Saying Good-Bye to a Food Bank Icon
20 years ago, with no start-up money, Fran Walster who retired Janurary 2013, along with four other women and the generous support of three area churches, several area businesses and the community, took the old Maltby Mercantile, a vandalized mom and pop grocery store, and created the Make Me a Blessing Food Bank. Over the years Fran has held many jobs at the food bank; driving the van to pick up food from area grocery stores, holding food drives, ordering food, attending meetings and doing LOTS of paperwork, and through it all she has always been there with a smile and a sympathetic ear for both the food bank clients and volunteers.
Fran feels that the Maltby Food Bank is unique in that it is not located in a town or city. Being in unincorporated Snohomish County, there is no Rotary or Chamber of Commerce to help support this much needed service. “We have our community and a network of friends and neighbors who believe in our work. We are 100% volunteers. We all work hard and we love what we do,” says Fran. The food bank is a special place for the many clients who visit each Thursday. Fran and others call these folks “our Thursday family” and talk caringly about them and their needs.
“I love helping others by talking to them and showing them care and love,” reminisces Fran who was once a single mom who found it hard to stretch her limited budget each month. She and her group of over 50 volunteers have built up the food bank over the years to be able to provide dairy, meat, produce and staples each week to a growing clientele. Through the support of the community and local grocery stores, they are able to provide item that can’t be purchase with food stamps such as pet food, baby supplies, birthday bags and backpacks for children.
Fran feels that the volunteers are the lifeline of the food bank. They depend on each other to get the job done and always provide ‘service with a smile’ to their food bank family. There are many long-time volunteers whose caring hearts and belief in what they do have kept the food bank successful and strong over the years. When asked what words of wisdom she would like to pass along to future volunteers, Fran said “Keep the clients as your focus. Every volunteer is replaceable, no one is better than another. Get along with each other and keep Jesus as the head of Maltby Food Bank. As we trust him, he lays us upon peoples’ hearts to help those in need and give.”
Fran will be sorely missed by the clients, volunteers and supporters of the Maltby Food Bank. She may be willing to staff a table during client give-out days if needed. Otherwise, you’ll find her enjoying retirement with her family and friends.
Thank you, Fran, for all of your years of service and dedication to this worthy organization. As a chapter closes in your life, and a new one starts for you, may your years be filled with all the things you’re looking forward to!