After founding the Maltby Food Bank and running it for 20 years, Fran Walster is retiring.
With no start-up money, Fran, along with four other women and the support of three area churches, several area businesses and the community, took the old Maltby Mercantile, a vandalized mom-and-pop grocery store, and created the Make Me a Blessing Food Bank.
Over the years Fran has held many jobs at the food bank, such as driving the van to pick up food from area grocery stores, holding food drives, ordering food, attending meetings, and doing lots of paperwork.
“She always has a smile and a sympathetic ear for both the food bank clients and volunteers,” said a colleague.
Now Walster is turning over the operation to a new director in order to spend more time with her grandkids and new great grandson.
“I will just take life as it comes and move with the flow,” said Walster.
Running the food bank is a big job.
Being in unincorporated Snohomish County, there is no Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce to help support the service.
“We have our community and a network of friends and neighbors who believe in our work. We are 100 percent volunteers. We all work hard and we love what we do,” Walster said.
Every Thursday the food bank opens, and Walster calls the people who come for food “our Thursday family.”
“I love helping others by talking to them and showing them care and love,” she said.
Walster can relate to many of the food bank’s clients. She was once a single mom who found it hard to stretch her limited budget each month.
She and 50 volunteers built the service up until it could provide dairy, meat, produce and staples each week to a growing clientele. Through the support of the community and local grocery stores, the Maltby Food Bank is able to provide items that can’t be purchased with food stamps such as pet food, baby supplies, birthday bags and backpacks for children.
The Maltby Food Bank serves at least 110 families per week, or 440 people, 40 percent of whom are children and 10 percent of whom are seniors.
The volunteers are the lifeline of the food bank, Walster said. They depend on each other to get the job done and always provide service with a smile to their food bank family, she said.
When asked what words of wisdom she would like to pass along to future volunteers, Fran said, “Keep the clients as your focus. Every volunteer is replaceable, no one is better than another. Get along with each other and keep Jesus as the head of Maltby Food Bank. As we trust him, he lays us upon peoples’ hearts to help those in need and give.”
Walster will still staff a table on Thursdays, but otherwise will spend her retirement with family and friends.
“Fran will be sorely missed by the clients, volunteers and supporters of the Maltby Food Bank,” a colleague said.
Walster’s retirement party is open to anyone who wants to wish her well. The celebration takes place on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church at 9225 212th St. S.E. in Snohomish, from 2 to 4 p.m. Please RSVP by Feb. 7 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “Fran” and the number attending in the subject line of the RSVP email.