BATTLE GROUND — Pat Jeschke is usually at the North County Community Food Bank (NCCFB) by about 7:30 a.m. on the days she volunteers. She begins by going through the refrigerator and other perishable items in the front room: checking dates, pulling milk, produce, and other items that have aged out since the day before, and replacing them with fresh items.
“She goes a mile a minute,” says NCCFB Executive Director Elizabeth Cerveny. “When she sees something that needs doing, she jumps in and does it. She has a big heart. And she also mentors new volunteers.”
The food bank, located in Battle Ground, serves 750 households each month. Cerveny says this breaks down to about 7,200 individuals. Forty percent are children, 23 percent are senior citizens. Clients come from as far away as La Center, Amboy, and Cougar.
Clients can shop from the refrigerated and perishable items twice a week. And once a month they can get a bag of canned and boxed USDA commodities.
Jeschke works until closing time, sorting food and filling orders. Then she stays after to sweep and clean up.
But it’s not like she goes home to put her feet up after that. Jeschke says she crocheted more than 100 hats this winter, and distributed them several different places.
“Everybody here (at the food bank) has one,” she says. “And my niece works at a restaurant on Sandy Boulevard in Portland. A lot of homeless people come there, a lot of poor people. So I gave some to her and told her to give them to people who could use them.”
Jeschke creates stained glass on rock. She embroiders baby blankets. And she also does oil painting, recently contributing a painting that will be auctioned off April 22 at a Kentucky Derby Tea Party, the food bank’s annual spring fundraiser.
“I drive my husband crazy because I’m always busy,” she says, laughing.
After raising three boys in Hockinson, Jeschke went to work for the Evergreen School District. She retired from that job after 23 1/2 years as a secretary at Silver Star and Burton Elementary Schools.
After that, Jeschke started volunteering with a quilting group at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vancouver that makes quilts to give to denominational relief efforts, veterans’ associations, Babies in Need, Young Life, adult foster care programs and others. One thing led to another, and soon she was also making laundry soap in bulk to share with clients at the food bank. For the last couple of years, she has volunteered at the food bank three days a week.
“And I still bring the soap,” she says.
But of all her many activities, the food bank is her favorite.
“I get a lot out of it,” she says. “It’s very rewarding. I think people should use whatever abilities God has given them to help out in the world. You should fill that need if you’re able. So I’ll keep coming as long as God gives me strength. This is my love.”
When she’s not volunteering, Jeschke enjoys reading novels — Janette Oke, Amish-themed romances — and history.
“I like to learn about people,” she says. “Why they do things, where they came from.”
And she enjoys spending time with her family.
“Basically,” she says, “I’m a very private person. We don’t socialize a lot. We’re homebodies. Family is very important. We enjoy time together.”
She and her husband have been married 53 years, and have three sons, and 10 grandchildren.
“I have a great family,’’ Jeschke said. “They’re all good kids.”
She says her sons are all hard workers and good citizens — clearly traits they’ve seen modeled by their mother.
“A lot of people retire and get depressed,” says Jeschke. “I would encourage anybody, instead of sitting home, get out and help somebody. It works. We just have to accept life as it comes. God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle with his help. And we have to help each other. So come on down to the food bank!”
To learn more about the North County Community Food Bank, or to donate or volunteer, go to nccfoodbank.org.