As our community goes through this difficult time, food bank volunteers are local heroes too. Harry Yanagimachi has no shortage of compassion and dedication for his work at the food bank.
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself, Harry.
A: I was born and raised in Pacific County on an oyster farm, and started working with oysters when I was 8 years old, until I threw my back out at 18! I went to school at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in Human Resources. During the Boeing crunch, the first people that were being fired were the personnel managers, so that really wasn’t a great career move! I then started work at an insurance agency (Unigard) as an underwriter. I saw that the path to advancement was populated with people a few years older than me, so I decided to become an agent. My first gig as an insurance agent was in Shelton. Soon after that, an opportunity opened up for an agency with ownership in Tacoma. I was in Tacoma from ‘77 until (hmmmmm…) 2012 when I retired.
Q: What drew you to Ocean Shores when you retired?
A: I was here in the ’60s, renting charter boats. It’s a lot like where I grew up, except quite a bit bigger. My wife (Kathy Hansen) is probably the driving force. She really wanted to get out of Thurston County. It surprised me when she said “It’s time for a change; let’s try Ocean Shores!” We came here and looked at different places, liked the people, liked the neighborhoods, and liked the small town feel of it all. We pulled up stakes (30 some years in Thurston County for me and a lifetime for her!) and we moved to Ocean Shores in 2012.
Q: You’ve relocated to Ocean Shores by 2012. What drew you to volunteering at the Food Bank?
A: I had a plot at the Community Garden and a volunteer from the Food Bank talked me into it. I volunteered at the Garden (in fact I was chairperson of that project) for a couple of years. I soon got involved with other opportunities that the Food Bank offered and more capable people took the Garden from me! (Laughter.)
Q: What are your Food Bank responsibilities?
A: I’m on the Board of Directors until the end of this year; we help keep the finances going. I’m also on the Operations Management Group (OMG), which does the day to day operations of the Food Bank. As the Transportation Chairperson, I arrange all weekly trips to Aberdeen to pick up donations from Safeway. The donations vary, depending on what season it is and what kind of demand they have. We get produce, some meat, a lot of breads and desserts, and some prepared meals from the deli — things like that.
Q: How has the Coronavirus affected you and the new Food Bank distribution process?
A: I can’t mingle with my friends, and I really do miss that: the one-on-one contact with people. I’ve noticed changes in people I see, in passing. We are all hyper-aware of the distance you have to keep. We don’t even elbow bump! Avoidance is the best way to endure this thing. As for the distribution process, we are now a drive-through. The people come into the entrance of the Thrift Store parking lot, identify themselves and tell the greeter how many families they’re picking up for. A colored code is put underneath their windshield wiper and they come to another stop where the registration process is completed. Volunteers note the color of the window card and bring the appropriate prepackaged food bags to them. They’re in and out of here in less than three minutes!
Q: What is your favorite Food Bank story?
A: The feeling that you get by being part of the Food Bank and how it affects the people in our community is what says it best. The people who volunteer do so of their own volition. Everybody is a self starter — they pick up a job, they do it and they do it very well.
Q: Final question — what would someone be surprised to know about you?
A: If you talk to a lot of my close co-volunteers, they’d be surprised to know I have a heart! (Laughter…)
— By Gary Josephson, OSFB Volunteer Reporter
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