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Hopelink's consolidated center opens its doors

Hopelink Public Relations Specialist Denise Stephens helps sort food with volunteers at the new facility in Kirkland. - TOM CORRIGAN,  Bothell-Kenmore Reporter
Hopelink Public Relations Specialist Denise Stephens helps sort food with volunteers at the new facility in Kirkland.
— image credit: TOM CORRIGAN, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

When asked what she thinks of the new consolidated Hopelink location in Kirkland, the answer came quickly.

"I love it," said a Hopelink client identified only as Stephanie.

A wife and mother of four, Stephanie said she and her family were regular visitors to the Bothell Hopelink location which closed in late July. She described the new location as cleaner, brighter and simply more inviting.

"It just looks new when you go over there," Stephanie said, adding that for her transportation to the new location has not been an issue.

"I was kind of hesitant at first," Hopelink volunteer Danny Atchley said while working a hand truck in the new location. But like Stephanie, Atchley said he likes the look and feel of the new center now that it is up and running in a former factory space.

Situated at 11011 120th Ave., N.E., the new Hopelink center consolidated the Northshore and Kirkland Hopelink offices. Open to the general public Aug. 3, the center serves persons in Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville and Kirkland. It houses numerous Hopelink offerings, probably most notably the non-profit's totally redesigned food bank.

Among others, Hopelink Public Relations Specialist Denise Stephens compared the organization's new method of distributing to a grocery store. Upon visiting the new food bank, clients are handed a sort of shopping list that is based on the number of people in their family, said Teresea Andrade, who managed the Northshore Hopelink and made the move to Kirkland.

The shopping list allows visitors to spend so many points on various types of food, say vegetables or fruit. Each food type is color-coded both on the shopping lists and on displays throughout the food bank so language is not a barrier. Hopelink officials all said one key idea behind the grocery store approach is to give clients more choice in the type of foods they take home.

Under the old system, clients would walk in and be handed a box of food.

"I think it's a great change," Stephanie said of the new approach. She added the old scheme sometimes left her with food she simply didn't need. Now, instead of being handed six cans of kidney beans for which she may or may not have a use, she said she can pick and chose items her family will use.

Stephens noted greater choice also allows persons with specific dietary needs - say, a diabetic or someone watching their cholesterol - the ability to better select appropriate foods.

Finally, the grocery store approach actually allows volunteers and staffers more flexibility in what foods they can offer. In the past, workers might sit on items until they had enough of a particular product to give each Hopelink visitor. Now, a lone can of hash can go on a shelf waiting for whomever might want it.

As for the change in location, Andrade said the biggest complaint she had heard concerned Kenmore visitors having to change buses to reach the new center. But she also quickly noted clients are starting to car pool and the center put up a bulletin board where those car pools can be advertised. Food bank coordinator Rus Sudakov said that the change in location is on the minds of some clients, but he had not noticed the center losing many regular visitors.

Besides the newfangled food bank, Stephens noted the consolidated center is home to other Hopelink programs, such as help with utility bills, adult education and so on. There are classrooms, a computer lab, even a small library with materials such as GED study guides.

Prior to the move, Andrade and Sudakov both said they were grateful to the city of Bothell for renting Hopelink their former 96th Avenue Northeast location. For 35 years, the lease was $1 annually. Still, Hopelink's leaders added the Bothell building had seen better days. Sudakov in particular said the former food bank space really wasn't suited to Hopelink's purposes.

Though the new location consolidated two Hopelink operations, Stephens said the need for volunteers is greater than ever. For one thing, the food bank operates on a much busier schedule and shelves are restocked constantly during business hours. She further noted that in the last 18 months, Hopelink has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of people visiting the organization's food banks. She expects the new center to serve about 1,000 households monthly.

Though food bank operations have changed, clients still must gain prior approval before using Hopelink facilities. For more information on Hopelink offerings or to volunteer, call 425-889-7880 or go to the Hopelink Web site at www.hope-link.org.

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