Vashon United Methodist Church will be new home for Food Bank, Family Place services

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal visited the church last week for an update.

This article has been corrected.

The Vashon United Methodist Church will soon be home to a cornucopia of service providers, offering islanders a place to care for their kids and pick up food, along with the services the Methodists already provide.

Two island social service stalwarts have recently announced plans to set up shop at the church.

Vashon Youth and Family Service’s (VYFS) Family Place program, which helps islanders care for children and improve life skills, is moving next month to the fellowship area at the United Methodist Church just south of Vashon’s uptown area. It is scheduled to reopen there by early January.

It will join the Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank as another island social service soon-to-be operating at the Methodist Church. The Food Bank hopes to complete its move into the annex at the church in fall 2025.

Together, the programs will augment a church that already offers showers and community events to Vashon islanders, church leadership said.

“It’s just kind of a nice conglomeration of community … coming together to use the space efficiently and collaboratively,” said Tiffany Schira, fundraising and communications manager for VYFS.

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal toured the food bank’s current location at Sunrise Ridge and its future home at the Methodist Church on Dec. 19, along with Food Bank and Methodist Church staff.

The cross-pollination of all those services at the Methodist Church is exciting for Emily Scott, executive director of the Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank.

“I think especially on Vashon, where there’s no municipal government, this network of social service providers really functions as a Department of Health and Human Services,” Scott said.

And the ability to use their church for good in a new way is appealing to the leadership of the United Methodist Church, who said the church has for years had more space than it could fill with its own programming.

How will everyone fit in the church space? The Methodists will continue to hold Sunday congregation in the Sanctuary Hall, the Food Bank will use the church’s Education Building and construct another facility, and the VYFS program will live in the social area of the church. The church’s full kitchen will serve each of them.

A typical Sunday service brings in 30 to 40 people, but 20 years ago used to bring in more than 100, the church’s leadership team said.

“From the perspective of a local church, there’s a church like ours in every community in America,” senior pastor Mark Wagner said. “A small church that’s dwindling in size, that has a multimillion-dollar property in the center of a community that (is) asking the same question: What do we do with this?”

Nobody has the perfect answer, Wagner said, but encouraging faith organizations to partner with social service organizations is a pretty good answer.

“Our goal is to still be in this community 50 years from now, making an impact,” Wagner said. “So I think this has really been a beautiful process. … It’s mutually beneficial. We want to feed people as well. As the Christian church, that’s part of our hope and our desire”

Food Bank

The day of Rep. Jayapal’s visit, Food Bank volunteers managed deliveries and packaging of coffee, oatmeal, hygiene items, and countless other household essentials.

The Food Bank has sat at Sunrise Ridge since 1985, works with more than 200 volunteers and serves about 15% of the island over the course of a given year, Scott said.

But its current home is getting tight, and their services are needed more and more, Scott said.

The Food Bank’s current location is a former military installation that was not built with services like the food bank in mind. It’s also far from the town core and physically out of sight from the highway.

Creative use of space and modifications to the space have kept the Food Bank in operation there, but the Food Bank is long overdue for an upgraded facility to better serve its clients, Food Bank organizers say.

“We just have really limited facilities,” Scott told Jayapal. “(And) these cinderblock buildings, the military did not intend them to last seven years or more.”

As volunteer Jonathan Kott put it: “Given this used to be a Nike missile site, we’re doing swords into plowshares here.”

Jayapal asked for and fully received an $800,000 federal appropriation for the Food Bank’s planned move to the Methodist Church in the fiscal year 2024 budget process. But getting the money will rely on Congress actually passing the budget — which could take time.

The move will put the Food Bank near the center of town, vastly improving accessibility for most islanders and preventing a trip all the way up to Sunrise Ridge and back for patrons. Sharing the space with partners like VYFS and the church means people will be exposed to more services and help.

“I think we’ll just reduce barriers for people,” Scott said.

The project will involve building a 3,800 square foot warehouse and grocery store where the church’s playground now sits, and purchasing the existing 3,500 square foot building and community space, currently known as the Education Building. They plan to have the new facility achieve LEED Silver certification (awarded for sustainable building) and reach high marks in accessibility.

The Food Bank has executed a 30-year lease with the VUMC with two 10-year extension options. The Food Bank will own both the Education Building and its new building but pay rent for the grounds the properties sit on. The church itself will maintain ownership of the entire property.

“We’re trying to build a functional, efficient, sustainable building that will last a long time, and not put us in the situation we are [in] right now, where we have to put Band-Aids on everything for the next twenty years,” Scott said.

The Education Building has already long been a “community hub,” Scott said, and the Food Bank’s work will continue that legacy while using the space more fully than the church can on its own. Two Alcoholics Anonymous groups, vaccine clinics and twice-annual health fairs already use the space, among many other programs.

The Food Bank hopes to secure building permits by the end of May 2024 and break ground by June. If all goes to plan, that would lead to a roughly September 2025 grand opening.

Family Place

Vashon Youth and Family Service’s (VYFS) Family Place offers a variety of parent support programs like classes, a play place and home visits. All of its programs are free.

As VYFS grew the program, they realized the service could help with more than just kids and young families, Schira said. For instance, Family Place coordinators started an English conversation class, and many of the adults there also benefitted from VYFS’ assistance in getting a driver’s license.

The program’s services include free boxes of diapers, wipes and baby clothes upon request, and a home visitation program that helps coach parents in the privacy of their own homes.

“It started being all about families, but as new needs emerged, we’ve been able to respond,” Schira said, “which has been so impressive and encouraging to me. I just see what a help it is to the community.”

Next year, Schira said they hope to offer more vocational programs, such as classes to improve literacy and business skills.

If all goes to plan, those will resume next month at the Methodist Church, where VYFS’ community resource navigator program already holds office hours.

Family Place will take a break for the last week of December, Schira said, and move from its site on Gorsuch Road to the Methodist Church, setting up and preparing to resume programs on Jan. 8.

At the Methodist Church, Family Place will continue to offer its programming and playroom activities with room to expand. A director and two staff members will use the space regularly for Family Place, Schira said.

Family Place will be, until January, located at 9822 SW Gorsuch Road. To learn more about Family Place programs, visit The food bank is currently located behind the Sea Mar Community Health Clinic, at 10030 SW 210th St. To learn more, visit The Sanctuary at the United Methodist Church welcomes people of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, economic situations and faith histories. Learn more at