Thousands of pounds of potatoes and onions were given away in Port Angeles and Forks, and more such distributions are likely in the future, organizers said.
Seventy volunteers ranging from Boy Scouts to motorcycle club members handed out 29,180 pounds of potatoes and 4,800 pounds of onions at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles on Saturday.
“More than 1,700 cars come through in three hours,” said Connie Beauvais, Port of Port Angeles commissioner and candidate for state Senate, who organized the free delivery along with Hermann Bros., Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, Jim Buck, Terry Barnett and Forks Mayor Tim Fletcher.
The same day — also in three hours — six volunteers in Forks gave away 5,000 pounds of potatoes and 500 pounds of onions, Fletcher said.
“It really helped the community. It was a beautiful day (Saturday),” Fletcher said, remarking on “the gratefulness of the community. We’re definitely going to do this again.”
Bill and Mike Hermann of Hermann Bros. Logging and Construction Co., drove to a packing plant in Moses Lake to pick up the potatoes and onions donated by farmers who could no longer sell them after restaurants closed due to COVID-19 precautions.
They picked up 52,800 pounds of potatoes and 6,000 pounds of onions, Beauvais said, adding that she, Peach and Hermann Bros., paid $2,000 to bag the produce and place it on pallets.
“This is going to be satisfying to farmers” to know that they were able to provide communities with the food, Beauvais said.
Many volunteers helped distribute the food. Wearing face masks, they loaded potatoes and onions in waiting cars to minimize contact.
Among those who helped in Port Angeles were Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts in uniform and members of a local motorcycle club, with Mathew Rainwater in charge of traffic flow and a Port Angeles police officer helping to keep it orderly, Beauvais said.
The six volunteers in Forks were from service clubs and the Forks Police Department, Fletcher said.
People you don’t ordinarily see at food banks — people who have lost jobs or been furloughed — were lined up for the free food, Fletcher and Beauvais said.
“There was one young mother who came in pushing a stroller and had two small kids with her, and she said, ‘You don’t know what it means to have these potatoes and onions,’ ” Beauvais said.
“One guy had a bicycle and a backpack and carried off 10 pounds of potatoes in his backpack,” she added.
Prior to the Saturday distributions, potatoes and onions were given to area tribes and food banks.
Organizations that received donations were the Forks and Sequim food banks, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, the Makah, Hoh, Quileute and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes, the Joyce Bible Church and the Salvation Army.
The Lower Elwha Tribe is scheduled to pick up more than 2,000 pounds of potatoes and 100 pounds of onions later this week, Beauvais said.
After all the donations and distributions, none of the potatoes and onions are left, Beauvais said.
Instead, they have been made into home-cooked meals.
“There were people posting pictures of their dinners,” such as potatoes au gratin and onion soup in one case, French fries in another, Beauvais said.
Both she and Fletcher said more such events will be coming in the future.
“This is the first community event we’ve had for a couple of months,” Beauvais said. “We’ll have more opportunities in the next couple of months.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].