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CLE ELUM — The Cle Elum HopeSource food bank saw a 20 percent increase in demand in the last month with Upper County residents hit hard by government directives to help slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit is not only operating with a skeleton crew, but taking on a greater demand during the pandemic, and a $5,000 grant from the Suncadia Fund for Community Enhancement couldn’t have come at a better time, Upper County operations manager Stephanie Haag said.

“Having the financial resources to buy the items we need in larger quantities is such a blessing,” Haag said. “The Suncadia grant committee was able to fulfill our request quickly, allowing us to meet the need right now.”

The Suncadia group helped purchase the Cle Elum HopeSource delivery van two years ago so it could distribute food and necessities to shut-ins throughout the Upper County. This round of funding wasn’t so much provided a specific need, committee member Jim Becker said, but more of an economic boost for Haag and her staff to get what they need, when they need it.

“We’re excited to help,” Becker said. “The fund was put together to take care of community enhancement in Suncadia. But the money can also be used to fund nonprofits in Upper County.

“So, I went to HopeSource and said what can we do to help with the coronavirus going on and we can up with the plan, giving them the freedom to buy what they can at affordable prices to resupply.”

Economical bulk purchases fill in the gaps with items that are not provided by government programs and allow a more streamlined distribution process.

“We’ve seen an increase in new clients with the pandemic, and that’s been a bigger strain on both our mobile deliveries and coming physically here to our building,” Haag said. “Deliveries are only for homebound clients, often times elderly clients or somebody that’s recently had a surgery. But most of our clientele is walk-in.

“The biggest change during the pandemic is that we’re doing curbside distribution now. We’ve minimized the number of volunteers in the food bank at any given time. So, we’re servicing more clients with fewer volunteers.”

People seeking food assistance can visit the food bank at 110 Pennsylvania Ave. in Cle Elum on Mondays (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Wednesdays (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

For those who would like to help, the best way is to donate funds online at www.hopesource.us. Mark donations for the Upper County Fund. For more information, call HopeSource at 509-925-1448.

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