Put this date on your calendar: Saturday, October 3rd. That's the date of the 37th annual Rotary Food Bank Drive, Operation Harvest! I feel like this year's food drive event has a more special sense of urgency than in years past because of the economic impact brought on by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Many families have been turning to food banks to help them squeak by in the pantry these past few months.

I know this may come across as a bit cheesy, but Yakima's three Rotary Clubs have been doing some really positive things for families and children in our community, and that makes me beam with pride for them, even though I am not a Rotarian member.

Fun Fact: I think my obsession with the Rotary began nine (9) years ago. I confess that I used to watch all the Rotary meeting replays on YPAC/YCTV when I was at home resting during my pregnancy. That's how much of a nerd I am! I always found the meetings quite interesting, though.

My wish to be at a live Rotary meeting came true last year when I was invited to be a guest at a meeting for the 2020 Black History Month event, presented by the Downtown Rotary. They had special guests giving speeches and performances, some coming from as far away as Seattle and San Diego. The other two Rotary meetings I got invited to attend was due to my affiliation as Board President of the YWCA Yakima. I was offered free lunch at the meeting plus I got to sit at the table with a fun bunch of local business professionals while we listened to guest speakers.

If you ever get to attend a Rotary meeting, I think you will be delighted to see the room filled with Yakima's movers and shakers banding together with their resources (money, time, networking connections) to bring about beneficial change in the Yakima community.

The only reason I have not become a member of the Rotary is that I cannot commit to being present every week for a meeting. I am barely keeping up with my other monthly philanthropic commitments! Perhaps someday, I will be able to add being a Rotarian into my schedule.

If you are new to the area, there are three Rotary clubs in Yakima: the Downtown Yakima Rotary, Yakima Southwest Rotary, and the Sunrise Rotary. The Rotary downtown meets on Thursdays at 11:45 a.m., Southwest Rotary meets Tuesdays at 4:15, and the Sunrise branch meets early in the morning on Wednesdays at 6:30 (hence the name 'sunrise').

Getting back to the Rotary Operation Harvest community food drive. If you want to participate, a Rotary volunteer can supply you with a brown paper bag to fill with non-perishable foods and snacks (keep reading to get all the contact information). Make sure you get the empty brown bag dropped off to you a few days before the food drive, so that on 10/3/2020, one of the hundreds of local Rotary volunteers can come to your doorstep to pick up your bag full of food.

All Operation Harvest food donations will be sorted by Rotarians and then dropped off to one of the participating food banks here in Yakima (see list below).

  • OIC Food Bank (1409 Hathaway St)
  • Selah Food Bank (216 S 1st St)
  • The Vineyard (221 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd)
  • St. Michael's Episcopal Church (5 S Naches Ave)
  • Seventh-Day Adventist Food Bank (507 N 35th Ave)
  • St. Vincent Center (2629 Main St, Union Gap,)
  • Yakima Rotary Food Bank (703 Central Ave)

When members of Yakima's Rotary clubs are not out volunteering for the annual food drive, they participate in other meaningful community service projects throughout the year. Local outgoing Rotary President (and the first African American President in Downtown Yakima Rotary's history), Eric Silvers, spoke to me last year about their club's initiative to provide a new and updated playground in Yakima. We actually have several parks in town that were upgraded by the different Rotary clubs here in Yakima, including the new "stage" at Franklin Park on Tieton Drive. Isn't it a beauty!

Most recently, Rotary clubs in town have been touting their college scholarship opportunities and student exchange programs for area youth. When my daughter Willow attended a summer camp at the  Yakima Police Activities League (YPAL), the Rotary paid for a new computer room and library room at the facility. Good stuff!

Remember to leave food on your porch for Operation Harvest on Saturday, October 3rd.

Request one of their brown paper bags by emailing Soni Alexander at soni@paintsmith.com. (Soni (Chief Finance Officer of PaintSmith Company) is the Co-Chair of the Operation Harvest Committee.) You can also reach her by phone at (509) 728-0599. David Lynx, Chair of Public Relations for the food drive (Larson Gallery Director for Yakima Valley College, and my former boss, and now my current friend), says in a press release that volunteers will be picking up food in Yakima, West Valley, Moxee, and Naches.

If you want more information about Rotary International, here is their website.