The volunteers began showing up early Saturday morning with one goal - get food to anyone who needed some in Coos Bay and North Bend.
By 9 a.m., the need was clear as lines of cars were lined up around the back of the Pony Village Mall. What was once a mountain of food was quickly wiped out as more than a dozen volunteers gave fresh fruit, vegetables, cookies, eggs and more to everyone who showed up.
For Laurel Broman, the food giveaway was just another day of helping people in the region. As the director of the Pelican Harbor Food Bank, Broman said the organization gives out food every time they can.
“We do it any day of the week except Sunday,” she said.
Broman said the food bank is always looking for sources of food and finds it anywhere from Blaine, Washington to Los Angeles and anywhere in between. When food is located that can be donated, the food bank pays for it to be trucked to Coos Bay and almost immediately, it is given out.
The food bank has been helping hungry people for 16 years, but 2020 is different. With COVID-19 playing havoc with the economy, Broman said the need is greater than ever.
“Big time, especially with the elderly,” she said. “People on food stamps got double food stamps for a few months. But the elderly are on fixed incomes and their taxes are going up. It’s hard.”
SO hard, that the volunteers with the Pelican Harbor Food Bank have worked nonstop this year. By the end of the month, Broman said the food bank will have given out 1.5 milion pounds of food. That is half a million pounds more than a normal year and eaily the biggest year the organization has had.
And everything is done with volunteers. Broman helped start the organization 16 years ago, and she said not one person has ever been paid in that time. On Saturday, the volunteers ranged from older helpers in wheelchairs to young Coast Guard members who gave their time to help others.
Due to COVID restrictions, the volunteers loaded food into the trunks and truck beds as people drove through a line. Everyone who showed up left with food without any contact with others.
“We have so many happy people,” Broman said. “There’s people in wheelchairs, people in walkers. They just want to help people. We’re always looking for people with a happy attitude and a willingness to help.”
Broman said the goal for the food bank is to give healthy food to anyone who needs it.
“There is a big need for good, basic food - good wholesome food,” she said.
And since the need doesn’t stop, neither does the food bank. On Christmas Eve, the volunteers will be back at Pony Village Mall to hand out more food. Beginning a 9 a.m., anyone who needs help is welcome to some.
“It is anybody who needs it,” Broman said. “We don’t look at income, we don’t look at anything. We just give them food.”
Broman said the food bank is always preparing to help. She encouraged local residents in need to call 541-756-6696 any time. The hotline is routinely updated and will let people know when the next food giveaway is scheduled.
While the food bank pays no one, it does have expenses and could always use help. Broman said the expense of moving food to Coos Bay is going up and an assistance will go 100 percent to bringing food in and helping people. Donations can be dropped off during the giveaways. The organization also accepts aluminum cans, which they cash in for financial assistance.