What is poverty? We normally think of it in terms of not having enough resources to fulfill the needs of daily living, and we think in terms of economic poverty. There are other aspects of poverty: a person can lack a social network, a sense of purpose in life or confidence in his or her abilities.
Every one of us has experienced poverty in some area at some time in our lives.
Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH was incorporated in August 1985, when a group of people believed that poverty is a result of circumstances and every person in our community is our neighbor. Neighbors care about and take care of one another.
Our motto has been “Neighbor helping neighbor” since our inception. Everyone in the greater peninsulas area is a member of Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH by contributing food or money, volunteering in some aspect of our operation and/or receiving services. We deal with poverty in our community by entering into a relationship with our neighbors.
Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH is oldest of three food banks located in area and is more than a food bank. In addition to providing food, we offer financial assistance to those who have low incomes to help them pay rent, water, power or other basic utilities; urgent transportation to medical appointments; summer camp and summer school funds for school-age children; school supplies; counseling assistance for school-age children and their families; used clothing, small household goods and appliances; Christmas baskets and toys; associated educational expenses for college students who live in the Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula area; and telephone monitors who answer calls from those in need.
People qualify for services if they can prove residency in our catchment area (usually a bill mailed to their address) and can demonstrate a need (income falling at or below the federal poverty level, unexpected bills, etc.). Picture identification is also needed at time of service.
Many students use the food bank for their senior projects or community service hours by organizing food drives or other events that benefit the food bank, or by volunteering for Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH.
People, young and old, ask guests to bring food donations to birthday or anniversary parties instead of gifts, and the items are then donated to the food bank. Local markets donate food, and we hold a food drive each month at Safeway on Point Fosdick Drive NW.
More than 240 volunteers provide all of the services, and there are no paid staff members. Since we are an all-volunteer organization, 96.4 percent of donations are used to help those in the community who request our services. Only 3.6 percent of donations are used to pay for the food bank rent, utilities and office expenses.
As you can imagine, requests have increased considerably in the last couple of years as families struggle to earn enough to pay for housing and basic bills and have money left over for food. High gasoline prices are impacting us all, but especially the low-income families.
In 2012, the food bank fed 3,576 families. That represents 3,916 children and 1,354 elderly individuals. The majority of our clients work (2,331) but don’t earn enough to cover all of their expenses.
During the same time period, our financial aid workers spent more than $119,000 to help 500 low-income families pay rent, utilities or other expenses to keep them in their houses and able to get to their jobs.
Our drivers provided 133 rides to medical or dental appointments. Our Christmas program provided 193 food baskets and 250 children with toys.
The food and clothing bank is located at 4425 Burnham Drive NW and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Information about community resources is available by calling 253-851-8800; people can apply for financial assistance and request transportation for medical and dental appointments by calling the same number.
Assistance for school-age children can be accessed through the Peninsula School District counselors. Donations — food, clothing, household goods and money — are welcome any time the food bank is open.Barbara Turecky is the secretary of the Board of Directors for Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH.