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Maple Valley food bank reopens doors one year after shutdown began

A food bank in Maple Valley reopened its doors one year after the shutdown began and the demand for food services exploded across the area.

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. — A food bank in Maple Valley has reopened its doors one year after the shutdown began and the demand for food services exploded across the region.

Lindsey Habenicht, executive director of Maple Valley Food Bank and Emergency Services, took over leadership of the grocery-style market right as Governor Jay Inslee began to shut things down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Her first week involved closing the food bank for deep cleaning and working with the team to come up with a strategy to make sure families were still being fed.

"We called on our community, we brought a whole new team in, we operated completely different than we ever have before and we did that in a matter of days," Habenicht said.

In the midst of so many constant changes and unknowns, the food bank began operating a drive-thru style service two days after closing its doors.

"There probably wasn't a single week that looked like the week prior," Habenicht said. "We were always learning, we were always changing something." 

The pandemic continued to meet Habenicht and other staff and volunteers with obstacles.

"Our numbers spiked," she said. "We were seeing families we have never seen at our food bank before." 

Last week, Maple Valley Food Bank and Emergency Services began welcoming families inside its newly remodeled space.

"When they walked in for the first time after a year, not only had it been a really long time, but it looked and it felt different and the looks on our clients' faces, I think it says everything," she said.

Volunteers and staff made sure to include social distancing markers and a door greeter to make sure everyone is sanitizing before coming inside and handing out masks to anyone who needs one.

"I think that this has changed businesses and organizations for the better in a lot of ways because it's challenged us and stretched us," Habenicht said. "Now what we are able to do, it's just, it's that much greater, it's that much better."