UniSource’s financial contributions to the Kingman Area Food Bank support its creative, innovative approach to ensuring that no child, senior or family goes hungry in Mohave County.

As Executive Director for the food bank, Catherine Walker’s days are long, sometimes 16 hours or more. The former corporate executive for Coleco – toy manufacturer of the original Cabbage Patch dolls – works just as hard now and with just as much passion as she did back then, but with greater personal satisfaction.

“Every week I get into my truck and deliver food to all four of the area’s low income senior housing communities,” Walker said. “It’s heartbreaking. Some of the residents are so desperate – you can see it in their eyes.”

Walker and her team of 35 active volunteers operate the food bank, which was started 1972 by a group of concerned neighbors. The founders worked out of a small storage shed in downtown Kingman weekly to assemble food boxes for 20 local families.

Today, the agency is still entirely volunteer-led, with the directorship being the only paid position.

As a member of the Feed America program, the food bank receives most of its food from local grocery stores that donate rejected items that are nutritious and safe but may have a blemish, dent or are nearing their expiration date. They also receive food and cash donations from the community.

Since joining the food bank nearly three years ago, Walker has forged strong relationships with businesses, like UniSource, churches, schools, senior centers, and other nonprofit agencies to identify needs and provide food to the people who need it most.

In addition to providing food assistance to individuals, Walker often pays it forward by sharing the food in her pantry with other nonprofits working to eliminate hunger. Food boxes are given to area churches and senior complexes to distribute to their members or residents. Meat and other staple items also are given to a local church that offers a hot meal program twice a month.

Other food is set aside for the local Elk and Moose Clubs, which use it for fundraising dinners that support other worthy causes. “Providing food helps offset their out-of-pocket expenses,” added Walker.

Additionally, the food bank helps almost 600 homeless individuals on a regular basis by providing them with nutritious, ready-to-eat foods that don’t need to be heated or require can openers. Plastic utensils, napkins and bottled water also are included along with travel-size toiletries donated by local hotels.

Through all of these outreach initiatives, Walker estimates her food bank serves about 46,000 individuals and provides almost 1 million meals a year. She says UniSource’s annual gift of $5,000 gives them the flexibility to purchase items that are needed most to be able to provide balanced meals and special foods, such as turkeys and hams for the holidays.

“UniSource’s contributions allow us to fill our shelves by purchasing whatever foods we might need,” she said.  For example, they can buy sauces to go with the pasta they receive. “Without these financial contributions, we wouldn’t be able to do this. We would have to provide whatever we have on hand.”

Nikole White, Senior Program Manager in UniSource’s Kingman office, who has volunteered alongside Walker at the food bank, said the company’s contributions to the food bank are a solid investment in the community.

“Catherine is so incredibly passionate about helping her community,” White said. “Her efforts reach beyond Kingman to residents in outlying areas like Golden Valley and Dolan Springs. The food bank helps everyone from young children to mature adults, so we’re assured that the community’s needs are being met.”

In October, the UniSource Community Action Team in Kingman organized an employee food drive to collect protein-rich food – such as canned fish and meat and beans – for the food bank. The items will be included in the Thanksgiving food boxes given to families in November.

“We help anyone who lives in Mohave County and is hungry and needs food,” Walker said. “By providing them with food, they can stretch their budgets and make ends meet – and they are so grateful.”