Kevin Hanford stood outside the doors of the Sky Valley Food Bank on Thursday.

This time he wasn’t in line.

The Boeing interiors mechanic held a letter in his hand announcing the nonprofit would receive $5,000 raised by the company’s employees. For him, it was also a return to the site he visited following the Great Recession to ensure his family was fed.

Hanford and Boeing senior financial analyst Oleg Vakulchik were meeting with the organization’s executive director, Cindy Chessie, who retired from the Monroe Police Department in June to fill the position. The stop was at one of about 15 regional food banks receiving an Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound grant this season.

Chessie said gifts that come in from October through December are what largely support operations for the rest of the year. Once the holidays are over, donations basically drop off.

Thursday she knew the ECF Board of Trustee president and treasurer were coming to reveal what the food bank would receive, but she didn’t know how much. 

“Have you checked your mail today?” Hanford asked tentatively before telling her the dollar amount.

Hanford, who also serves on the Monroe City Council, was unemployed for about eight months before he was hired on at Boeing after the economic downturn. He mowed lawns and worked odd jobs to make ends meet.

Thursday’s contribution also hit home for Vakulchik. He came to the Unite States as a refugee and leaned on local food banks in North Seattle for a time. He said he has experienced that need for food, and ensuring communities have access to good meals is critical.

Vakulchik and Hanford explained this particular grant isn’t always available, but happened to be something of a surplus. It is not money that anyone wants to hold on to, he said.

About 16 percent of Boeing’s 13,000 staff in the Puget Sound area contribute directly from their paychecks to the regional ECF, which was formed decades ago. This year $6 million was raised through the employee-owned and managed account.

Organizations in health and human services can apply for grants, one of which previously paid for a food bank truck, Hanford said. Other sites chosen for the end-of-year donation are as far south as Olympia and Bellingham to the north, he said.

About 15,000 pounds of food is purchased each month for Sky Valley community members by the local charity. Distributions are held 9-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 6-7 p.m. Mondays.