By Ruth Ferris
A year ago, the Eatonville Family Agency Board learned of an offer from Food LifeLine to partner with a nearby Fred Meyer store. A food bank could receive excess food, which meant items like meat, dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables – items often found lacking in food bank shelves.
This offer sounded great. However, it was offered with a caveat. The agency receiving the food would need to be committed to picking it up every day of the week – each round trip being about 34 miles. And the vehicle used for pickup would need to have a way to keep food cold to assure safe delivery of anything needing refrigeration.
I have to confess that I immediately wrote off the offer, thinking that finding someone with that kind of commitment would be impossible. I wouldn’t have been surprised if others on the board admitted that they were having similar thoughts.
I’m happy to say I was wrong. The miracle of three men – Dan Casad, Dennis Collins and Gary Disch – who were willing to make that drive happened at just the right time.
The need for food was growing. Since April of 2012, the number of food baskets that are distributed by the food bank each month has not fallen below 230, reaching an all-time high in August of 286. In addition, over 40 children are receiving backpacks with food on Fridays to ensure that they are not hungry on the weekends. We really needed the extra food.
Casad began the first runs to Fred Meyer four days a week all by himself, before he went to work at his full-time job at Boeing. He was joined in February by Dennis Collins, a Family Agency board member, who now makes the Monday and Wednesday runs. Casad continues to make a bread run on Thursdays to Oroweat and Safeway, and the Friday run to Fred Meyer. Disch agreed to be a backup driver, and that was helpful when Casad recently broke his hand.
For each run, their commitment means getting to Eatonville Community Center, starting up the van, heading down State Route 7, arriving at the store and loading food into the van, heading back down the road, and ending with strong arms unloading the collected food at the center and getting it onto the shelves there – making glad the heart of Denise Bone, the food bank manager.
One recent week, one of the runs resulted in 330 pounds of bread, 31 pounds of meat and over 600 pounds of milk. The large amount of milk was due to a mistaken order, but because of the volunteers, someone was there to bring it back to the food bank.
My interview of these three men was one of the most upbeat that I have ever done. Each talked of how joyful he felt to be serving others.
The backup driver, Gary Disch, spends 10 to 20 hours a week helping at a variety of volunteer jobs. After 40 years of his work for the phone company, he now has time to help others. He describes his motivation as “what God puts in my heart.“
When Dan Casad heard of the need for a driver, he said that he would “give it a couple weeks.” That was over a year ago, and he continues to drive one day a week.
In addition to working full-time, caring for his livestock, tending his garden and canning, Casad “likes to help other people.” He describes it as having “been born with a heart of servitude,” especially for widows and veterans, those on fixed incomes.
Dennis Collins, who now does the Monday and Wednesday runs and a Thursday bread run, also brings the same devotion to serving others. He has been retired for 10 years, three of them spent in Eatonville. He brings a high level of competency and devotion to his food runs and to his work for the board. His philosophy is that “there is always some place to help, depending on what abilities you have.”
Each of the men could have seen the challenge as I did – impossible. They are all very busy; two have had injuries. Nevertheless, each says doing service for those who are needy brings him renewed energy and a sense of well-being.
They are the miracle workers who help fill the food bank shelves. Many in our community have an extra helping of food on their tables because of them.
Ruth Ferris is a member of the Eatonville Family Agency Board of Directors.