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Published: Thursday, June 3, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Food bank volunteer feeds soul while feeding others

Marysville Community Food Bank's volunteer started the work to deal with her grief after her husband's death.

  • Marysville Community Food Bank volunteer JoAnn Sewell reorganizes around the produce Tuesday prior to patrons entering. Sewell was recently voted Volu...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Marysville Community Food Bank volunteer JoAnn Sewell reorganizes around the produce Tuesday prior to patrons entering. Sewell was recently voted Volunteer of the Year by her fellow volunteers.

MARYSVILLE — JoAnn Sewell decided she needed to make a change in her life two years ago.
She had recently lost her husband and was grieving. She realized she wasn't getting out of her house often enough.
“For about a year, I just sat around feeling sorry for myself,” Sewell said. “My blood pressure went up, my weight went up, my health started going downhill, and I just decided I had to get out of the house and start doing something.”
She noticed an ad in the newspaper asking for volunteers at the Marysville Community Food Bank and decided to make a visit. She started volunteering at the food bank in August 2008.
Sewell has been coming back to the food bank at 4150 88th St. NE. in Marysville ever since and rarely misses a day of work, fellow volunteer and board member Alonna Chatburn said.
“She's just a go-getter,” she said. “She doesn't work on Wednesdays and Sundays because we're closed but I think every other day she's here.”
Sewell has done everything from sweeping the floors and cleaning the restrooms to sorting food donations, helping with distribution and giving lessons in bag flattening at the food bank. This spring, she served as interim codirector before new director, Dell Deierling, was hired. As the food bank's volunteer coordinator, she continues to sign up new volunteers, organize paperwork for background checks and conduct tours of the facility.
An avid gardener, Sewell, 69, also helped to start the Giving Gardens program with former food bank director Joyce Zeigen in the spring of 2009. The campaign encourages people to grow produce in their own gardens and donate it to the food bank.
When the Giving Gardens campaign began, the goal was to collect 10,000 pounds of produce, Sewell said. They ended up collecting 25,000 pounds. In March, the successful program earned the food bank a $5,000 award from Food Lifeline.
Sewell said she enjoys spreading the word about the Giving Gardens program at community functions. She maintains three garden plots for the food bank nearby at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church P-patch.
“I visit twice a week and maybe pull some weeds,” she said. “Right now, everything is coming up real good.”
An assortment of peas, beans, radishes, spinach, turnips, rutabagas and cucumbers are growing in the food bank plots for now, she added.
All of Sewell's work for the food bank has not gone unnoticed.
At a volunteer appreciation dinner on April 29, she learned her fellow food bank volunteers voted her as Volunteer of the Year.
Sewell was surprised and happy to receive the recognition that includes having her name added to a Volunteer of the Year plaque that hangs on one of the food bank walls. Board members also took note of her efforts as volunteer coordinator.
“Because of her dedication, the board has just made that a small part time job,” Chatburn said.
Sewell said she plans to continue working and volunteering at the Marysville Community Food Bank. She hopes a gleaning program can be started soon to help collect fruit before it falls off trees and cannot be donated.
She likes to encourages other volunteers by writing motivational quotes she finds on the Internet on a large white board at the food bank.
“I have enough to do here to keep my mind occupied,” she said. “My plan is to continue. As long as God's willing and I can get out of bed every morning, I'll be here.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

Marysville Community Food Bank
Fresh produce can be donated to the Marysville Community Food Bank Giving Gardens program from 8 to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 2 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays; and from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on Fridays. The food bank is at 4150 88th St. NE in Marysville. For more information call 360-658-1054.
Story tags » MarysvilleCharity

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