Nicole Barclay-Mosaner new food bank director

Michelle Havist steps down after 18 months


PACKING UP AND HANDING OUT IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE – Their smiles might be apparent behind their masks last month as new La Conner Sunrise Food Bank Director Nicole Barclay-Mosaner, left, was trained by Michelle Havist, right, to take over the reins of the once-a-week community food pantry operation. April’s end was Havist’s finish, also. – Photo by Ken Stern

If ever there was a seamless transition, it is the one just finished at La Conner Sunrise Food Bank.

New food bank director Nicole Barclay-Mosaner, who assumed the reins on Monday, will provide a common thread while also weaving her own passion for food distribution into the tapestry of what is widely lauded as a uniquely vital community resource.

Barclay-Mosaner was tapped from within the ranks of La Conner Sunrise Food Bank to succeed Michelle Havist, who stepped down after 18 months to focus on twin duties as general manager of La Conner Weekly News and head of her own marketing company.

“I just decided that with two other jobs it was time to leave,” said Havist, who has navigated the local food bank through the uncharted waters of a global pandemic. “It was to the point where I was working seven days a week. I felt it was time to pass the baton to someone else.”

Havist said the 25-year-old Barclay-Mosaner, who despite her relative youth is already a food bank veteran, is an ideal choice to lead the La Conner pantry. She had been working at the Skagit Food Distribution Center in Sedro-Woolley.

“She’s young and has a lot of energy,” Havist said. “She brings enthusiasm and experience. To find someone younger who wants to be involved at this level is amazing.”

Food bank board vice-chair Bob Powell agrees.

“It couldn’t be a better situation,” Powell told the Weekly News. “We couldn’t have found a better person. Nicole cares about what she’s doing and knows it’s important to carry on the legacy that Michelle has developed.

“We’re very excited about Nicole’s level of enthusiasm,” Powell stressed. “It’s really great how Michelle was able to bring her in and we’re looking forward to seeing her grow into the position.”

Barclay-Mosaner praised Havist for successfully guiding the food bank through COVID-19, which trimmed by half her available corps of volunteers and made changes necessary on the fly, such as implementation of curbside distribution.

“It was super challenging,” Havist said of adjusting to the pandemic.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed. Efficiency did not become a casualty of COVID-19.

“What was really encouraging was that Michelle has been able to operate the food bank as a business even though it’s a non-profit,” Powell noted.

“She has taken it to that level.”

Barclay-Mosaner echoed that sentiment.

“I definitely want to keep the amazing foundation that Michelle has built,” Barclay-Mosaner said. “Michelle has had this food bank working like a well-oiled machine.”

She plans to keep that machine fine-tuned while ready to veer onto new service routes.

One of her ideas is setting up a food bank booth at monthly First-on-First events downtown starting in June.

“We will be handing out fliers, smiling through our masks and connecting with our community every opportunity we get,” she said.

“We will likely have a barrel or container of some sort for donations as well,” said Barclay-Mosaner, “but our main agenda is to spread the word that more people may be eligible for food assistance than we all realize.”

She and Havist said that food bank eligibility requirements have been raised to 400 per cent of federal poverty levels.

“For a two-person household,” said Barclay-Mosaner, “this number is almost $70,000. For four persons, it is $106,000.”

Those levels cannot be stressed enough, said Havist.

“It can help ease the burden for people,” she said, “when otherwise they’d find themselves choosing between paying for food, rent, utility payments, childcare, medical bills and the like.”

Barclay-Mosaner and Havist each expressed gratitude for the donors whose steadfast support allows this food bank to provide nutritious items – fresh milk, eggs, bread and produce top the list – each Monday afternoon 2:30-5 p.m.

“This community is amazingly supportive,” Havist stressed. “Our donors are super dependable. Many donate monthly.”

Located in the historic Garfield Masonic Lodge Building at Third and Benton streets, the food bank serves on average 90 households per week, ranging from single persons to eight-member families. That computes to nearly 300 people.

A five-member board of directors, chaired by Linda Adams, oversees the food bank mission.

For Barclay-Mosaner, that mission is deeply personal.

“La Conner holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “I love La Conner. The community here is so friendly, welcoming and accessible.”

She said spending formative years in New Zealand, south of Auckland, has helped make La Conner a perfect fit for her personally and professionally.

A native of Vermont, she grew up in New Zealand.

“This is a diverse community,” she said, “and I bring something of an outsider’s perspective, but New Zealand is diverse, too. I’ve always enjoyed learning about the aspects of different cultures. So, in a lot of ways, La Conner reminds me of my home back in New Zealand.”

In addition to directing the food bank, Barclay-Mosaner works at Herbal Face Food in Mount Vernon and is an online student enrolled with Academy of Art University based in San Francisco.

“It’s a lot of juggling,” she said.

But she could not be happier catching an expanded role with La Conner Sunrise Food Bank.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” Barclay-Mosaner stressed. “It’s a huge opportunity to remain involved in the food bank world.”


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