On any given Friday, Jennifer Silviera can be spotted, rain or shine, at Puyallup’s Meridian Habitat Park.
The vice president of Angel One Foundation has been up for hours, gathering supplies and loading a donated box van with enough food to feed up to 90 Puyallup families for a week’s time. Whatever can’t fit in the donated cargo van will remain in the distribution warehouse or else will be hauled in the cars and trucks of volunteers to the park, all to be unloaded by 3 p.m. for Angel One’s weekly mobile food bank.
Jennifer and her husband, Joceley, have been making this pilgrimage with very few exceptions on a routine basis since 2009.
The weekly food drive began serving only 13 families per week. Now there are anywhere from 70 to 90 that turn out every Friday to refill their pantries with the foundation’s help. To date, Angel One has served more than 50,000 households.
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The Silvieras are carrying on a legacy that began with Jennifer’s parents, Jean and Lloyd Duckworth, who had a simple vision: to offer real help to real people with real needs.
That is the official credo of the Angel One Foundation, the one and only tenet that its founders say they need to guide their organization.
Since its early days, this non-denominational nonprofit has organized food and back-to-school drives, established a food, bread and clothing bank and organized recurring holiday events that aims to deliver food, toys and household necessities to children and families in need in Puyallup.
“We’re there for those that need immediate help,” Silviera said. “Angel One likes to say that we offer a hand up to the people who rely on us, but we are really in the business of giving hope to those who need it the most. We serve real people with real needs, and we treat everyone that comes to our drives and events with dignity.”
Silviera likes to say that those who she meets at her routine food drives are simply going through a trying season of their lives.
“We are here to remind those who are down on their luck that this hardship will pass,” she said.
Those trying times shouldn’t come with a stipulation or a screening process.
“We’re not going to ask 50 million questions of the people who come for our help.”
Angel One’s mobile food bank celebrated its fourth official year as a nonprofit in 2015, but the Duckworths have been hard at work doing good deeds for nearly two decades.
Lloyd and Jean founded Angel One in an effort to provide direct relief to members of the Puyallup community that they called home. As early as 1998, the couple was providing aid to those in dire financial straits by offering assistance to pay rent and utility bills. Once the couple discovered that the outreach provided a substantial enough need, the two filed for and were granted nonprofit status in 2004.
Silviera came to her family about organizing a food bank after she — like her father before her — felt sure that offering further aid to needy families was her calling.
With the support and help of her family’s community-minded foundation, that is exactly what Silviera did.
“It started with so many miracles,” she recalled. “We needed a van, for instance. I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to think about doing this, we should have a van.’ And then, out of the blue, without telling anyone that we were thinking about expanding our outreach services from financial aid to food, we got a phone call saying, basically, ‘Here’s a van donation.’”
But the community goodwill didn’t stop there.
“Then we got another phone call the next day: ‘I have food donations for you.’ I was blown away,” she said. “I got a call that same evening from someone else asking, ‘Do you need refrigerators and freezers? You have a food bank, right?’ Things just started coming in, and it was really that push that moved us forward.”
The community has really embraced Angel One.
“It’s been a miracle to watch,” Silviera said. “Every Friday, churches, business owners, youth — a really diverse collective — comes together to serve alongside us. It has been truly amazing.”
Every first Friday of the month, Angel One also hosts a new and gently used clothing bank at the same site as the food drive. On these special occasions, tents are erected and visitors can enjoy a hot meal while they wait in line to retrieve the supplies they need.
The charity also organizes two major events every year. One has a strong focus on providing a hearty meal for the Thanksgiving holiday; the other aims to deliver gifts to children fourteen and under and their families.
“At Thanksgiving time we give away a whole turkey, along with all of the trimmings, that go into a full Thanksgiving meal to each family in line,” Angel One Foundation secretary Lana Duckworth said. “This is in addition to the regular food that we give provide to each home weekly.”
The organization’s Giving Tree event has raised thousands of dollars to date as well as hundreds of cherished gifts that the organization puts toward brightening a family’s holiday.
“It is hard to think of children not experiencing the wonder of Christmas because their families are going through a temporary crisis,” Duckworth said.
There are hardships to contend with along the way, Silveria said.
“The unfortunate fact is that the number of people we serve continues to grow,” she explains, “but we are still working with the same box van. We’re a nonprofit and so finding the means and the funding to continue our outreach is a constant. But it’s a struggle that we’re happy to take on.”
Whatever the needs of the community, Angel One will continue find a way to fill them, Silveria said.
She credits the tireless efforts of so many volunteers and those that donate food and clothing items to this cause.
“A lot of times,” Silviera said, “our needs will be met when we help one another.”
Angel One’s mobile food bank is set up every Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m at Puyallup’s Meridian Habitat Park. A clothing drive takes place, in addition to the weekly food drive, on the first Friday of every month from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. as well.