To Preston Ballou, community service was an obligation, something he had to do to graduate from Redmond’s Overlake School. That’s how the 17-year-old thought of his school’s requirement for 60 hours of community service—until, that is, he began volunteering for food drives, such as the annual Eastside Food Drive. “I like working with food because everybody needs food,” the Kirkland resident said. “And working with the basic necessities is really rewarding. I really get a chance to connect with people.”
Ballou, now a senior, has already devoted more than 110 hours to community service. And on September 15 and September 29, he says he’ll devote more. On those days, Ballou will join more than 200 other volunteers at one of Kirkland’s 11 grocery stores. There, he’ll contribute to a cause he has come to believe in: Feeding the hungry.
It’s all part of the month-long Eastside Food Drive, the community effort that last year raised $11,000 and collected more than 60,000 pounds of food—enough to feed 100 people for more than five months.
The contributions couldn’t come at a better time.
“Hunger relief programs tend to be pretty popular during the holidays,” said Brian Anderson, executive director of the Emergency Feeding Program,. “But hunger is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a week problem. Our shelves start to dwindle as we get through the summer. When we get to fall, we’re in need of a little help.”
A lot of that help comes on two days in particular, when volunteers collect food from shoppers at Kirkland’s 11 grocery stores. Last year, volunteers collected $3,000 and nearly 12,000 pounds of food on Kirkland’s two grocery store days alone—about 20 percent of the total amount of food brought in throughout the entire month.
“As I like to say, that’s about six tons,” said Norm Storme, one of the food drive’s volunteer coordinators.
In 2009, volunteers collected 26,000 pounds of food on the two grocery store days.
“Those two days are really, really important,” Storme said. “And that’s why our volunteers are so important. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Ford of Kirkland will be providing 24 of the volunteers—enough to staff the Totem Lake QFC supermarket for Sept. 15 and Sept. 29. And the Church of Latter Day Saints will be providing 48 volunteers, scattered between Houghton’s Metropolitan Market, Bridle Trails’ Red Apple Market, the South Rose Hill Safeway and QFC at Parkplace.
The rest, however, are like Preston Ballou, individuals who recognize the urgency of other peoples’ needs and the need for their own contributions.
“I like to know that I’m helping people,” he said. “It’s always fun if you have people helping you too, working with you. Especially if you see smiles on their faces. That lets you know you are helping.”
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