When Donna Pruitt became the clearinghouse and program director for Serve Wenatchee Valley, she and the other volunteers with the organization had some big ideas to help feed those in need. What they didn’t know at the time was a revolutionary idea would soon bring even more dignity to their mission.
“Quite a few folks who had lost their jobs or weren’t sure if their jobs were ever coming back started to come to us for help,” Donna Pruitt remembered of the early days of the pandemic. “They were embarrassed. They’d never needed help before. And in some cases, they didn’t qualify for government support.”
Serve Wenatchee Valley is a 100% community-supported non-profit organization dedicated to ending hunger in the region. Through generous donations from individuals, families and businesses, the organization also provides rent and utility assistance, non-food items such as diapers, and emergency crisis assistance. When a family comes to the organization for help, there’s no red tape or specific criteria to meet. People like Donna ask a few questions and give as much hope as they can.
“We had a mom with a special needs adult son who needed help quickly. She was forced to go to work while also caring for her son,” Donna explained.
By cutting their food bill, the mother and son Donna described could use their income elsewhere, including housing and healthcare.
“We hear stories all the time about families who make too much for government services,” she added. “They can come to us and go home with food for the pantry. We’re proud to help people keep more money in their pocket.”
It Started with a Drive-thru
During the summer, Donna and volunteers from the Army National Guard created a drive-thru food bank for the community. Anyone who needed food could get a box.
“We handed out over 450 boxes per week,” Donna said of the summer events.
In all, they provided over 60 tons of food over 18 weeks. That’s when the idea for Fresh Hope Market came to light.
“The official start date was August 24, 2020,” she said through a proud smile.
What is Fresh Hope Market? Essentially, it’s a grocery store in the same building as Serve Wenatchee Valley, but instead of price tags, items are valued with a point system.
“When a family needs help, we give them a set of points for the week,” she said. “They then use those points to choose what they want to take home.”
The amount of points a person gets depends on the size of their family. Around 120 points can fill three large boxes with food, including all the essentials.
“We have soups, meat, cereal, salads, produce, dairy and a lot more. We recently had packages of pork steaks from a grand champion pig available. And during the holidays, we have favorites such as turkey, cranberry sauce, rolls, and gravy.”
Like a regular grocery store, patrons are allowed to wander the aisles and pick food they and their family enjoy.
“People are always impressed when they first see the Fresh Hope Market. This isn’t your typical food bank. It’s fresh and new food. If we wouldn’t feed it to our family, we won’t ask you to feed it to yours,” she added with a laugh. “People donate bags of new, good food every day. It’s so inspiring.”
As Donna shared some specific numbers, such as 600 turkeys given away during Thanksgiving, or the plan to pass out 1,200 kids toys for Christmas, she went back to the dignity families feel at Fresh HOPE Market.
“People feel wanted. They feel like they have a place to turn to for food and support.”
Farmers in the region have also gotten involved, helping provide fresh and healthy produce for the Fresh Hope Market.
“We like to bring attention to businesses and organizations that go out of their way to support our mission,” she added. “Coastal and your customers have been a huge supporter. We wanted to thank everyone for their help.”
Coastal is proud to have helped raise nearly $5,000 for Serve Wenatchee Valley in conjunction with Cherry Creek Radio listeners. And that number is expected to climb even higher with your support.
Help Those in Need
To help with Serve Wenatchee Valley and the Fresh Hope Market, click here. Coastal will match each dollar up to $2,000 in every community we serve. Check out the list of food banks in your area and how you can help feed those in need during the holidays and beyond.