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Tolt UCC's food pantry becomes ‘food bank’ outlet

Tolt UCC in Carnation became involved with grocery rescue with community groups as part of its response to COVID-19.    

Tolt UCC in Carnation has a food pantry outside.

Photos courtesy of Tolt UCC

“It all started with our Little Free Pantry that was built as a service project by a confirmand and her mentor,” said Kaila Russell, the church’s moderator.

The pantry was placed in front of the church about a month before the COVID crisis.

“There are hungry people in our community, and this was a way to help. People could take what they needed, and people could also donate nonperishable items,” she said.

In early March at the beginning of the COVID crisis, the local Hopelink foodbank reached out to the church, having seen the little pantry out front, to see if the church would help with receiving perishable items from grocery stores. 

Regulations had limited Hopelink’s ability to receive some foods during this crisis.  

“We began to partner with Hopelink’s grocery rescue program and with Platefull, another organization that rescues groceries rather than having them discarded,” she said.

“In early March, we began receiving both perishable and nonperishable items from eight grocery stores during the week,” said Kaila. “Some of the food was delivered to us, some was picked up by volunteers.”

A team of Tolt volunteers received the food, sorted and then organized it to be picked up by people in the community.

“Every week we would receive boxes and boxes of potatoes, onions, many kinds of fresh produce, fruits, milk, yogurt, cheeses and meats,” she said.

The “food bank” was open from 3 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays and again on Thursdays until all of the food was disbursed. 

People began lining up at 2:15 p.m. outside the church to pick up their food. 

Over and over volunteers heard, “Thank you. This is saving our family right now.” 

“People are so grateful.  We practiced social distancing, allowing two people through at a time to pick out their items,” said Kaila.

People appreciated being able to pick out what they would use.  There were limits on items to make enough available for everyone.

From 100 to 120 families come through each week.

“We initially committed to do this for two weeks. The end of May marked the end of three months,” Kaila said.

With a limited number of volunteers because of social distancing and the makeup of the congregation, along with the difficulties of storing food safely while temperatures were rising outside, Tolt ended the program at the end of May. 

Hopelink is working to restore their perishable food item pickups.

In the meantime, they are finding different places to take the groceries. 

“We will continue to receive groceries from one store on Wednesdays and have those items available for pickup,” Kaila said. “We will resume our weekly Free Community Meal on a take-out only basis.

“Our Little Free Pantry continues to be a blessing.  People in the community want to help others, and we have received so many food donations,” she said.

The church has turned its conference room into food storage for the pantry.  Volunteers stock it twice a day with donations. They also receive monetary donations to support it as well.

For information, call 425-941-6279 or email

Tolt UCC joins in international day of mourning

Cristine Airaghi, Steve Hadden and Kaila Russell lead vigil.

After its worship service on Zoom at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, May 31, Tolt UCC joined interfaith communities across the nation seeking to transcend divisions and calling people to lament, mourn and honor the dead in the National Day of Mourning and Lament for lives lost in the pandemic and in response to the injustice of racism, said Barb Lewis, office manager of Tolt UCC.

 Members of the church and community gathered in front of church with social distancing and face masks.

 “We gathered outside our chapel to share tolling of our chapel bell with statements to remember the recent deaths from the pandemic and to stand against racism, allowing the greater community to witness,” she said.

“We acknowledged the unequal suffering, prayed together for the healing of the nation and recommitted ourselves to the difficult work ahead,” she said. 

For information, call 425-333-4254.


Pacific NW Conference United Church News - Copyright © Summer 2020


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