50 Years of History

By Cori Walters

Fall 2021

In 1971, the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank was started through the grassroots efforts of Founder Bob Gray and concerned community members from the Pine Lake United Presbyterian Church. Boeing had devastating layoffs and many people in the Issaquah Valley were in a situation where they were left unemployed and unsure of where their next meal was going to come from. As the concerns throughout the community grew, other churches, the police and fire departments, and services organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary, and Seniors stepped up and joined the mission to ensure everyone had food to put on their table. Bob’s sentiment and mission that “if people say they need food, they need food, and shouldn't have to beg for it - it should be a right” still rings true today in our organization.

In the beginning, food was distributed out of a volunteer’s garage, then out of a shipping container. In 1992, with the support and help from the City of Issaquah, we moved into our current 5,250 square-foot building. One of our first volunteers, Dianne Tanner, said moving into the 179 1st Ave SE building felt like “We made it! We did it”.  For almost 30 years, we have adapted our space to meet the changing needs in our community. Today, our service numbers and program diversity has us bursting at the seams.

Our most significant changes in the last 10 years include:

  • Added programs: Groceries to Go, Power Packs, Summer Lunch, Lunch for the Break, Homeless Outreach (case management), Mobile Integrated Healthcare (case management)
  • Facility designed to look like a grocery store for self-select shopping vs. pre-packed emergency box distribution
  • Acquired an off-site warehouse to manage increase in inventory
  • Increase in number of volunteers and staff
  • Increase in number of clients being served
  • Expansion of service area
  • Targeted effort in serving seniors, youth, and people who are experiencing homelessness
  • Increased engagement with donors and partners so that we can expand our offerings for optimum impact
  • Working with and helping students in all the schools in the Issaquah School District

All these changes have led the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank to be on the hunt for additional space so that we can better serve more people in our growing community. 

Over the years our service area has grown from just serving Issaquah to serving a 110 square-mile radius for our food bank and providing clothing, hygiene, and case management support to 16 different zip codes in East King County. This means our reach expands as far as Carnation, North Bend, and Renton.

Thank you to the millions of hands that have shown compassion to other community members through your time, your talents, and your resources. 50 years of community compassion is what makes the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank the vital resource that it is, and we’re excited to be entering into the next 50 years together.