COPALIS BEACH, Wash. — A car horn honking – and a woman shouting "Lunches!" at the top of her lungs. This is the sound of summer on Washington's coast. The sound of help being hand-delivered in a white paper bag.
"They see the car coming and kids will run out - ah, it's the lunch lady! - and they get their sacks, and they're happy," said Phyllis Shaughnessy.
Phyllis goes by another name in these parts: The Lunch Lady.
Most of us go to the north coast for beach walks. Beauty. But behind the scenery is poverty.
80 percent of the kids in the North Beach school district qualify for free and reduced lunches during the school year. But come summer they'd have nothing if it weren't the Lunch Lady.
Shaugnessy, a former postmaster, saw a need when the district lost summer lunch program grants because this spread out, rural area didn't have a centralized spot where families could pick up lunches.
She decided to deliver.
"I believe in children, they should never be food insecure. They should never be. Especially in our country," said Shaughnessy.
She needed a place to make her lunches, so in 2015 she asked the Green Lantern Pub at Copalis Beach.
‘Some people said 'A tavern’?’ she laughed.
But she had tapped into the heart of the community. And Green Lantern Lunches was launched.
"We were back here making the sandwiches. We put covers on the pool table and the shuffleboard and we had everything laid out,” Shaughnessy explained from the back room of the landmark local spot.
"And it just took off like wildfire. The need is so great out here, unfortunately. But fortunately, we have people like Phyllis. And we have people out here that say not on my watch. So, we feed those kids,” said Claire Hall, owner of the Green Lantern Pub.
Today, Shaughnessy’s own garage serves as an annex for Green Lantern Lunches. Volunteers pack these lunches, then deliver them from Humptulips to Quinault.
Over twenty-thousand lunches a year.
This great-grandmother still makes deliveries every day of the summer. Driving hundreds of miles, climbing thousands of porch steps, and checking in on everyone as she drops off those white bags. And sometimes as she makes her rounds, she stops alongside the road when she sees someone who isn’t a schoolkid, but needs some help.
"To me, hunger is not necessarily a street address. If I see somebody with a backpack walking barefoot on the ground, I stop and ask them if they want a lunch."
If you’re vacationing on the coast this summer and you hear some honking, now you know. It’s the sound of someone doing something they believe in.
"Personally? I get a sense of fulfillment, in that I believe everybody is put on this earth to do something, and it's better to care for another than to care so much for yourself."
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