The Queen Anne Helpline is stepping up to bat this spring season, meeting the growing food needs of residents on the Hill.
The Helpline office has seen an increase in phone calls from families and the elderly seeking food assistance. Patrons of the clothing bank, who normally take just items of clothing, have started taking more nonperishable food items off the Helpline shelves as well.
Suzanne McCallum, assistance director of the Helpline, says the increased need can be attributed to many factors, but closures have played a big part. "We're getting a lot more referrals because of closures; you can just see the impact they've had in the increase of calls from people," she said.
Two specific shakeups cited by McCallum are the Emergency Feeding Program, which was run by the Council of Churches but is currently in transition and being reorganized, and the Bethany Queen Anne Food Bank, which closed in the fall. The Bethany closure has had a more direct impact on the Hill.
For nonresidents who call in for food help, the Helpline staff offers referrals to two other nearby food banks in downtown Ballard and the Cascadia neighborhood. For residents of Queen Anne, the Helpline can do more.
In collaboration with the three grocers on the top of the Hill - Ken's Market, Metropolitan Market and Safeway - the Helpline is able to offer a variety of food assistance. The largest aid comes in the form of food vouchers, which the Helpline gives to clients and the grocers agree to accept.
Ken's Market has a food barrel out in the entry area for collecting nonperishable food donations. Ken's manager Joe Vizzare says the work with the Helpline fits their goal to stay connected with the community in a meaningful way: "Working with the Helpline is a nice fit for us. We love to help out with food donations. I wish we could do even more."
Ken's Market also supports the Helpline with coin donation jars on its countertops. The jars provide needed revenue. Ken's also accepts bus vouchers.
Metropolitan Market has had coin jars on its counters for as far back as anyone can remember. Dick Rhodes, one of the founders of the Helpline, was also the owner of the then-Queen Anne Thriftway. It was his recognition of the need for food assistance that helped found the Queen Anne Help-line.
The current owners of Metropolitan Market were some of Rhodes' previous employees, and the tradition of supporting the Helpline has been kept alive by them. Whether it's employees contributing volunteer labor hours or huge assistance with the Festival of Food and Auction, Metropolitan Market has been there.
Ilga Westberg, marketing director, says the relationship is one where everyone feels good - including the employees: "We've all volunteered at some point for the Helpline. It's such a cool thing to do," she said.
Pat Sobeck, director of the Helpline, says the relationship with these grocery stores is at the core of what the Helpline is all about - linking to the community
Jill Dietrich, manager of the Safeway at the top of the Hill, has offered her store's support, too. Safeway has let the Queen Anne Helpline use a portion of its parking lot for the yearly Christmas Tree Sale in December. In addition, Safeway accepts prescription vouchers in its pharmacy department and has let the Helpline set up a toiletries drive in front of the store.
It's clear that the relationship between the Helpline and these local grocers is key to continuing to feel the need of food aid on the Hill.
Vizzare, referring to the bond Ken's Market has with the Helpline, may have said it best: "We kind of feed off each other."
Volunteers are needed to staff the office of the Helpline. Call 282-1540 for more information.
Rummage Sale benefiting the Helpline on April 29, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 30, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., will be sponsored by and held at the Queen Anne Masonic Temple, 1608 Fourth Ave. W. (across from the library). Collectibles and new/used household items will be for sale. Donations are welcome. Call the Helpline for more information: 282-1540.