IN 2007, MARY FISHER was participating in a Power of Hope program on Whidbey Island when she was told there were over 60 known homeless children on South Whidbey. Concerned about how they were getting fed she rallied friends to help cook.
It was clear that it would be impractical to try to take soup to the woods, which was the first idea. Kathy McLaughlin, now Kathy McCabe, the executive director of Good Cheer, was helpful in finding other community members who helped figure out the best way to reach the kids couch-surfing or living in the woods.
With information provided by the Family Resource Center and Operation Sack Lunch it was decided that prepared portable lunches would be the best solution. It also became clear that this was a need that was not being meet by any other group on South Whidbey.
OUR FIRST FUNDRAISER was a rousing success due to the very generous donation of Des Rock, owner of Useless Bay Coffee Company. When he was told what WIN was doing he volunteered to make a dinner for 65 people – at his expense – to be held at his cafe. Tickets sold out and everyone enjoyed the great food and party atmosphere and, since then, have done so annually at the delicious fundraising dinners there.
With that as our springboard, our next big fundraiser was planned! For three years we held Vegissimo, an all day vegetable garden tour to different homes on the island followed by a gourmet dinner at a private home. People loved learning from good gardeners how they got great tomatoes and other delights for the table.
AFTER THREE YEARS under the umbrella of Good Cheer, it became clear that our mission was expanding beyond their purview and it was time for WIN to become it’s own 501(c)(3). This was always what was expected to happen – they just kindly made it possible for us to get a strong start.
To raise awareness among the teens in middle and high school of our program we teamed up with the young kids in the local 4-H Video Club and they made large banners with silhouettes of active people eating healthy food with the headline Need Food? These are now in the halls of both the middle and high schools where teens can discretely read them.
In 2010, WIN participated in Children's Day to raise awareness of our program. We handed out our nutritious trail mix and children delighted in making ribbon wands as the hands-on activity while we talked to the parents. WIN also held a food education program, Kids Club, in the summer of 2010 and we plan to do more in that direction as we develop our approach and ideas with other community groups who are also wanting to educate.
During the summers of 2011 and 2012, WIN provided lunches to kids five days a week through a government backed program called OSPI. With Simplified Summer Feeding a balanced meal which varied each day was available at the South Whidbey Parks department to any child who showed up.
In 2012 we held an Empty Bowls event in partnership with the high school ceramics students. The kids made bowls which were filled with soup made by WIN volunteers. The bowls then went home with the diners. Empty Bowls is an international program to remind people about world hunger and it seemed a good pairing to get local people aware of our own hungry kids
WIN’S OUTREACH to children of middle and high school age is achieved by having vending machines located in Langley and Clinton where youth can access the variety of foods we make and take only what they will eat out of the machine –avoiding the waste of a prepackaged lunch and allowing them the dignity to make their own choices.
Each year we send out an appeal letter to our donors once school has started to remind them of the need for kids to have good food on weekends and holidays.
Our yearly Volunteer Appreciation Party is one of the highlights as the board gets to hear from the volunteers just how much they love working with WIN and what richness it has brought into their lives.
IT WAS, AND CONTINUES TO BE, the diverse and committed volunteers–primarily women–who devote countless hours to the preparation of nutritious lunches, who make WIN so successful. It is our way to insure our community's young people are getting enough nutrition.
I am writing in regards to the nutritious lunches provided to my daughter through the WIN program.
First of all, we would like to thank you for the wonderful work you do in taking care of our community. We appreciate your services so much.
My daughter has been receiving her lunches every week in her kindergarten classroom.
Because I have never met the person who makes or delivers her lunches I am unsure where this email should go. Hopefully this message will find its way to the right person.
Our family no longer needs the services of the WIN program, and I would feel much better if your resources were saved for a family who truly needs them.
Again, we have enjoyed having the WIN lunches and applaud you for all your hard work. Thank you." L.L.
"It is a joy to be a part of this organization, not only because of the great work WIN does in the community but the opportunity it has given me to meet and work with a wonderful group of people." Jane Brown