Yelm Community Services Serves Up Thanksgiving With Plentiful Bounty

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Yelm Community Services stuffed Thanksgiving full of fresh food and turkey this year at a Tuesday, Nov. 22 special Thanksgiving distribution.

Cindy Marchand-Cecil, the executive director of Yelm Community Services, said the food bank plans ahead and keeps enough stock of Thanksgiving essentials each year to have more than enough for all of Yelm’s families in need.

“If you think about your traditional Thanksgiving meal, we provide all of the food that goes with that,” Marchand-Cecil said. “We have the turkey and just everything that goes with that meal.”

As of Wednesday, Nov. 17, the nonprofit had 250 turkeys, with more on the way.

“We start receiving several truckloads of food right now (for the holidays),” Marchand-Cecil said last week. “We’re just storing them in every nook and cranny that we have right now. We try to focus on getting a good amount of fresh foods in.”

The food bank receives all sorts of fresh vegetables from potatoes and onions, to eggs and, of course, the turkeys, among other offerings.

But Yelm Community Services doesn’t stop at the traditional Thanksgiving bounty.

“We also try to have a good amount of culturally-appropriate foods, too, because the whole world does not have a Thanksgiving meal in the American way,” Marchand-Cecil said. “So we have options for people.”

And there is no rest for Yelm Community Services staff and volunteers this time of year.

“We’re just always very busy this time of year, because you’re just trying to coordinate all the different streams of food, where they’re coming from, how much you’re getting and what kind from what person,” she said.

This year, the nonprofit was awarded a grant from the federal government to purchase a new walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer. Marchand-Cecil said that really helped the organization, because it didn’t have enough storage space in the past.

“It’s been one of our long-term goals ever since we built this building in ‘96 … so that’s been really nice,” she said.

The new appliances are in use now and provided all the space necessary for the food bank to put food on the table this holiday.

The grant also provided a canopy, she said.

The facility had a canopy over one portion of the front of the food bank, but now there’s a canopy that extends across the whole food bank and thrift shop building and along the food bank warehouse. It also provides cover for the new cooler and freezer and over the loading dock, where all the food is loaded.

“That way, when all of this food that has been coming since the COVID pandemic started, if you can imagine, it’s just been out in the weather, because we have a drive-thru food bank right now,” Marchand-Cecil said. “Now we have a place to shelter it so it doesn’t get rained on or anything. So our volunteers aren’t getting rained on either.”

Currently, the food bank draws 35 to 40 volunteers each distribution, with all hands on deck for the holiday giveaways.

“A lot of them are doing the background bagging up of all of the vegetables that come in,” Marchand-Cecil said. “We have the dried cranberry packets and then the frozen dough rolls. A lot of time, when you are buying in bulk from the Seattle food sources, it’s in bulk because it was originally intended to go to restaurants.”

The food bank needs volunteers to take the bulk shipments and make bags of assorted items for distribution.

The food bank receives food resources from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, local donations and from other sources.

“Our agency began in 1971,” she said. “And so the one continuous thing that we have always done is our food bank. It spoke of the need then and then the continuing need now because people will always have issues going on that you don’t know about, (or) that you can’t see. And you just have to try to do your very best.”

Christmas distribution will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 624 Crystal Springs St. N.W. in Yelm.

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