Project Wishbone has overwhelming demand

Hyla Middle School student Olivia Marler and her classmates tow a wagon of food into Helpline House Monday.  -
Hyla Middle School student Olivia Marler and her classmates tow a wagon of food into Helpline House Monday.
— image credit:

Helpline House is facing some tough realities as they move into the holiday season.

With the troubled economy, the overall rise in food prices, declining donations and a spike in the number of needy island families, Bainbridge’s local food bank is hoping islanders will come through this year to quench an overwhelming demand.

“Times are tough for everyone this year,” said Marilyn Gremse, the volunteer coordinator at Helpline House. “We’re a hunger relief organization, but at the time of Thanksgiving it should be a feast of celebration and if a family is having to scramble to have a meal, we want to take that struggle away.”

Helpline House’s Project Wishbone is the concentrated push to make Thanksgiving available to all island families, and it draws contributions from a large amount of the community. Service organizations, churches, schools and more flood Helpline’s offices throughout this week with their gathered donations of canned goods and grocery gift cards.

But this year’s Project Wishbone will be a unique effort to gather as much support from the community despite the economic woes. This weekend Helpline will be posting signs, and collecting at supermarkets to encourage as many people as possible to donate.

“We project we will be supplying is higher food volume than in years past,” Gremse said. “And most of the food we supply comes from the community, but in general our donations have been down, they have been declining since the start of the summer,”

Handing out Thanksgiving meal packages has been a tradition since Helpline started over 40 years ago, but it is only recently that the community has become such a factor in supporting local families in need. Now the majority of food donations for Project Wishbone come from islanders, while Helpline reserves their resources to feed families through the rest of the year.

Aside from holiday support, the amount of households Helpline House serves has spiked dramatically this year, Gremse said. In October 2007, 302 families used Helpline services at least once in the month. By October 2008, that number of households had jumped to 374. Over a month’s time, that is roughly 800 full shopping carts worth of food, Gremse said.

Last year’s Project Wishbone event targeted a smaller contingent of needy families as well, serving about 170 Thanksgiving dinners. This year the organization is expecting more than 200 families will be seeking out Thanksgiving meals through Helpline.

Despite the growing demand and the falloff of donations, Gremse is confident that the community will pull through.

“It’s an interesting time and yet the community does come though,” Gremse said. “It’s very heartening and they do respond when they know what the realities are, one way or another someone who comes to Helpline gets fed.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates