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Blaylock to retire, but will keep on hugging


Fern Blaylock, 81 years young, plans to retire soon as manager of the Care and Share Food Bank. Blaylock still plans to continue her work as a non-paid volunteer at the Lake Roosevelt schools. - Roger S. Lucas photo

There will soon be new management at the Care and Share Food Bank.

Fern Blaylock is retiring from that position after taking care of people's food and other needs for decades.

Fern, 81, plans to retain her other job, as a volunteer at Lake Roosevelt Schools, where she gives more than a few hugs a day.

With a glint in her eye, and probably regret in her heart, Blaylock took this writer on a tour of the various rooms at the Church of the Nazarene, where the food bank is located.

In each room, she remarked on the shelving, the refrigerators, and freezers, and on various food suppliers that she has worked with over the years. There was more than a handful of rooms, the food bank having slowly grown over the years to take up the downstairs rooms at the church.

Helping others is what makes Blaylock happy.

She was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota, and she says she is eleven-sixteenths Sioux, with a sprinkling of other tribes added.

Her life moved her through Albuquerque, New Mexico, and California before she came to the Grand Coulee area.

She has eight children, and returns every year to the Mescalero/Apache Reservation, where she enjoys a family reunion of sorts.

The work continues to grow at the food bank. In March, Care and Share served 609 individuals in 303 families. The food bank is open on Fridays.

One of the mainstays, helping the food bank at every turn, is Harvest Foods in Coulee Dam.

As a volunteer at the schools, Blaylock is also held in high esteem.

If you've attended Lake Roosevelt Schools in recent years and never been hugged by Fern Blaylock, you are a rare one indeed. And, even at 81 years of age, she still continues her long-established, non-paid volunteer service at Lake Roosevelt Schools.

She arrives in the morning at the same time as paid staff and leaves at 4 p.m. when they do.

"It's fun, being a volunteer," Blaylock modestly notes.

She loves telling stories about the experience - such as about the times she shops at the grocery store and children run up to give her a hug. It happens everywhere whenever children see her, she says.

They remember the many times that Blaylock has given them a hug in the halls of the school building.

She has volunteered her time in both the high school and elementary school.

Now that she will have some extra time, what do you think she is going to do?

"I have one more credit to earn before I get my AA degree," she said, "and I plan to do that this summer. It's in math, and I'm good at that, but I do it in my head."

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