Nooksack Valley Food Bank

The Nooksack Valley Food Bank is one of this year’s recipients of the Lynden Tribune Readers Care Fund. (Courtesy photo)

LYNDEN — Food, friendship and fun. That’s what the Lynden Community/Senior Center is all about.

Being able to serve lunch each weekday is an important part of the center’s mission, according to Jennifer Lautenbach, the center’s manager. But the opportunity for people to engage with each other is equally important, she said.

This year, the Lynden Tribune Readers Care Fund will help support the Project Hope Food Bank, Nooksack Valley Food Bank, and the Lynden Community/Senior Center. Lautenbach said recently that he center “genuinely appreciate(s) the support and all that the Lynden Tribune does for us.”

“This partnership has meant a lot to us,” she said.

Support from the fund, Lautenbach said, will help the center’s meals program.

“It’s a privilege to support seniors with hot meals and delivery service for those who can’t join us in person,” she said. “We’re not a federally supported program. It’s a labor of love.”

Through Dec. 31, the Lynden Tribune newspaper is asking its readers to “join us in helping those families and individuals most in need” during the holidays.

Because the Lynden Tribune covers all administrative costs of the program, all money donated goes to the three organizations. Amy Steele, director of the Nooksack Valley Food Bank, said recently that Readers Care Fund support will help pay for Edaleen’s milk, as well as eggs and dry products from Grocery Outlet.

With its main location in Everson and a satellite location in Sumas, Nooksack Valley Food Bank will serve “anyone who is a Washington state resident,” Steele said.

This year, Nooksack Valley Food Bank plans to have a total of 180 turkeys “in case we have an overflow” of people who need a Thanksgiving meal.

“I think we’ll probably be around that number,” Steele said. “The number are picking up steadily. We were serving about 75 people a week during the COVID peak.

Project Hope Food Bank, in Lynden, also had fewer people coming out for food during the pandemic. Don Kok, the program’s executive director, said he thought there were fewer customers because of “governmental funds flowing directly to households.”

“Lately we’ve been seeing an uptick in people coming to the food bank,” Kok said. “We’re also seeing a significant increase of requests for community assistance, such as utility payments, partial rent payments, vouchers for gas, laundry and household goods.”

It’s that community assistance, Kok said, that the Readers Care Fund gift will likely help subsidize.

“One man on his way in here was able to pay his rent, but that left him with nothing else,” Kok said. 

For some, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, diapers, are the items people ask for at Project Hope, Kok said.

“And they’re expense,” Kok said. “We provide them when they’re available. Although we don’t purchase them because we are a food bank, people often ask for them because they’re significant and they’re expensive.”

Last year, readers contributed “a little over $17,000 to the fund,” Lynden Tribune owner/publisher Michael Lewis said. 

This year, the goal is $17,500.

“It’s really a collaboration,” Lewis said. “Each year we try to figure out if there’s someone different.”

Readers Care is in its 16th year. The fund has raised more than $192,000 since inception.