TUKWILA, Wash. - Food insecurity is growing, even as the economy is starting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before coronavirus forced a statewide shutdown, the Tukwila Pantry Food Bank would serve less than 100 families on distribution days.
Now, it’s more than 500 families and the need isn’t slowing down.
"The pandemic has just been devastating to a lot of families here in South King County—in Tukwila, SeaTac and Burien in particular. People have lost their jobs, they’ve lost they’re income and they’ve needed food," said Benton Coblentz, board chair of Tukwila Pantry. "We didn’t know what was going to happen, we didn’t know if we had the financial resources, the volunteer resources to continue operations. But the community really did come together."
Noticing the hard work to keep people fed, community members wanted to show their support for the pantry. Paul Coblentz, president of the Rotary Club of SeaTac-Tukwila, said he received a blast email from Lowe’s Home Improvement about an initiative called 100 Hometowns.
The company launched the initiative to offer 100 grants worth $100,000 in celebration of 100 years in business. Lowe’s reviewed applications across the country from communities supporting a cause.
"I saw that it was $100,000 and I said this is us! We can do this!" said Paul Coblentz.
As part of their application for the grant, more than 100 people gathered at the Lowe’s on Andover Park to record a video in support of the pantry. The group submitted the video back in the spring.
"We had a backdrop of fire trucks, police vehicles. We had a swarm of 100 people social distancing because of the time," said City of Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg.
The community’s application was one of 100 chosen by Lowe’s to receive the $100,000 grant. The company announced the recipients earlier this week. Mayor Ekberg said he is proud of how his neighbors continue supporting each other.
"It’s because of all the work they put together to help people in our community that are in need. This is one fine example," said Ekberg.
Benton Coblentz said the plan for the funds is to build a roof extension that will be used to continue outdoor service, food truck parking and multi-purpose space.
"So that we can continue to preserve the efficiencies that we’ve discovered during the pandemic as well as the preferences that our clients have for outdoor service," said Coblentz.
"These families are here to changes their lives and to grow. And if we can help and build within this community, it’s going to be the thing that makes the difference for their lives and for years to come," said the Rotary Club president.
Tukwila is one of only 100 cities across the country to receive the grant. The community hired a local contractor to design and build the new roof with the funds.
"We love Tukwila, we love to be here. We’ve served this community for 20 years and we’re going to serve it for many more years to come. It takes a community to feed the community," said Coblentz.
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