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“My mom got WIC when we were kids. I’ve had just buttered noodles for dinner or chili all week. I understand.”

Everett, Washington

August 2021

My name is Chris Hatch. I serve as Volunteers of America Western Washington’s Senior Director of Hunger Prevention. I can truly relate to those I serve, especially when it comes to doing without.

I am humble because I’ve been there. My mom got WIC when we were kids. I’ve had just buttered noodles for dinner or chili all week. I understand.

My mom, Belinda, was just trying to get by as a single mother who had me when she was 15 years old. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Balinda dropped out of high school in ninth grade and my biological father disappeared shortly after I was born. My mom did what she could to survive. I counted once, and I think I went to 20 different schools in 12 years. School was rough for me, but not just because of all the moving. I had undiagnosed dyslexia, which was not discovered until I was in 3rd grade when my mom and I settled in with my stepdad. After the diagnosis, teachers helped me with learning strategies and later I made the Honor Roll in high school and graduated with honors from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Through it all, my Grams was always there. Consistent, caring, tough, and smoking two packs of Winston 100s a day. My mom and I would land at Grams’ house in-between apartments or houses, and she’d always check in on me to ask about school, college, plans, dreams.

After high school, I was a volunteer fire fighter and worked for my stepdad’s distribution company which helped me excel at logistics: getting important goods to those who need it, on-time every time, and overcoming challenges to do it. While going to college, I worked for PetSmart and rose to various management positions. In 2013 after I graduated with a degree in Social Work, my wife and I moved to Washington state.

In 2016 Grams came to visit us and we took her whale watching up in the San Juan Islands. Sadly, something was not right. Grams looked frail and thin, weak. Two weeks after returning to St. Louis, Grams passed away. I was devastated.

I wanted to make a change and go after that life of purpose that Grams used to ask me about. So, I applied to a VOA position in Care Crisis, responding to chats from people struggling. As if Grams was guiding from her spirit form, I was quickly promoted at VOA; first to manage the North Sound 211 program before switching roles to lead VOAWW Hunger Prevention Services as Senior Director. I believe that food is number one. Everyone must eat every day. There’s nothing more important.

Experience as a people manager, distribution supervisor, social worker, and hungry child has allowed me to help my team overcome many obstacles during these unprecedented times when our community needed food most.

I have always been a helper. And I am so moved by our volunteers, the people who dedicate hundreds of hours to feeding others.

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