BRINNON — Three-time cancer survivor Kate Sullivan is determined to continue to help her community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sullivan, 62, is a volunteer with the Brinnon Food Bank, the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and is the sole volunteer with the Brinnon Senior Nutrition Program, delivering meals to home-bound seniors in Brinnon.
The RSVP is a Senior Corps program of national service funded by the National Corporation of National and Community Service, the state Chamber of Commerce, and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), said Jane Covella, RSVP Program manager for OlyCAP.
Sullivan has been a volunteer with RSVP and the food bank since 2015, and she started delivering meals last year, Covella said.
“Kate has been a valuable resource in that community,” Covella said. “She’s a volunteer who is just doing a tremendous amount of work in her community.
“She goes above and beyond to make sure she’s helping people.”
Sullivan moved from Puyallup to Brinnon six years ago and immediately wanted to find ways to get involved. At first, she got involved through her work as a quilter and crafter.
“I figure every day is a gift, and I want to give back to the community,” Sullivan said. “I was just looking for something to do, and it just became my heart and soul to go down and do what I can.
“There aren’t many services available for help in Brinnon due to its ruralness.”
Other ways Sullivan has been volunteering include organizing fundraisers for the food bank, driving people who need help with transportation and visiting with elderly and frail neighbors who have no other family or friends to check on them, Sullivan said.
In response to COVID-19, Sullivan has been spending more time at the food bank, getting food pre-boxed and bagged, since all the food banks in Jefferson and Clallam counties have switched to a drive-thru model to try to stem the spread of the virus, Sullivan said.
It used to be the volunteers would show up about 7 a.m. on Tuesday to lay out the food and set up everything up for the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. shop, but now the volunteers have begun to come in on Monday and other days during the week to help get items organized in boxes, Sullivan said.
The Brinnon Food Bank normally sees about 100 to 120 families each week, but Sullivan said that number will rise due to the current pandemic. She was expecting closer to 200 on Tuesday.
Even though she has been helping the community, Sullivan has been doing what she can to protect herself through social distancing — she is also part of the demographics most at-risk — by maintaining at least 6 feet between herself and the other food bank volunteers, dropping off meals on doorsteps instead of hand delivering and calling to check in on the residents she used to visit in person, she said.
“I’ve kind of accepted the fact that I’m living on borrowed time,” Sullivan said. “Isolation is a really hard thing to deal with, with this virus.
“I do what I can and help them out. I just try to be there for them, and they become friends, not just people I deliver food to.”
Sullivan said the hardest part of her volunteer work is to not to become too emotionally involved in some of the residents’ problems. She described some living in bad conditions.
“It’s heart-wrenching what some of them have gone through,” Sullivan said. “It’s a two-sided coin, you either have the best of the best or the worst of the worst.
“The hardest part is not getting so emotionally involved it takes you over.”
Sullivan believes people will need to help each other to get through the crisis.
“We all have to work together for the common good,” she said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].