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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Volunteer finds time at food bank well spent

Deloris Christopher packs a bag of food at the Spokane Valley Food Bank. Christopher  has been volunteering at the food bank for eight years. 
 (J. BART RAYNIAK / The Spokesman-Review)
Treva Lind The Spokesman-Review

Deloris Christopher usually hands out bread and desserts to visitors of the Spokane Valley Food Bank.

One day by chance, she was helping in the produce area when she asked a simple question of an elderly woman. Did she need some potatoes, onions, apples? In response, Christopher saw the shoulders of the woman shake as she bent down.

“When I saw her shoulder’s shake, I told her ‘I think you need a hug,’ ” said Christopher, 71. “She just sobbed her heart out on my shoulder. That’s why I do it. There are people who don’t know what they’re going to eat for dinner if it weren’t for the food bank.

“Most of these people would prefer not to be there. This one lady said, ‘I shouldn’t be here. I’m the one who usually gives to other people.’ “

Christopher never saw the woman again, but she sees plenty of people and families who are truly in need because of low income, divorce, a layoff, medical crisis or other unexpected turns. She serves among a crew of other regular volunteers each Wednesday helping 100 to 200 families get food staples.

She started volunteering about eight years ago. Her husband, Paul Christopher, had been volunteering for the Spokane Police Department, so she decided it was her turn to do some service work. Deloris Christopher chose three possibilities: the Valley Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Red Cross. Her first stop was the food bank.

“I didn’t go any further,” she said. “One thing is it’s a world I didn’t know existed before. I didn’t know there were that many people in our city who need help with groceries. I felt it was a place where my time could best be used.”

She also described camaraderie among food bank volunteers who feel more like family. “We bolster each other. We come together. I think everyone there who has been there a while is a giver.”

Christopher was especially moved by the community’s response during the 2005 holidays. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the food bank gives out 600 to 700 holiday meal baskets. That year, the Valley food bank ran short of supplies after the first day of distribution – down to one turkey and literally bare shelves. News about the shortage quickly went out on television and in newspapers.

“At 9 a.m. the next morning, the cars were lined up,” Christopher added. “People brought over 1,000 turkeys and we had enough food to do Thanksgiving distribution plus Christmas. I say that was my most inspirational day ever. Old people would show up and they could barely walk but they sure could bring in a turkey.”

Another motivation for her is to see so many people get the food they truly need, and most tell her thank you because her bread and dessert distribution is at the end of the line.

She has seen the full gamut of different reasons why people are there.

“One big one we see is divorce. That just throws a mom with lots of kids into turmoil and there are lots of times we see that. We have the working poor. We have injured people, a lot. We have the handicapped. Some immigrants.”