The Tenino Food Bank Plus was facing a number of challenges when it came to providing food for those in its community. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began the numbers of those in need had tripled in the town. And not only had the need for food increased, but theft had increased as well; taking away from those who need help the most.

Photo courtesy of Merit Construction Northwest.

Jody Stoltz, Tenino Food Bank Plus outreach coordinator, said the food bank has seen its fair share of raids, including someone trying to steal produce right from the doorstep. “That person was taking away food from many, many families,” she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Merit Construction’s staff was challenged by their principal, Tammy Birklid, to reach out within their spheres of influence to identify needs in their community. Merit Construction is a full-service commercial general contractor serving the Pacific Northwest since 1957.

“At Merit, we’re constructing more than just buildings. As a local company, we feel that with each and every project comes the opportunity to build the future of our communities,” said Birklid. She said she believes that when you are blessed, you should be a blessing to others. Giving back and supporting the community has always been a top priority for her as a business owner.

So when Adam Coleman, a project manager at Merit, heard of the security challenges at the food bank in his hometown, he presented the story to Birklid. With her approval, he quickly brainstormed ideas with the Merit team and he and Jeff May (another Merit project manager) devised a plan to secure the facility for both the staff as well as their clients.

“I remember growing up here, riding my bike down the street, going all over town and not having to worry about a thing. To find out there’s issues like this, when people need it the most, is really sad to me. I’m really happy that we can help out,” Coleman said.

Through the collaboration of the Merit team, their subcontractors and suppliers — including Commercial Hardware, Sullivan Painting Service, and Fence Specialists — renovations and building upgrades were made to increase security, thus keeping thieves out and donations coming in. The construction team replaced an old front door and added secure double doors and a metal fence so people can’t easily break in. A secure food-drop box for donations after hours also was designed and built by Merit employee Mathew Thomas.

“They’re not going to be able to smash into the door and go grab all the food that they can possibly get. This will end that,” said Stoltz.

The entire staff at Merit also stepped up to help by donating over 900 pounds of food and providing additional financial resources so the food bank could get basic items needed for children and families.

“Everybody needs a helping hand every once in a while,” Coleman said. “When it’s your turn to give back, I think it’s really important to take that opportunity and pay it forward.”

Brought to you by our community partners at Merit Construction Northwest.