83-year-old woman nourishes her community

EDMONDS, Wash. -- They are a small army of volunteers on a mission to make a difference, and the soft spoken lady in the fuzzy sweater and flannel pants is their general.

"Well, they do listen to what I have to say," said Annie Fortnum.

Annie's Army is full of loyal and devoted soldiers.

"She's is just so inspiring," said Nancy Garrison. "She makes us want to do more. To do better."

Annie started a community kitchen at Edmonds Lutheran Church when she was a spry 73 years old. A decade later, her Wednesday night dinners have provided some 75,000 meals in a town not known for having an underclass.

"We don't have any hungry people, is what the city said. We kind of proved them wrong," said Annie.

That first dinner 10 years ago fed four people, but the need grew quickly. Annie and her army began approaching local supermarkets and asking them for the food that was perfectly fit to eat, but was going to be thrown out.

It started with a cartload of strawberries that Annie had to pay for. Now, volunteers collect more than half a ton of food per week. It's enough to fill the bellies of 150 people every Wednesday and give what's left over to local food banks.

But it isn't just about feeding the hungry. For Annie, it's about nourishing souls, especially those that are lonely.

"We've got a lot of widows who are just tired of eating alone," Annie said. "I'm a widow and I know how neat it is to have other people to eat with and talk to."

At 83, Annie is semi-retired from her kitchen. She lets others do the heavy lifting now, but she can still be found sweeping out the new storage shed or lending a listening ear to someone who just wants to chat. One day in the not too distant future, Annie will turn the kitchen over to someone else, but she will always be the inspiration that fortifies her army.

"There's always someone who needs your help. There's so much you can do, even as an older person," she said. "So get out there and do it."

You can learn more about Annie's Community Kitchen by visiting http://annieskitchen.edmondslutheran.org/


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