PORT ANGELES — Ashley Gamble was in tears as she arrived at the Port Angeles Food Bank on Thursday.
Gamble, her husband who is stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, and their two children recently moved to the area during the partial federal government shutdown after he finished a year-long deployment in Bahrain.
They now are facing financial uncertainty.
“The shutdown has been stressful to say the least,” Gamble said. “Come February, if this continues, I have no idea what’s going to happen.”
It was the first time the Port Angeles Food Bank has ever held a special distribution for federal workers.
Gamble’s family was one of 37 households that went to the food bank as the partial government shutdown entered its 27th day Thursday.
Many federal workers who went through the line said they were not authorized to talk or expressed concern about retribution from their employer for talking to news media. Some volunteers who helped serve people were active duty Coast Guard.
Gamble said it was emotional to have to go to the food bank. Though she has used a food bank once before, having to ask for help and accept the help was difficult, she said.
“We love to help others, but we’re not big on accepting help because we’d rather handle it ourselves,” she said. “This has been a rather humbling experience for us as a family.”
Admiral Karl Schultz on Tuesday told members of the Coast Guard it was the first time in U.S. history that people serving in the military have not been paid during a lapse of government appropriations.
Gamble said that due to recently moving to the area, her family initially had little food at home. She and her husband had set aside money to replenish their food supply in their pantry, fridge and freezer, but she knew she needed to accept the help.
“Spending money to feed a family of four isn’t cheap and if that money can go towards a different bill instead, we need to put it there,” she said.
Gamble said her family has been looking to save money wherever possible since the shutdown started. They are clipping coupons and using small heaters in select rooms in their home.
She’s heard from many Coast Guard families and said the shutdown is stressful for everyone, even those who do have savings.
“There are a lot of people who are stressed out who may be able to pay their bills, but there’s stress in not knowing when you’re going to get paid,” she said, adding that she urges people to reach out to families affected.
She said that even if people can’t help financially, being there for support can help people during the shutdown.
Emily Dexter, the director of the Port Angeles Food Bank at 402 S. Valley St., said she did not know how many federal workers would show up to the distribution.
She said that for many who don’t normally have to ask for help, going to the food bank can be uncomfortable.
Dexter said the food bank has received many calls from community members who wanted to help out and the food bank also recently got fresh produce specifically for Thursday’s distribution.
“The goal is to alleviate at least one shopping bill,” Dexter said. “That might be $100 it might be saving somebody.”
She said federal workers who missed the special distribution Thursday are welcome during any of the regular distribution days well.
The Port Angeles Food Bank is open from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The phone number is 360-452-8568.
Dexter said the Food Bank might hold another distribution for federal workers, but that has yet to be decided. She said that if there is another special distribution the date would be announced on the Port Angeles Food Bank Facebook page.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.