Thursday, October 8, 2009

Harvest Ball Will Benefit Bonner County Food Bank

Asking for help is never easy. But as the cost of living continues to increase, many people – especially seniors – are finding themselves having to make choices no one should have to make. This is something Alice Wallace witnesses almost every day.

Wallace is director of Bonner County Food Bank in Sandpoint. Her mother, Florence Carter, started the food bank in 1980 and Alice took over in 1997, a time when the food bank served approximately 2,100 people each month.

“It’s been a steady increase for years,” said Wallace, who adds that in August they served 4,200 clients – more than 10 percent of the population in Bonner County. Yet, the food bank still has only three employees, the same number as in 1997.

Wallace has many stories of her clients. One story she shares is of an elderly couple who recently visited the food bank for the first time. They held onto each other as their eyes perused the shelves. Wallace said she recognized the couple from the day before, when they came into the bank but left without saying a word. But on this day Wallace invited them into her office, talking to them and listening to their story.

The couple was like many others – having to make a choice between purchasing much-needed medications, paying their rent or purchasing food to put on the table. For the last two weeks they had eaten only bologna and white bread. But after filling out their list of preferred foods, the couple left with healthy food and hearts full of gratitude.

Wallace said she has seen more and more seniors, who are not used to asking for help, find the courage to come into the food bank, and she is grateful that they do.

“They will get by without or try to figure something out. But today they are on a fixed income, prices are increasing and they need our help,” said Wallace, who estimates that the Bonner County Food Bank will distribute at least 500,000 pounds of food this year.

“These are people losing their homes or are unable to pay for medication. It is devastating to a family when they have to go through something like that,” said Wallace.

In addition to food, Wallace has a new-coats-for-kids program. She stretches the grant money she receives, and this year was able to purchase $6,000 to $7,000 worth of coats for $900.

“We have so many families who have never had a new coat, hats or mittens,” said Wallace.

The food bank also distributes Salvation Army gas vouchers to travel to medical appointments, prescription vouchers and vouchers for diapers and infant formula.

Wallace said the process is simple. People only need to show that they are residents of Bonner County and bring proof of income. The application process takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

The food bank has an annual budget of $145,000, and is always in need of funds. Its sole fundraiser, the Fall Harvest Ball, will be Saturday night. The event began last year when a group of local chefs wanted to give back to the community that has supported them.

The concept behind the event is to have local chefs cook for those in the community who are hungry.

Local realtor Patrick Werry has the role of recruiting and coordinating restaurants and chefs.

“I am so impressed with the restaurant owners and the chefs with their participation,” said Werry. “The idea was put in front of them and it is awesome to see the passion they have for this event.”

Some of the participating restaurants include 41 South with Chef Jeremy Heidel, Trinity at City Beach with Chef Edsol Sneva and Dish Home Cooking with Chef Lucas Mason. Also participating is Pine Street Bakery.

Each restaurant will feature a course of the five-course meal, and entertainment will be provided by Carl Rey & the Blues Gators.

Last year the group reached its goal of $10,000 and this year they hope to raise even more.

“All of the money goes right back into Bonner County,” said Wallace. The event will be at the Sandpoint Events Center from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost is $50 per person, and Wallace said there are many items for people to bid on, including a bicycle, float plane ride, approximately 50 gift certificates to area stores and restaurants and an autographed shirt from former NFL player Jake Plummer.

The event will also serve as the kick-off to the Easy to Care Program. People can sign up to have monthly donations of as little as $5 automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts.

“Almost everyone has been affected in one way or another with our economy,” said Werry. “A small amount can go a long way in someone else’s life.”

For tickets to the Fall Harvest Ball, Saturday from 6-10 p.m. at Sandpoint Events Center, call Karel Miller at (208) 946-6646 or contact the food bank at(208) 263-3663. Tickets are $50 per person

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