SUNNYSIDE — In response to food insecurities families are presently experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it’s having on lower valley communities – Harrison Middle School hosted a Second Harvest Mobile Market as teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, along with National Guard team members distributed about 500 prepacked emergency food boxes on Saturday afternoon, April 25, around 2:30 p.m.

HMS Language Arts and History teacher Lisa Sanders said she fielded the idea from her next-door neighbor, who works at the food donation organization about the campus interest in holding the event.

The sixth grade educator eagerly brought forward the concept to school officials and they were all in – ready to assist with the traveling food logistics and disbursement, which encompassed three cargo trucks loaded with food, including an assortment of fresh groceries, produce and nonperishable items.

“They said heck yeah! Let’s do this. It’s our community and these are the kids that we love and miss. So, we just banded together,” Sanders declared while coordinating the dedicated efforts of 18 enthusiastic school volunteers.

Sunnyside Police Officer Sergeant Chris Sparks was on hand directing traffic and by 1:30 p.m., an estimated 400 vehicles in five lanes had already filled up the middle school parking lot as drivers used Chief Kamiakin Elementary bus loop at the corner of 16th Avenue and Lincoln Avenue to secure a spot.

An overflow of cars were diverted to the high school parking lot where they waited for an allotted one box of food while supplies lasted.

Striving to aid Central Washington communities in meeting the tremendous need for nutritious food as families struggle to remain safe at home, Second Harvest have called upon the Washington National Guard to support their mobile mission.

“That tsunami of need is hitting us and it’s hard to know exactly how to keep ahead of that need and so, the National Guard is a great asset for us. We need that extra energy and labor in order to keep doing what we’re doing for the communities we serve,” Second Harvest Vice President of Projects Holly Siler explained.

National Guard Second Lieutenant Paula Ramirez with the 1041st Transportation Company stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane was one of four members from Sunnyside providing critical operations assistance outside Clem Senn Field.

“It’s exciting! Because I know everyone here. This is my family,” the four-year National Guard member proudly expressed while receiving bags of potatoes and stacking them with well-organized precision. “For me, it’s just giving back. So, I will be able to see some familiar faces and say hi.”

Ramirez is also an academic support specialist for Sunnyside High School, and this was her first-time taking part in the food bank exercise and observing the overwhelming need first-hand.

For many of the frontline volunteers, this was an awesome opportunity to join others seeking to make a positive difference within the community they live.

“It’s amazing. I’m very grateful we can do this,” Assistant Principal Michelle Simon acknowledged after walking back to the milk crate and grape supply section with eighth grade teacher Caitlin Smith. “I love seeing our students and our families in the community.”

The Second Harvest Mobile Market will be return to Harrison Middle School Saturday, May 2, at 2:30.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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