Finding the Winlock Vader Food Bank can be a challenge for an outsider, especially if you are told to look for “the painted rooster down the hill from the hardware store.” Almost every intersection has at least one painted rooster on it as if the Winlock egg gave birth. Finally, a smiling woman in front of the thrift store sign waves you over to your destination.Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates

The warm greeting is from Marilyn Williams, director of the Winlock Vader Food Bank and everything associated with it, such as the bistro café, thrift store and 68 volunteers.

“She holds it all together,” says volunteer Carol Wallin. “We couldn’t do it without her. She is so awesome.”

Winlock Vader Food Bank
Marilynn Williams waves goodbye to other volunteers at the Winlock Food Bank and Thrift Store. The rooster adds a fanciful touch of color. Photo credit: Joyce Fink

Since 1983, the food bank exists in the basement of the old Washington Egg & Poultry Association building. A recent update to the once dark space is now bright, clean, and welcoming with hard work from the volunteers.

The upstairs portion houses the aptly named Rowdy Rooster Bistro & Thrift Store. The non-profit organization is the primary funding source for the Winlock Vader Food Bank, and support comes from the community eating and shopping there.

With reasonably priced breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant is a must-stop when in Winlock. On the menu, find a homemade soup of the day, a variety of delicious hot and cold sandwiches, and mouth-watering baked goods.

Marilynn joined in 2017 when another volunteer asked her if she would cook on Tuesdays. Within a year, she was pretty much working full time.

Winlock Vader Food Bank
Carol Wallin checks the temperature inside their new freezer so patrons receive it at an optimum temperature and condition. Photo credit: Joyce Fink

The deli started to serve clients without access to hot meals. They now serve a hot meal on each of the food bank days, thanks to help from local churches.

The food supplements given out for at-home use comes from Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, Winlock’s volunteers, Winlock Community Garden, and the Lewis County Food Bank Coalition. The Coalition acts as a central warehouse collecting food donations from the public, local companies, and sponsors. The food is then distributed to each of the county’s nine food bank locations.

The Winlock Food Bank serves 240 families per month. “That’s not people. That’s households,” Marilynn said. Depending on the size of the households, it can be up to 728 people. They also serve people living in Vader.

“I think we figured it out, and it’s about 17% of the population,” Marilynn said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteers see different patrons every week. “Older people seem to have dropped off, but we have new people to take their place. There are a lot of people on unemployment right now,” Marilyn said.

Winlock Vader Food Bank
Lisette Amoraso folds used clothing for sale at the thrift store. Sales from the clothing store and the café help support the food bank.
Photo credit: Joyce Fink

An unexpected benefit of the virus is the availability students now have to volunteer in the food bank. The time not only helps the all-volunteer staff, but the youth also learn life skills they may not learn otherwise, like operating a till, cooking in the deli, and working with customers.

“We do help with referrals and have a free clothing bank on Saturdays at the Assembly of God,” Marilynn says. “We take care of the community.”

Clients are sometimes homeless and live with mental illnesses. Even with family support, some still struggle with resources, but the food bank is consistently there with something to eat.

“We don’t have a lot of outreach with mental health. We really need someone to work with mental health out here,” Marilynn said.

What is the best thing about living in Winlock?

Winlock Vader Food Bank
A special spot is reserved for those who are experiencing homelessness so they can grab food and go when they are hungry. Photo credit: Joyce Fink

“I can go to either side of the road to help somebody, and they will cough it up,” Marilynn said. “I am so proud of them. When push comes to shove, and I say, ‘I’ve got a family that can’t pay their electric bill’ or ‘I have a family whose child passed away and needs help with funeral expenses,’ they are right there. And that’s the best thing about this town.”

Take a left at the iconic Winlock Egg and stop by Rowdy Rooster Bistro & Thrift Store. Grab a yummy lunch and peruse the fun thrift store to find your next treasure while supporting the Winlock Vader Food Bank who helps so many.

The current hours for Rowdy Rooster Bistro & Thrift Store are Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Winlock Vader Food Bank is open on the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the third Wednesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the fourth Wednesday of each month from 4 to 7 p.m.

Rowdy Rooster Bistro & Thrift Store
Winlock Vader Food Bank
503 NE 1st St.

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