Betty was familiar with Hopelink’s Carnation food bank from her time running bingo games at the American Legion nearby, but that didn’t make it easier for her to take that first step inside when she found herself needing help a few years ago.
“I sat out in the car for a long time before I finally went in,” Betty says. “But I knew I had to do it.”
Betty and her husband, Dave, began their life together like many couples in the 1950s. Betty was a homemaker at a time when one income was enough to build a future, and Dave was in the military; serving in Japan and Korea. Their first child was born while he was stationed overseas. Together, they raised six children.
In 1985, when the kids were grown and on their own, Betty and Dave came to the Northwest, settling in the Snoqualmie Valley. And while Dave found work in the electronics industry, the local American Legion reached out to Betty to see if she might be open to running their bingo hall.
The idea was a dramatic change for the empty nester who had taken to gardening and puttering around her home, but Betty said she’d give it a go. She stayed 20 years.
“I really enjoyed it,” Betty says. “It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the people.”
When her husband passed away in 2008, everything changed. Soon, Betty realized she needed to ask for help.
“When Dave was still alive, I never thought it would happen,” she says. “I never really thought I would have to go to a food bank. I thought I’d be able to keep my job longer, and I thought we’d have more money available to save.”
Things didn’t work out that way. And eventually, Betty found herself in need of help, sitting in her car outside Hopelink, working up the courage to take that first step.
Once inside, she felt welcome immediately.
“A dear lady – I think she was a volunteer – came up to me, and whether she saw that I was scared … I think so; I feel that way,” Betty says. “And she said, ‘you know, there’s a lot of us that have to come here.’ And I went into the food bank, and it was wonderful. I learned there were other people having a hard time … it wasn’t just me.”
Betty started visiting the food bank twice a month, and began to look forward to it. It gave her a chance to get out of the house and dress up a bit – often in her favorite color pink – and meet other people and check in with the regular volunteers.
Betty says she especially appreciates the fresh produce – the greens and fruits that are too expensive in the grocery store, but are essential to her health, as she lives with diabetes and can’t eat a lot of canned goods.
While Hopelink has helped Betty stay healthy and independent in her later years, it’s knowing that someone cares that means the most.
“I know that if I walk in and ask a question, there will be someone to answer it,” Betty says. “And those are important things when we get into our later years … that there’s someone out there that cares. I think that’s the most important thing. I really feel that way.”
It’s been more than a decade since Betty’s husband passed away, but she still gets teary-eyed when she talks about him.
“Family was so important to Dave,” Betty says. “He was a great guy … I miss him a lot.”
The anniversary of her husband’s death during the holiday season hits particularly hard, but Betty is spirited and resilient, with a welcoming smile reminiscent of a favorite grandmother.
And she is grateful that Hopelink has been there for her during the past few years.
“I appreciate Hopelink, I really do,” Betty says. “They’ve helped me in a million ways since Dave’s died. And without them, I don’t know what I would do. Without the food bank, I’m not sure I could make it. I know I couldn’t.”
Since 1971, Hopelink has served homeless and low-income families and individuals in King and Snohomish counties; providing stability and helping people gain the skills and knowledge they need to exit poverty for good.