Cougar Pantry offers help for students and families in need

Wendy Wands, Bothell High School’s campus supervisor, created the Cougar Pantry to help students and families in need. Courtesy photo

By Hannah Saunders

Bothell High School’s Campus Supervisor, Wendy Wands, has longed to help students and their families struggling to obtain food and essential products. And she has come up with a way to do that with the Oct. 27 opening of the Cougar Pantry.

“The pantry has been a dream of mine for years,” Wands said. “I’ve just really wanted to do it.”

To make that dream a reality, Wands reached out to DonorsChoose, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public classroom projects.

“I was able to ask for donations to build a shed and for shelving to be put in,” Wands said. “There’s such generosity in our world. We’ve all gone through bad times, but there’s a lot of generous people out there.”

The school’s shop teacher offered to have his students erect the structure and build the shelves for the pantry. But then COVID-19 hit, supplies backlogged and the project was put on hold. Fortunately, another door opened for Wands and kept her dream alive.

“The one silver lining (of COVID) is that our student store was not able to open because of COVID restrictions,” Wands said. “But I was able to open my pantry within the student store.”

The Cougar Pantry provides students and their families with a wide variety of products to include nonperishable food such as pasta and canned goods, diapers, baby food and wipes, shampoo, conditioners, face and body soap, and menstrual products, among others.

“I’m open from 8 until 3:30 every day [excluding weekends],” Wands said. “The store is locked, but people can come to the office, ask for me and I’ll unlock it and be with them while they shop.”

Wands said patrons’ identification is kept confidential and no questions asked. They can grab whatever they need.

Although there have been issues with the construction supply chain, Wands said maintaining a stable food chain for the pantry shouldn’t be a problem.

“The Bothell community is amazing—all I have to do is make a phone call,” Wands said. “The senior center seems to get a lot of overages from their pantry and is happy to donate to my pantry. The baseball boys did a food drive and were able to stock the shelves and the Sikh Church has provided donations too.”

Wands said construction on the shed will resume after the first of the new year and believes it will be ready to be moved into by springtime. In the meantime, the pantry will continue to operate out of the student store and she’ll continue her duties as the campus supervisor.

“I don’t want to get in over my head because I also have a job here to do, but this (the food pantry) is a passion of mine,” Wands said. “It’s given me a purpose—a true purpose to show up for work and be there for our families.”

Visit bothell.nsd.org for more information on how to utilize the Cougar Pantry.

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