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When doing good, every little bit helps

Northwest Harvest estimates that a million Washingtonians visited a food bank in the last year alone, and 1 in 10 consistently struggle with hunger. Our local food banks work tirelessly to provide food and supplies to residents across the region. But their good work relies on one key feature: donors who provide goods, money, compassion, and volunteer hours to feed the community.


One such volunteer stood out during a recent work session at the Thurston County Food Bank. Lucy Teuteberg, a Capital High School freshman, helped collect supplies and worked hard on behalf of the First Security Bank team.


This is far from Teuteberg’s first volunteer experience. “I have volunteered with my 4-H group, helping with the Stamp Out Hunger food drive each May. This is my second year working on the stocking drive; I wanted to focus on stockings for teens this year. Other ways I have volunteered with the food bank in the past couple of years are with the Easter basket drive, senior food delivery program, and collecting items for the birthday bags. And I am looking forward to volunteering with the Washington Trails Association on trail clean up later this month.”


This work is a tremendous passion for her. “I believe it is important to give back when you can by sharing your gifts. I have found a way to help my community while having fun at the same time! To me, it is important to volunteer when I can in my community.” She even recruited four school friends and a family to help too.


Michaela Winkley is the Food Bank’s School Gardens Program Coordinator. She admits that the need is even greater this year. “We are serving more folks than ever before. In 2020 we increased 18% and 2021 an additional 5%. There continues to be a need to distribute food safely and efficiently, for many of our program adaptations have remained as best practices: home deliveries to seniors, our Pop Up drive-through distribution in underserved areas and increased varieties of non-food items provided by our Other Bank program. We hope that our community’s commitment to our work keeps pace with the growth of our services and those we serve.”


Winkley encourages anyone and everyone to help. “United Way has a county-wide volunteer program that matches people with volunteer opportunities. If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can contact Lindsay at United Way and she'll help you find a volunteer opportunity that fits your needs and goals.”


Teuteberg agrees. “I would encourage everyone to go find time to volunteer or give back to their community in any way they can! For me, it has turned into this project that happens once a year.”


And there are unique ways that volunteers can apply their special touch. For Teuteberg, it was working on the stocking drive for teens her age.


“For the teen stocking drive, I put together a flyer to spread the word more. The goal was to make sure that each stocking had a warm item such as hats, gloves, socks, or blankets; something to do (games, coloring books, or colored pencils); and personal hygiene items like Chapstick and hairbrushes. I worked to collect enough items to fill over 525 stockings! I also gathered small dollar amount gift cards for distribution.”


But that wasn’t the end. “I love stuffing and handing out the stockings the most,” she admits. “I enjoy stuffing them because I get to pick out what I think will be best in each stocking. And when we handed out the stockings, I got to let the kids that came by pick out their stocking themselves. I love seeing the joy on their faces when they see something they love and can take it home with them!”


When that drive began several years ago, the stockings made and donated by local quilters were primarily for kids aged 3 to 12. But during the difficult years of the pandemic, staff opened up the program to teens, who are now the biggest age group of recipients. “We felt like there was a need to take care of teens this year,” says Winkley, “and Lucy came through. She is just lovely.”


Stockings follow the theme of something warm and something to do, read, and love. This means Lucy and her fellow volunteers pack books, cocoa, and everyone’s fan-favorite item: Beanie Babies. And it’s not just a hit at Christmas. The team also organizes a springtime Easter basket-style event with cinched cloth bags of treasures crafted by local quilters. During COVID alone, they handed out 2,000 stockings.


Learn how you can make a difference by contacting Lindsay at United Way. She'll help you find a volunteer opportunity that fits your needs and goals.