Residents honor long-time Pierce County Food Bank volunteer

Carl Lee has spent nearly a quarter of a century sorting vegetables and fruits at the Buckley Kiwanis Food Bank.

June 29, the day before his 80th birthday, he decided it was time to hand over his keys.

It was fun, he told me, and I enjoyed helping out.

Lee has roots in California, where he worked in his family’s supermarket. He said that it was not until 1987 that he decided to settle in Buckley.

“After my brothers got sick and passed away,” he told me, “I thought it was time to take things easy.” “I decided to go ahead and retire early.”

Soon after moving to Buckley, Lee joined the local Kiwanis Club. The club acquired the local food bank in 1997, which means they need help running it. The club members did not hesitate to ask me.

He told me, “They knew I work in the grocery store…They asked me if I would volunteer at the food bank, so I said ‘OK.’” I’ve been there ever since.

Members of the Kiwanis Club host a gathering to honor 25 years of Lee’s service at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 14 at Anchor House Coffee Roasters at 873 Main St.

Lee worked on average about 12-15 hours a week and was receiving about 25-30 families a day. The food bank is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Lee was often tasked with buying staples like milk and eggs. He also helped unload delivery trucks full of donated goods from grocery stores. However, his skills lie in sorting products, he said.

“I threw away all the unusable things,” he told me.

He told me he enjoyed helping provide food for families who visited the food bank. He said he would miss working with the people he was around.

Rose Clark, one of those who Working with Lee, he said he was “very quiet” but was a hardworking worker. Lee always made sure the food products in the freezer and on the shelves were rotated so customers wouldn’t get spoiled food.

“You couldn’t ask for a better assistant than Carl,” Clark said.

Lee considers himself a “home person,” so he has no retirement plans other than maintaining his 9-acre property in Buckley.

“I have a lot of work,” he told me. “I have trees and grass to cut down. I’m very busy.”

Angelica Relente covers topics that affect communities in East Pierce County. She started as a news intern in June 2021 after graduating from Washington State University. She was born in the Philippines and spent the rest of her childhood in Hawaii.

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