The Vashon Maury Community Food Bank has recently finished remodeling office space in the hopes of providing more services to Islanders as well as creating much needed-work space for staff.
As early as this summer, food bank staff hope to have volunteers in that new space, assisting people in signing up for benefits they are eligible for but not currently receiving, according to Yvonne Pitrof, the food bank’s executive director.
“In the old days, you used to be able to have a table set up right in the food bank for people to sign up for Basic Heath and food stamps, but you can’t do that anymore,” Pitrof said.
According to government regulations, she said, a semi-private space is needed to sign people up for public benefits because financial information is discussed. Pitrof has been the director of the food bank for about four years, she said, and the food bank has not had room for a semi-private space during that time.
A Department of Social and Health Services worker has agreed to come to the Island to train volunteers in the ins and outs of signing people up for a variety of benefits. Training will start with Basic Health, Pitrof said, and will also include S-CHIP, the state-sponsored health insurance for kids, food stamps and hopefully WIC, a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children up to age 5.
The food bank staff would also like to network with Vashon Youth & Family Services and other service providers on the Island to further assist in making sure people are connecting with important support services.
“We are hoping to make it a more one-stop shop, less confusing, and make people more aware of what is available to them both on and off-Island,” Pitrof said. “Food is a very basic and pressing need, but often times there are other issues and needs people are facing that we alone cannot meet. It is our hope that we can facilitate, in partnership with others, a better, more wholesome response to many if not all of these needs that we see our customers facing.”
While Pitrof is looking forward to providing outreach services, she is also thankful for the new space for herself and her staff, she said. When they ran out of room in the food bank, they moved into a cramped office space she described more as a closet space, with no ventilation. The volunteer coordinator worked there, she said, and the bookkeeper and Pitrof worked off-site.
“Now we can have all our records in one place,” Pitrof said. “It makes everything run more smoothly.”
The food bank split the cost of the remodel with Sunrise Ridge, Pitrof said; Mitchell Contractors did the work as inexpensively as possible, and H2 Office Design donated furniture and dividers.
“It’s several notches up from anything we’ve ever had at the food bank,” Pitrof said.
The new office space is adjacent to the food bank distribution building in the same building as Voice of Vashon.