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On So. Whidbey Island, people can get help from their community in a kind way

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Good Cheer is a grassroots community charity that has been helping neighbors in need on the south end of Whidbey Island since 1962. Over the decades, this nonprofit 501(c)3 organization has grown into a model food bank, supported chiefly by proceeds from its two thrift stores.

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Good Cheer is a template for a self-supporting charitable organization that helps people in a way that doesn’t label them as helpless.

If you live on South Whidbey Island and need help with putting food on your table, you can visit Good Cheer Food Bank. Each household that applies for help is given 70 points for a month’s worth of food, plus 10 points for each additional member in the family up to 120 points.

When the person comes to the Food Bank, no one hands them a bag of canned goods and sends them on their way as happens in many other areas. Instead, they are allowed to “shop” for the items they want that are on the shelves, including fresh, organic produce from the Good Cheer garden and from donations of quality produce. Quality foods, like the produce, require the least points, while the highly processed foods and cookies that are offered have the highest point values.

Good Cheer was founded in 1962 in response to a Boeing layoff of several thousand workers right before Christmas. Tommie Double and several of her friends decided to put Christmas boxes of food, clothes and presents together for about 120 families who lived on South Whidbey. In the new year, they knew these families would still need support and started the Good Cheer Food Bank.

Most food banks exist entirely through donations. While Good Cheer certainly appreciates donations, it established a concept to help pay for the needed food supplies: They began with a single thrift store in Langley, with the proceeds going toward paying for the Food Bank supplies.

Over the years, with the help of a successful capital campaign, they have updated the Langley store and added an additional thrift store location in Clinton, as well as the food bank and distribution center in Bayview.

They currently are helping an average of about 900 families a month

The garden program was established two years ago, and everyone who drives by the garden is amazed by the amount of produce grown as well as the number of volunteers who help with its success. Currently there are four garden apprentices who work in the community and school gardens as well as the food bank. Their efforts result in some great educational experiences as well as thousands of pounds of fresh organically grown produce.

Each of the thrift stores is doing well this year and running slightly above budget. The donations have been steady, and Good Cheer expects to finish 2013 in a strong position.

Although the stores are still having strong sales, the need has been greater than ever. Good Cheer still needs the community’s monetary support as well as donations to supply the stores with goods. With a record amount of families using the food bank in November, Good Cheer is readying itself for a long winter of need.

Here are the links to the online resources for Good Cheer.

Good Cheer Garden Blog

Good Cheer Organization Website

Good Cheer Facebook Page

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