When the roof of the Bellingham Food Bank was crumbling in 2005, Executive Director Mike Cohen turned to the Rotary Club of Bellingham, Washington, USA, for help.

But after then President-elect Jim Cunningham approached then presidents-elect Barry Lester of the Rotary Club of Bellingham Sunrise and William Unrein Jr. of the Rotary Club of Bellingham Bay, the presidents-elect decided not to fix the roof.

Instead, they proposed building a new, state-of-the-art facility.

"It really was a textbook example of how to galvanize a community to help others," says Michael Smith, current president of the Bellingham Sunrise club. "We came together in the spirit of Rotary to make this project real."

Grand opening

The three clubs committed $225,000 in seed money for the project and raised over $1.6 million more from state agencies and organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Club members donated their own professional services and secured in-kind donations from architects, engineers, and contractors.

The clubs celebrated the opening of the new food bank on 31 July of this year. Members of the community and the food bank thanked them for their efforts.

"Everyone was really impressed with the quality of what was done and the enhancement to the neighborhood," says Bellingham club member Rod Elin, who served on the project steering committee. Improvements included repairing the street, installing new sewage lines and gutters, and even fixing up the front lawn on a neighboring property.

"Before, the [food] recipients would have to wait in line outside. Now there is an overhang they can wait under," says Elin. "It's something that Rotarians can certainly take pride in."

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