A Simple Gesture is a non-profit movement that started in California as a way to replenish the shelves of local food banks and food pantries. The volunteer door-to-door pick-up service made it more convenient for people to donate food and toiletries year-round. Inspired by a newspaper article on the original A Simple Gesture, one woman decided to bring the movement to Anacortes. Now, on the second Saturday of “even” months, red bags filled with non-perishable food items appear on doorsteps in Anacortes awaiting pick-up. After almost five years and over 200,000 pounds of donations collected by A Simple Gesture-Anacortes, it’s obvious this method of giving is working.
When Sue Monaghan retired to Anacortes, she didn’t know she’d become the founder and chairman of a nonprofit: It all happened quite serendipitously. Kristin Rogers, vice chairman of A Simple Gesture-Anacortes and Sue’s daughter, explains how her mom doesn’t normally read the newspaper, but by chance picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal and saw the game-changing article. “She showed me the article about a week later,” Kristin says, “and said, ‘I think we can do this, what do you think?’” Her answer was yes.
Sue and Kristin connected with local food banks and community organizations to drum up donors and volunteers. There was an obvious need for A Simple Gesture in Anacortes and the support was amazing. “People think to give at Christmas time,” says Kristin. “Otherwise food banks are short the rest of the year and have to purchase food in order to stay open.” By October 2015, A Simple Gesture-Anacortes was hoping for 100 donors as they readied to make their first pick-up. They ended up with over 300. Today, A Simple Gesture-Anacortes has more than 700 donors and over 100 volunteers. They’ve also expanded their reach beyond local food banks to make food more accessible to those in need.
In Anacortes, food banks are open limited hours and can sometimes be inaccessible to people who work or don’t have easy access to transportation. A Simple Gesture-Anacortes landed on the idea of Red Bag Pantries, which enabled them to make food being donated more accessible. “We wanted a better way to get food out to those who needed it,” Kristin says about the Red Bag Pantries. “We went around town and asked various places if they’d be interested in having a Red Bag Pantry. Basically, it’s a shelf and it’s an honor system, you take what you need to get through the day.” The Anacortes Police Station, Anacortes Fire Department, and Anacortes Senior Center are all Red Bag Pantry locations. The Anacortes Public Library is perhaps the busiest Red Bag Pantry center, no doubt due to their care and consideration towards the homeless community. The homeless population in town is welcome to come into the library to eat, warm up during the cold months, and utilize the Red Bag Pantry. In addition, A Simple Gesture-Anacortes provides the library with emergency food boxes for those who need a little extra help. “The librarians seem to know everyone who needs help,” says Kristin.
The Red Bag Pantry location that has seen the most noticeable influence is the private pantry at the Cap Sante High School. As the school has a kitchen, A Simple Gesture-Anacortes uses grant money to purchase fresh ingredients for the students. “We’ve seen actual proof that feeding these kids actually works,” says Kristin. “Their graduation and attendance levels went up and their behavior issues went down.” A Simple Gesture-Anacortes also assists Food To Go, a program that helps feed students in need on the weekends. Every October, A Simple Gesture-Anacortes puts out a special request to their donors asking for granola bars on behalf of Food To Go. In 2019, they filled the back of a truck with granola bars that lasted Food To Go almost the entire year.
The response to A Simple Gesture-Anacortes over the years has been astonishing and humbling. “I delivered probably most of the first 300 bags myself,” says Kristin. “What amazed me was collecting bags at these homes that looked like they could use a bag themselves. The people who donate aren’t always the ones you’d expect. It amazes me. Sometimes they can only put four or five things in that bag, but it adds up and it really makes a difference.”
Interested people can get involved with A Simple Gesture-Anacortes by donating and volunteering. Donors can sign up via A Simple Gesture-Anacortes’s website, Facebook page, or sign-up cards that can be mailed in. Once registered, your first red bag will be delivered to your home. Donations are collected on the second Saturday of “even” months and delivered to The Salvation Army in Anacortes where A Simple Gesture-Anacortes uses the offered warehouse space for sorting.
A Simple Gesture-Anacortes
PO Box 1413, Anacortes