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Volunteer commitments lead retired doctor, teacher to help food bank

Betty and Doug Corpron

Betty Clark-Corpron and Doug Corpron improve lives of people in Yakima Valley.

Betty Clark-Corpron and Doug Corpron have each contributed to improving lives of people in the Yakima Valley for many decades.

Betty taught school at the Yakima Christian Mission and in White Swan schools for 37 years.  She retired in 1996 and became an active volunteer, focusing for 18 years on serving through the Yakima Food Bank.

Doug was a family physician who started a University of Washington training program, called Community Health of Central Washington, to train 30 doctors for general practice.  He retired in 2000.

They knew each other from attending Englewood Christian Church for many years.  Over the years, they had been friends, helping raise each other’s children and participating in church study groups.

Betty’s late husband Bill had worked with the Yakima Indian Christian Mission for 17 years and then served as a social worker in Wapato until his death in 1984.

Doug’s wife, Helen, who had served with him as a missionary in Thailand from 1958 to 1967, and raised their seven children in Yakima, died in 2010.

Betty and Doug married three years ago.  Since then, Doug has also become involved with the Yakima Food Bank.

On Thursdays, Betty coordinates a team of six to eight volunteers, bagging and preparing the food for distribution.

Friday mornings Betty directs the distribution of food with the help of about 20 volunteers, many of whom are also recipients of the food. 

After marrying into being a food bank volunteer, Doug saw the need and asked his Rotary group to put a cover over the outside waiting area, where people lined up and sometimes waited an hour in the snow or heat.

That project grew into the Rotary’s decision to rebuild the building, because the floors and roof also needed repair. They added a freezer and cold storage, so food bank volunteers could pick up food that grocery stores would otherwise discard.

The new building, which is not much larger, is all on one story so food can be moved by motorized equipment.

During construction, the food bank operated three months in the Southeast Community Center gym, because the old building on 7th and Central Streets was torn down.

On Nov. 19, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the new Yakima Rotary Food Bank in the new building constructed on the same site.

The Yakima Food Bank had started in 1971. 

At first, it was in the Southeast Yakima Community Center.  After losing its funding, it moved in 1976 to the home of Mary Jackson, a founding volunteer and member of Mt. Hope Baptist Church.  It operated there, receiving referrals from Volunteer Services, the Department of Social and Health Services, and churches.

Volunteers have run the Yakima Food Bank, which receives half of its food from Northwest Harvest and Second Harvest. 

It has support from community organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southeast Community Center and Opportunities Industrial Coalition. Englewood Christian, the Episcopal Church, other churches and the Kiwanis Club give canned goods.

The small building behind the Southeast Community Center is open just three hours on Fridays.  About 350 to 400 come and about 2,000 are fed each week.

“I keep doing this because there are people with needs,” said Betty.  “People can pick up 40 pounds of food a week—rice, beans, canned goods and produce.

“At the beginning and end of the month, there are more visits as people run out of money and food stamps,” she said.  “Now we can serve 400 a week much better.”

Most who come are Hispanic and white residents, but some also come from the reservation.  More than half of the volunteers need food.  There are other food banks in Yakima neighborhoods and nearby communities.  Most from the reservation go to food banks at White Swan and Wapato.

Doug and Betty are not new to serving the community.

He was born in Burlington, Vt., while his parents were on furlough during their 25 years as missionaries in China.  In 1941, they returned to Yakima where his father was a family physician. 

Doug did pre-med studies at Chapman University in Orange, California and finished at Texas Christian University.  He graduated from the University of Washington Medical School in 1956.

“I believe God’s kingdom is about here and now, not the by and by.  The heart of our volunteering now is to see the compassion of people of many faiths and many walks of life,” said Doug, who thinks of faith values while hiking on trails nearby.  “My faith is evolving.  I’m at a place where I do not need to be sure.  I look for agreement, not polarization.”

Betty had come to the area with her first husband, Bill, through the Disciples of Christ Home Mission Society in 1955 and served 17 years at the White Swan Indian Christian Mission.  That mission was started in 1919 by First Christian Church in Yakima and operated under the United Christian Mission Society.  In 1967, the Disciples turned the mission’s 80 acres and school building over to the Yakama Tribe.

Betty, who graduated from Butler University in Indiana in 1951 with a degree in education, had started a kindergarten there and then taught in the Harrah Schools.

“We sought to keep children connected with families and culture,” Betty said.

When Bill was in seminary, she had taught in Indianapolis to support them.  With the birth of twins, however, she stopped teaching.  They were assigned to go to Yakima in 1955, went back for two years for Bill to earn a master’s in social work, and returned in 1960, staying until 1972 at the mission.  Bill started an alcohol treatment center in the former mission building. 

Betty started working with the food bank when she retired as a way “to fill up my life,” she said. 

She also volunteers to help children at Harrah School progress in reading. 

Betty has also volunteered with the Yakima Interfaith Coalition emergency services, as a museum docent and teaches classes at the church.

For Betty, the combination of faith and serving is the way she has always lived.

“I’m happier being active and helping people with needs.  It’s one thing to give financially, but I like to see the faces of people and the beautiful children.

“I grew up in church.  My living is based on my faith,” Betty said. “I believe I’m blessed and need to share what I have to make the world a better place.  It’s what Jesus taught: to pray and to help.”

For information, call 509-966-3390 or email
5510  Englewood Ave, Yakima Wa 98908; cell 509-591-8639

Copyright © February 2015 - The Fig Tree