Mikki Saunders, former Port Angeles Food Bank director, dies

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Mikki Saunders, who ran the Port Angeles Food Bank for 22 years and was known for her selfless giving to the needy and her strong community involvement, died Monday of complications of Alzheimer’s disease in the Eastern Washington town of Benton City, near Pasco.

She was 78.

Her daughter, Judy Jenkins, and her life partner of 20 years, Bill Swindell, were by her side when she died at her daughter’s home.

“She was 60 pounds and she couldn’t eat or drink anymore,” her daughter said. “She went peacefully.

“My mother was a kind, caring, loving person,” Jenkins said.

“She put other people before herself. I’ve seen her sacrifice so much.”
Food bank a model

Saunders is credited with turning the Port Angeles Food Bank into a model for other communities.

“The Port Angeles Food Bank would not be what it is today without the contributions of Mikki Saunders,” said John Miller, who was president of the food bank’s board when Saunders retired in 2008.

Tim Hockett, who served with Olympic Community Action Programs for 22 years — much of that time as its executive director — recalled Saunders helping OlyCAP set up the Port Townsend Food Bank, having established the Port Angeles facility on Valley Street with great success.

“She was wonderful to work with,” said the now retired Hockett.

“She was always smiling, she was always gracious and she was also humble, giving other people the credit.”

Funeral and memorial services are pending, Jenkins said, adding that a celebration of Saunders life was possible in Port Angeles, but had not been planned.

The longtime volunteer was born Mikki Dixon on Nov. 9, 1933, in Appleton City, Mo., to Goldie Snyder and William Dixon.

The family moved to Eastern Washington when she was 14 and she grew up in Outlook.

Saunders was married to Dale Davis Sr. of Sequim from 1953 until 1970, when they were divorced.

The name Saunders was from another marriage, said Jenkins, who did not provide more details.

A Port Angeles resident since 1989, Saunders was a member of Rotary, Lion’s Club and Soroptimists.

She retired from the food bank in December 2008 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her daughter said.

She was honored in April 2009 with the Clallam County Community Service Award, one of five honorees.

“I almost cried,” Saunders said after receiving the award.

“I’m very emotional when someone thanks me. I had been at the food bank for 22 years, and it was my whole life.”

Generous person

Swindell — who met Saunders at a dance on April 1, 1993 and worked with her at the food bank for a number of years — remembered her generosity.

“She liked to give a lot,” he said. “She was always giving. Even her own stuff, she would give away.”

Swindell said that, besides helping people, she liked to go hiking, camping fishing in the Olympic Mountains.

She was also involved in the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, he said, and bar-tended at the old Loomis Tavern and the Moose Lodge in Port Angeles during the early 1990s.

She brought coffee, hot soups and other foods to those landing canoes in Port Angeles during Tribal Canoe Journeys in the past.

Food bank board vice president Elaine Hedtke praised Saunders’ service.

“She gave a lot to the community and cared passionately for meeting the needs of those who were in the throws of hard times or an extended period of difficulty,” said Hedtke, who volunteered at food bank from 1996 until 1999 and later joined the board when Saunders asked her to apply.

“I would say that she was able to generate incredible support from the community,” Hedtke said.

“The generosity of this community is absolutely outstanding and I think Mikki had a role in that.”

‘Very compassionate’

Tim Crowley, a Port Angeles pharmacist who has been a Port Angeles Food Bank volunteer for 20 years, serving off and on as the food bank’s board president, said she was a woman who was “very compassionate” about helping those in need.

“She always did a good job of going out and soliciting food and funds from the community and was known well to also participate in other function that the food bank did,” Crowley said, including the Port Angeles backyard cleanup to raise donations for the food bank and the post office food drive.

“She was a very dedicated person and certainly served the community,” he said.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2390, extension 5052 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com

Last modified: April 25. 2012 4:33PM
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