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Washington National Guard Helps at Community Food Bank

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Sept. 9, 2020 | BY Air Force Capt. Hans Zeiger

Members of the Washington Air National Guard’s 194th Wing are working alongside Army National Guardsmen at the food bank in Bonney Lake, Washington, to serve their neighbors in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A woman wearing a food bank shirt prepares to remove a box of food from a packed vehicle.

The Bonney Lake Food bank is one of many food bank locations around the state where the guard continues to serve. Altogether, the guard has taken part in processing, packaging and distributing more than 45 million pounds of food.

“The guard has played such an integral role,” said Stacey Crnich, director of the Bonney Lake Food Bank, who began her job not long after Gov. Jay R. Inslee declared an emergency in Washington. Early on during the pandemic, Crnich said she instituted a delivery model to keep up with the growing need and maintain health standards. At first, the food bank was overwhelmed, she said.

“The guard showed up a week and a half into our delivery model and changed everything,” Crnich said. “We’ve been able to leverage resources and leverage people. Route delivery times decreased dramatically.”

Crnich has seen the number of families she serves grow from 170 to more than 600 every two weeks, she said. The guardsmen have allowed Crnich and her team to keep up with the growing demand, she said.

A white board shows the number of families served by a food bank as a woman works in the background.

Many of the guardsmen serving in Bonney Lake live in the area, said Army 2nd Lt. Mike Sebastionelli, the officer in charge of the food bank mission in Bonney Lake. “People join the guard to help their community. [They] are making an impact on this area,” said Sebastionelli.

“We are helping people who are hit by the impacts to the economy,” said Air Force Master Sgt. James Moats, a member of the Washington Air National Guard’s 116th Weather Flight. Moats started working at the Bonney Lake Food Bank in August after two weeks serving at a food bank warehouse in Kent, Washington.

People in the community are taking notice of the guard’s impact, Sebastionelli said. One veteran has written notes expressing thanks to the soldiers and airmen who have delivered food to him, and someone hung a banner on the food bank building thanking the guard, Sebastionelli continued.

A service member and a woman wearing a food bank tee shirt pack a box with food.

“It’s cool to see people come in and say thank you for everything that we do,” said Christine Krysiak, a member of the Washington Air National Guard’s 194th Wing student flight who recently graduated from Franklin Pierce High School in Parkland, Washington.

Even though Krysiak has not completed initial training to become an airman, she is able to serve on state active duty status.

“I feel happy, and I’m [doing] my part and helping others, because COVID is really affecting everyone,” Krysiak said.

Crnich credits the guard with enabling the Bonney Lake Food Bank to perfect its delivery model.

“We have systems in place where we can bring this to [families],” Crnich said. “That’s the guard. I feel like we’re business partners now.”

(Capt. Hans Zeiger is assigned to the 194th Wing).


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