Submitted by Austin Reese
Austin Reese, the 25-year-old owner of Bellingham-based Fly Guys Construction, which provides roofing and exterior painting services in the San Juans, would like to encourage his fellow business owners to donate to local nonprofits. Recently, he donated $500 from an island job his company did to the Friday Harbor Food Bank.
“We just have to help each other out when times get tough, like now,” Reese said.
Reese noted that the San Juan Islands’ primarily service-based economy is by-and-large seasonal. This makes for a wide gulf between San Juan Islands elite and the “middle-class.”
Reese wants his donation to inspire other locals who can afford it to give (or give more) — not just to the community’s food bank, but any legitimate charity needing donations. He believes that if he can donate to a charitable cause, other local businesses still operating have a social obligation to do the same.
“This community has supported us warmly for over 20 years,” Friday Harbor Food Bank Executive Director Bill Cummings said. “Our current needs are being met. But economic uncertainty makes it hard to know how prepared we are for an extended siege. We’re hoping it won’t be long.”
With the popular tourist-attracting Fourth of July celebration canceled, the odds of even an average 2020 don’t look good. Many of the 140 or so families who rely on the food bank will have to continue that reliance for much, maybe all, of the summer and fall tourist seasons. Cummings added that 2021 could be equally uncertain.
“We plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “We try to remain cautiously optimistic. But…”
Reese is prepared to continue helping when and where he can.
“I get it that many are unsure about the coming months,” Reece said. “People want to work but probably can’t because there’s none for them – at least not as much as they need to support themselves and their families.”
Reese relates to the people who need to utilize the food bank because he grew up in foster care, he explained.
“I still remember going to bed hungry and waking up, hungry: not knowing if I would eat that day or not. It’s awful not knowing when you’ll get your next meal. So many of us take that for granted,” Reese said.
Money is the most coveted and reassuring donor-gift, according to Cummings. Some in-kind food donations like food from closing tourist camps and hotels in the fall are welcome; as are occasional local produce donations.
“We’re at the end of the supply chain so getting things across the sound for a reasonable price isn’t always easy,” Cummings said, noting recent food-chain interruptions have not helped.
“It still remains to be seen whether we will have the resources needed for any unanticipated needs,” Cummings said. “We have some real unknowns about the economy and how many of our residents can work.”