December 28, 2013 in Washington Voices

SVP food bank coordinator credits volunteers for guidance

By The Spokesman-Review
Lisa Leinberger photo

Cheryl Ward has been the head of the food bank at Spokane Valley Partners since July. She’s also a volunteer and board member on the Lookout Pass ski patrol.
(Full-size photo)

Cheryl Ward had a lot of help learning the ropes when she started as food bank coordinator for Spokane Valley Partners in July.

“The volunteers have taught me my job more than anything,” she said.

Ward, 55, recently returned to the Spokane area after eight years in Montana.

The job is a good fit for her, she said. In the past she has worked in grocery store warehouses and knows how to drive a forklift. Plus, as a single mother, the hours really appealed to her since she only works four days a week and is usually off by 4 p.m. to spend time with her youngest daughter.

“It’s what I really wanted,” she said. “I love it here.”

She’s impressed with the volunteers’ dedication. Many of them are there with her every day.

“(They are) people that want to help, making sure all the people they can possibly feed get fed,” she said.

Ward said her first holiday season at the food bank went well.

For Thanksgiving, about 1,400 people came to get their holiday food over two days. At one point, they were serving 120 people an hour.

She and the volunteers just finished distributing Christmas meals and are now getting ready for regular business when the food bank reopens Jan. 8.

When she’s not working, she is in her ninth season of volunteering for the ski patrol at Lookout Pass. She’s also on the patrol’s board of directors.

“I love snow,” she said.

On the ski patrol, she is ready to help with first aid and taking injured skiers on a toboggan to get down the mountain. Ski patrol volunteers help with public safety and perform a lot of chores for the resort, such as setting up courses for events.

“It’s my happy place,” she said.

For the first three months at the food bank, Ward said the job was “sensory and information overload.” The second three months were easier.

“It’s different stuff every day,” she said. On Mondays, she and the volunteers sort dry goods for distribution, on Tuesdays it’s produce. Distribution days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, and once a month she spends a day on paperwork.

Since she stepped into her new role, she’s kept changes to a minimum.

“You don’t want to jump in and make too many changes,” she said.

For now, she’s just enjoying herself.

“I really look forward to coming here,” she said.

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