running computer wire. Joining together to prepare for the new chapter of this important community provider has been uplifting and galvanizing. 

When we complete this move, Fishline will be able to reach for its highest potential. The grocery-store style market, previously squeezed into 400 square feet, will now have 1,200 square feet of open-air shopping. Personal, heart-wrenching conversations with clients can now take place in private. Client enrichment classes and seminars, impossible to consider because we didn’t even have a meeting room before, can now be held in our Resource Center, a space that will also contain computers for client use. Our ability to provide wraparound services will grow as we invite community experts in the fields of finance, nutrition, employment and health care to be available for clients in need of their guidance. 

We will miss our little building on Third Avenue. Many extraordinary memories took place there. Peoples’ lives were changed for the better every day we opened our doors. And, thanks to the unflagging commitment of so many caretakers of Fishline’s mission through these 47 years, progress was made toward the goal that has guided us from the start, a community free from hunger and homelessness. 

The magic and beauty which made these moments and this progress possible goes with us, in the hearts of our noble volunteers and dedicated staff, in the gratitude expressed every day by our clients, in the generosity and greatness of spirit of our community. These reminders of the goodness of humanity transcend time and place and will guarantee the safety of troubled neighbors for years to come.

This article was originally printed at Kitsap Sun's website and can be found here.

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