By Meg Olson
An outpouring of community giving will see the Point Roberts Food Bank’s coffers swell by thousands of dollars in time for the holidays.
It started when a fire station thief stole almost $1,000 the Point Roberts Firefighters’ Association had raised for the food bank during their recent “boot drive.” Then someone stole the Bliss Light at Auntie Pam’s Country Store. “I was just sick about it,” said owner Pamala Sheppard. “Then I heard about the theft at the fire station. I was depressed.”
Determined to not let the thieves steal the spirit of Christmas as well, Sheppard decided to recreate the final scene from the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which crowds of townspeople come to the Bailey home with donations, in her store. She posted her plan on Facebook.
“I had $700 pledged and a company ready to match anything we collected before I was out of my pajamas,” she said. “Then merchants and families started coming into the store with checks. Everyone I told the story to put $20 in the jar. We raised $2,000 the first day.”
Umpqua Bank joined in, giving a $1,000 grant to the firefighters’ association to replace the stolen funds and encouraging the community to donate funds and food at the Point Roberts bank. “The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for individuals and families in need of a helping hand, and we were saddened to hear that, due to a recent theft, the community’s generous donations weren’t going to make it to the Point Roberts Food Bank and the families in need,” said branch manager Jane Macdougall. “We believe it’s moments like this that can inspire community to come together and are pleased to be help make that possible.”
The Giving Tree program, a collaboration between the food bank and Umpqua Bank, has received widespread community support, with every tag for a local child already taken. Donations of toys are still being accepted at the bank.
The firefighters’ association isn’t giving up their fundraising efforts. Association president Fadi said they would continue with the boot drive throughout December. The boot drives will be at the International Marketplace as weather and fire department activities permit. Association members will be collecting food and cash donations.
“I can’t explain what this community has done,” said food bank volunteer Henry Rosenthal. “I have never seen anything like this. I think it’s magnificent.”
Rosenthal said donors have been continuing to contact him, and plans for holiday food packages are going ahead, thanks in part to a spontaneous donation of turkeys by Terry Ritchie. “The number of people who are so giving and wonderful without being asked… how do you even begin to say thank you to all these people?” he said.
In addition to helping the food bank serve local families over the holidays and beyond, the recent flood of donations will put the food bank closer to having its own facility rather than having volunteers spend much of their time running from location to location gathering food that is then distributed from another location.
“It will save us hundreds of hours and give us a place where we can deliver the food the community needs much more effectively,” Rosenthal said.