Photo by Loretta Yerian.
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — After 13 years, the Williams Food Bank distributed its final food boxes before permanently closing its doors April 7.
According to Guy Mikkelsen, director of the food bank, the decision to close stemmed from a lack of permanent volunteers and his decision to retire after managing the food bank for more than a decade.
After seeking volunteers from within the community and receiving a modest response earlier this year, Mikkelsen said it still wasn’t enough and was not consistent with the needs of the operation.
“We did get a response, however, it wasn’t enough to save the sinking ship,” he said. “The people who came out were well intentioned and wanted to help but I didn’t get the response I needed. It was still going to fall pretty much on my shoulders. Folks did come out (but then) it trickled back down to just a couple people.”
Additionally, Mikkelsen said the full time, volunteer management position consumed more time and energy than he could devote to it. Mikkelsen also manages low-income housing and said he is ready to refocus his energy and start a new chapter in his life.
“It just got bigger and bigger. The first year I don’t think we did 40,000 pounds and last year we did 400,000 pounds,” he said. “It was an ever growing commitment and was one of the reasons I needed to give it up. I needed to refocus on, not only my low income housing here, which I’ve managed for 25 years, but my health and it’s been a lot of work. I’ll be happy to reduce my workload.”
Over the years the organization has distributed food to community groups, schools and community dinners. The food bank helped over 200 families each week and more than 400 families over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the last 13 years, staff has distributed more than three million pounds of food to local families in need.
The food bank also sponsored the Community Easter Egg Hunt each April.
“This is our 10th and last year doing the egg hunt,” Mikkelsen said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time and helping the community and being able to provide so much. I feel very fortunate to have kept it going and growing and providing for so long. I’ll miss it. The other part of me is excited about a new chapter in my life. I’ll be semi-retired. That was a big workload in my life that I’m kind of relieved to not be responsible for it — it has been a big responsibility.”
Prior to opening 13 years ago at its Ninth Street location, several food banks operated in Williams. Mikkelsen volunteered at these locations before opening a more centralized, permanent location. He said he hopes another food bank will open to service Williams’ residents.
“Locally this town does a good job taking care of its own, but maybe it’s time for someone else to take on that responsibility or facet of help in this community… another church or organization that has it in their heart to take on that role,” Mikkelsen said.
According to Mikkelsen, St. Mary’s Food Bank, which donated around 25,000 pounds of food per month to the food bank, is scouting for someone interested in opening a pantry or helping with a mobile distribution center.
The food bank building will be remodeled into a day room for the low-income housing facility.
Williams residents in need of assistance can go to the Flagstaff Family Food Center, 1903 N 2nd Street Flagstaff. More information is available at (928) 774-3188.