When Richard Ding arrived at the Lutheran Church of the Master in Pasco at 9 a.m. Wednesday, a handful of people were already in line.
“They said they didn’t want to be late,” said Ding, who is on the church’s social concerns committee.
Ding and the 30 or so volunteers wouldn’t start handing out food from the Second Harvest mobile food bank for another two hours. But he remembered running out of food last year after serving 1,138 people.
This year, Ervin Robison, the mobile food bank coordinator for Second Harvest, brought 9,300 pounds of food, 80 percent of it fresh produce. Again, most of it was handed out to 290 families in the first hour and a half.
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But Ding said that while late arrivals didn’t get full boxes, this time they didn’t have to turn anybody away empty handed. About 1,200 people were helped Wednesday.
When Lauren Garcia, 24, arrived about 11 a.m., a line snaked through the church parking lot as people waited with empty boxes to be filled with potatoes, apples, carrots, chips and juice to help supplement their groceries.
Garcia was there with her sons Joseph, 2, and Andrew, 10 months, and her friend Gail March, 61, of Pasco.
Garcia and her husband Daniel lost their apartment after a July 20 fire at Sacajawea Apartments in Pasco and were staying with friends until they recently found a place to live.
“It’s really a blessing that we heard about this,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate there are so many people here.”
It’s the last scheduled mobile food bank appearance in the Tri-Cities for this year, said Robison, who drives the truck Tuesday through Friday each week around Eastern Washington, Oregon and Canada.
The volunteers helping Wednesday extended beyond the Pasco church.
“They come up and help us, so we come down to help them,” said Elmer Krein of Connell, who attends Gideon Lutheran Church, where the mobile food bank was recently.
Also on hand were three fitness consultants from Gold’s Gym in Kennewick, who helped people carry heavy boxes back to their cars.
“It’s a community involvement thing,” Ding said, who’s seen the number of people increase steadily since the annual event started in 2006.
“We have a lot of needy people in our community, and I feel that’s part of what a Christian organization should do -- help people,” Ding said.
For more information about sponsoring mobile food bank appearances, call 509-252-6250.
-- Kai-Huei Yau: 585-7205; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @kaieeieei