SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash., Apr. 20, 2020—

Craig Olson, a retired scientist, has been volunteering at the Skagit Food Distribution Center since 2017. When Craig shows up in a van full of food boxes, he makes the day for home-bound seniors. He delivers USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program food boxes to low-income elders who have trouble getting out of the house to get food. He also helps pack food boxes, delivers food to some of the 15 food banks served by the Food Distribution Center, unloads large food deliveries from Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest, and helps train new volunteers. Craig is part of our staff and volunteer team increasing safety and access to food during COVID-19.

Serving the entire county, Community Action operates the Food Distribution Center as the central hub for purchasing large quantities of food, and the cold and dry storage for most of the food going to local food banks. In February, Community Action supplied 70% of food bank stock, and that jumped to 83% in March. In addition to getting much of their food supplies from the Food Distribution Center, local food banks currently also rely on grocery rescue, food purchases and direct donations for 17-30% of the food they give away.

When asked why he volunteers, Craig noted, “My parents were very accomplished, capable, and responsible people, but in their later years that capability was progressively lost. With no family nearby, a very generous volunteer drove them for errands.” 

Craig said that personal experience opened his eyes to the power of neighbor helping neighbor. “Note to self,” he remembers thinking, “be like that as soon as I can.” For Craig, that chance came with retirement. “And it came with a sense of urgency,” he said, “knowing that the functional years ahead of me are few, to be vigorously generous with my capabilities while I have them.”

Craig encourages others to give of themselves. “There are a LOT of ways to give meaningful help with a few hours a week,” he said. “I feel fortunate that Community Action is established and effective in helping so many people experiencing needs locally. That makes it easy for me to find service opportunities that fit me, are already up and running, effective, safe, and organized. In my case, helping at the Food Distribution Center is a comfortable and rewarding fit. I highly recommend going through Community Action to find meaningful ways to enrich neighbors who need some support. And you know what? Turns out that doing so is very effective at enriching the helper’s life too!”

In addition to giving time as a volunteer, Craig encourages others to give financially. “For those of us who don’t have our finances pulled out from under us during the pandemic, but who still get Federal stimulus money, let’s join the movement to ‘pass it through’ by donating to organizations helping others in financial crisis.”

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