South King Fire and Rescue recently spread holiday joy through Federal Way and Des Moines with this year’s Santa Parade — and in return, raised more than 3,000 pounds of food donations.
Over the course of a weekend, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus accompanied South King Fire members and City of Federal Way employees on a tour Dec. 4-7 throughout various local neighborhoods, riding in engines decked with Christmas lights.
Families and community members waited on their neighborhood sidewalks to wave to Santa and pass along canned food donations.
In total, the Federal Way community donated 1,640 pounds of food for the Federal Way Senior Center Food Bank. The Des Moines community came in right behind them with 1,382 pounds of food to be contributed to the Des Moines Area Food Bank, South King Fire Capt. Brad Chaney said.
Due to Covid-19, the Federal Way Senior Center Food Bank has been a 60-70% increase of visitors. The food bank serves on average about 1,000 families, or about 4,000 individuals, per month, said Shelley Puariea, executive director of the Federal Way Senior Center Food Bank.
“We’ve never been busier,” Puariea said. “South King Fire has helped in so many different ways over the years, they have just been fantastic and then to do this, on top of everything else wonderful they do, is just phenomenal.”
COVID-19 restrictions have forced the Federal Way Senior Center to close, and the facility has lost all income from the rentals they rely on to cover utilities, insurance and other operating expenses. Though most of the food bank’s income has come to a halt, the bills continue, Puariea said. So far, the senior center has lost about $70,000 in revenue this year.
Thanks to support funding from the City of Federal Way, Seattle Foundation and King County’s Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, the food bank has been able to continue serving the community.
For the past 29 weeks, the Federal Way food bank has participated in the USDA Farm to Family Food program. Guests are able to simply drive up and volunteers will load the groceries into their vehicles from 9 a.m. to noon every Monday and Thursday.
On Thursdays, volunteers from local nonprofit We Love Our City (a group of local churches, friends and families) work with about 55 partners to distribute food boxes throughout Federal Way and neighboring communities, said Shelley Pauls of We Love Our City.
On average, about 23,000 pounds of food is distributed each week. Volunteers deliver the fresh and nutritious food boxes to individual homes, apartments, community cafes, senior and veteran housing, and other local food banks.
“Really, the community is coming together, which is what we need to do. I just love that part of it — everybody working together to help,” Puariea said.
It is uncertain if this food program will be extended next year, but the food bank continues to see new families visiting for the first time.
South King Fire’s donation brought hope in more ways than one.
“People raced to the doors and windows, came outside in their front yards yelling and waving and cheering for Santa,” said Chaney of SKFR. “There were several people who even cried because of the amount of joy this event brought to their lives, even if only for a brief moment.”
Fire Chief Vic Pennington said the department is already looking forward to next year’s event.