By Matt Nagle
For years, the walk-in refrigerator at Tacoma Adventist Community Services food bank was in pretty bad shape. The staff made do with what they had, not letting it stop them from serving their many clients with special dietary needs, but there was no getting around the fact that the cooler needed work.
“There were holes in it, the cold air would leak out and it would overheat,” due to the compressor unit having to work double-time, said executive director Leslie Badgley.
Facing repair costs much too high to afford, Badgley and volunteer coordinator Lori Caley-Thorne turned to Mike Snyder for help. He and his wife, Sandy, have been helping out at the food bank for upward of 20 years and have long been loyal helpers who Badgley and Caley-Thorne can always turn to.
“Over the years, Mike has been a real friend. I can always call on him anytime I need something,” Caley-Thorne said, and that’s just what she did.
Enlisting the help of his brother and construction contractor Dorman Voshell Jr., he and Mike got right to work. Mike purchased insulation and laminate paneling and Dorman bought the hardware to install it. Together, the brothers transformed the inside of the refrigerator in looks and functionality.
“It made a big difference,” Mike said. “Eventually we want to get in and silicone it too,” for added sealing. He and Dorman also paneled the walls of a main hallway with particle board veneer and have leftovers to make even more improvements.
“We do the best we can,” Mike said, his humbleness belying the fact that his and Dorman’s work has a long arm in terms of how many people it will help as the specialty food bank continues to serve clients with health concerns like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
“Our maintenance is horrible because there’s no money for that – there’s money for food, but not for maintenance,” Caley-Thorne said.
And visible improvements at the food bank make for something that can be seen in terms of people reaching out to help, just as donated funds to pay bills provide the unseen aspect of supporting your local food bank. Both are equally important and both bring joy to the hearts of those who give of their time to make sure that people do not go hungry.
Due to Mike’s connections, he was able to expend much less money for the materials than the food bank would have had to pay in materials and labor to hire someone to do the work.
As Caley-Thorne said, “It’s huge if you can get people who have a connection, have a way. All the painting that has been done in here was from paint that people donated. It’s all different colors, but it’s clean and it works.”
Sandy Snyder is another key helper at the food bank. In addition to being reliable and committed to the food bank’s mission, she takes it upon herself to provide work gloves for the crew by re-purposing work gloves from her and Mike’s workplace at Mikron Industries in Kent.
“Where we work, our production employees are required to wear cut-resistant gloves and when they get dirty or worn out, I save them,” Sandy explained. “When I get a bag full, I take them home, wash them and bring them here so they can be used again. When you’re unloading the (food) truck, it’s nice to have your hands protected from slivers and things like that. Anything you use, you can recycle and I’m all for that.”
Even though she and Mike work full-time jobs, they make time on their days off for the Adventist Community Services food bank. Mike is a second generation volunteer, as he learned of the food bank from when his mom used to volunteer there.
“When we come in and Lori says, ‘We could use this’ or ‘We could use that,’ if it’s something that we can do, we do it,” Sandy said. “It’s just one person helping another.”
“You can be just one person or one family and it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it,” Caley-Thorne said. “‘What can I do? I’m just one person?’ I hear that all the time. If you do one thing consistently, it’s a lot.”
There is already another project on the list for when Mike is done with the walls – to fix up the bare concrete floors, which are full of “potholes” and cracks after decades of use. The food bank could use some help with this as well, or with any of the tasks at hand that it takes to operate.
“There are lots of ways to help that don’t require writing a check or giving up your time,” Caley-Thorne said. Plant a veggie garden and donate the excess. Don’t toss your old clothes; take them to the food bank where they can sell them by the pound and help pay bills.
If you have extra brown paper shopping bags, the food bank will take them off your hands and you’ll get a little prize for doing it.
To learn more, visit www.tacoma-acs.org or call (253) 272-8289.