The line winds like a weed through the front door and into the parking lot at Mount Vernon's Neighbors in Need food bank. Of the more than 300 families served here every week, the overwhelming majority are children. Nobody knows that better than Bill McMaster. The disabled Gulf War veteran hit a low last October when he lost his job and couldn't feed his kids. "It was a big tear jerker," he says. "I still get emotional about it."
It's so emotional because McMaster has 9 children counting on him -- all of them adopted. "Not only did Neighbors in Need supply us with a week's worth of food, they supplied us with hope," he says, tears welling up in his eyes.
Much of that hope is being cultivated in two dusty acres of land along Highway 20 in the Skagit Valley. They call it the "Garden of Hope." The land, donated by Mount Vernon's Magill family, is being used to grow fresh, organic produce for the food bank -- something that is all too often lacking in the diets of those in need.
Gil Gillmor is the multi-tasking man behind the garden -- cell phone in one hand, hoe in the other. "I'm not a farmer, that's why I'm looking for managers," he chuckles. "And I'll tell you the learning curve is pretty steep for me right now."
Gillmor is a retired United Airlines pilot -- although for him "retired" is a relative term. "My wife says I flunked retirement."
That failure is a success for countless in this community. Gillmor is busy growing this garden, not just to feed families at the food bank, but to nourish the souls of the people who live here. More than 100 volunteers regulalry turn out to weed, water and plant. It's all done by hand and with one goal in mind. "We want to have a hunger-free zone in out community," says Gillmor.
And while volunteers wait for their crops to take root, Gillmor's passion is already bearing fruit at the food bank. Bill McMaster, the father of 9, now volunteers here -- as does his 13 year old daughter, Salyssa. A child of this food bank, she now dreams of running her own one day. "The biggest thing I've learned is that when people come together anything can be accomplished," she says, a broad smile spreading across her beaming face. "No one should be hungry."
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