As the Blaine Food Bank approaches its 50th anniversary, founder Evelyn Bonallo, who died April 23, is remembered by volunteers for her dedication to feeding local families. Bonallo and reverend Donald Walter started the food bank in 1971.
Upon its establishment, the first Blaine Food Bank board of directors meeting was formed in the Blaine United Church of Christ’s basement, where they elected Bonallo to her longstanding position as food bank secretary.
Richard Sturgill, one of the food bank’s first board of directors, spoke highly of the over 40 years that he knew Bonallo.
“You know, you see volunteers come and go throughout the years, but Evelyn, she stayed,” he said.
Food bank operations manager Sally Church said she met Bonallo the day she started volunteering there nearly 20 years ago. Both Church and Sturgill described Bonallo as the matriarch of the food bank, all while she raised seven children.
“She had been there from the start. There wasn’t much she hadn’t seen,” Church said. “There wasn’t much that would phase her.”
Even after enduring a stroke, Bonallo came back to the food bank and helped to make the switch from paper to electronic. “She introduced the food bank to the 21st century,” Church said.
Church recalls Bonallo as being demure, yet strongly empathetic and kind. “She was smart and quiet. She rolled up her sleeves and got the work done,” Sturgill said, adding on to Church’s thought.
It was years of hard work that earned her the 2012 Whatcom County Volunteer Award. In 2019 the Evelyn Bonallo/Jerry Bladies Food Bank Service Scholarship was formed, offering $500 to students who have demonstrated excellent volunteerism in their community.
“We miss her. It would be her dream to see the food bank fail from people no longer needing it,” Church said. “She would like people to not have to face hunger.”
Until then, her legacy will continue to feed the community.