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Methow Valley food bank's name, The Cove, means 'safe harbor'

COVE food bank

COVE is in a storefront in Twisp.

The food bank serving the Methow Valley has a community-building twist.

Eight years ago, COVE—Churches of the Valley Extended—started as a food bank distributing food after neighbors, who are both clients and volunteers, share lunch.

They chose the name, COVE, because of it’s meaning as a safe harbor, a shelter from the storm.

It started as an extension of the United Methodist Church in Twisp, seeking to share God’s love with the community through a charitable organization.

Now it involves 40 volunteers in various ministries. Volunteers come from nine churches and five communities in the valley.

Each Thursday, about 65 families come to the storefront food bank for lunch from 1 to 4 p.m. at Jaime’s Place, a café setting on the main street in Twisp.  Also COVE’s office, it is open weekdays.

People sit at tables as a community and spend time meeting neighbors—both volunteers and people in need.

“A meal provides a core element for the gathering,” said the director, Glenn Schmekel.

As they converse, volunteers interview families, learning what towns they are from, the number of people in their families, what help they need beyond food, their prayer requests and their physical needs such as for help with utilities, rent, car repairs, medical expenses or furniture.

People leave with one or two bags of supplemental food.

“We keep a list and try to match needs with those who can assist and by providing funds to pay vendors, not clients,” Glenn said.  “We also offer classes on banking and budgeting to help people with their financial difficulties.”

Four years ago, COVE formed Faith in Action Guardian Angels, volunteer caregivers and friends for the elderly and shut-ins.  Those volunteers contact and visit someone once a week to keep aware of their situation and network with people in the community.

There are 25 angels.

COVE

Neighbors meet neighbors at the COVE.

“The idea is to help neighbors in need in five Methow Valley communities—Carlton, Mazama, Methow, Twisp and Winthrop,” Glenn said.  “We want to help people remain independent in their own homes if they can do it with a little help.”

When COVE learned there was no adult care facility in the 50-mile stretch of the Methow Valley, the board decided to build an assisted-living nursing home for six people, so residents can stay in the area and remain connected with friends, family and children. 

That building, funded by a bequest, will be finished soon. 

Churches and social clubs provide ongoing support for the $50,000 COVE budget.

Each church takes responsibility different weeks, sending volunteers to provide services. 

Churches involved include the Church on the Rise Assembly of God, Methow Valley Baptist, Community Covenant, St. Genevieve’s Catholic, Friendship Church of Winthrop, Christian Missionary Alliance, Methow Valley Calvary Chapel, Mazama Community Church and Twisp United Methodist.  Many have 100 or fewer members.

Glenn, a transplant from California 34 years ago, came to the valley to escape city life and be part of an intentional Christian community, called the Second Mile Branch.

Over the years, the community’s land shifted from community to private ownership.  Participants remain close friends, Glenn said.

About 7,500 people live in the Methow Valley, where the economy is based on tourism, the Forest Service, and real estate.  It is a growing community for people with second homes, who are part-year residents.  It is also a recreation area for cross-country skiing, biking, hiking, art, theatre, painting and music.

Glenn previously taught elementary grades in public schools and for seven years directed local home-school programs.

Involved about 10 years in the United Methodist Church, Glenn said he had “a divine revelation” while hiking and contemplating.  It came in the form of a question:  “Are you planting any seeds that will grow into harvest?”

Glenn met with his pastor and other people in the community.   He proposed helping area people in need by starting a food bank based on friendship and fellowship, with neighbors meeting neighbors.

People needed an organized way to connect with people in need,” he said.

For example, now many people in the area who have gardens plant a row for the food bank, bringing extra produce in season.

“I had been oblivious to my neighbors’ needs—people in low-income housing, people without cars, people who are disabled.  I lived in my world of activities.  This opened my eyes and heart to more of my neighbors, giving me more friends,” Glenn said.

His involvement has given more meaning to scriptural calls to give a cup of water, to visit a neighbor and to provide food.

I feel the Gospel is best lived out and demonstrated, rather than spoken,” he said.  “Many people in organized religion do not know what to do to help.  This program helps volunteers share gifts of hospitality and caring with new friends, so they better understand that the community includes the poor and those in need.

“We could all be in need at any time, so we do not want to just give handouts, but to be neighbors helping neighbors,” he said.

Many churches support it through their budgets or with funds they once used to help transients.  Transients no longer go church-to-church, but each church has someone to call to help meet the needs.

“It’s a way to be involved outside our congregation.  A circle of friends gives monthly, through fund raisers—a golf tournament and other events.  We also have a food drive reaching every post-office boxholder in the Valley,” Glenn said.

For information, call 997-0227 or visit CoveCares