Joanne Yackel no longer the NACE director

The March 15 Empty Bowls fund-raiser was Joanne Yackel’s last official event as the director of the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf, but she still plans to support the food shelf and clothing closet.

Joanne Yackel

Joanne Yackel

Yackel, who said she is leaving for personal reasons, became the NACE director on Nov. 3, 2008. The NACE Board of Directors and Yackel have accomplished a lot over the past three-and-a-half years.

“My three-and-a-half years with NACE have been a wonderful experience, serving a mission that I am passionate about and developing relationships that have impacted me,” Yackel said. “My life has been enriched by NACE.”

When Yackel started, NACE only distributed food on Wednesdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Just two-and-a-half months after she became the director, NACE began distributing food every Monday from 9 a.m. to noon. The food shelf now also distributes on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and on Thursdays from 8 to 11 a.m.

NACE in late August 2009 moved to a larger office building that could house the food shelf and clothing closet, which had been separated when former host Our Savior’s Lutheran Church moved to a new site in 2006. Last fall, NACE bought this space and an adjacent office unit at 18511 Highway 65 N.E. in East Bethel.

At the request of Linwood Township, NACE began operating this community’s food shelf in June 2010. The Linwood food shelf was no longer able to purchase food from the Second Harvest Heartland food bank because it was not a non-profit organization like NACE.

To become more operationally efficient, NACE closed the Linwood location this past January, but continues to help residents from Linwood and the surrounding areas who used to go to that food shelf.

The increased service hours, service area, donations from the community and increased demand due to the economic recession has led to food distribution skyrocketing during Yackel’s time as director.

According to Yackel, NACE distributed 269,000 pounds of food in 2011, 200,078 pounds in 2010 and 169,786 pounds in 2009.

NACE had distributed 115,755 pounds of food in 2008, when Yackel was only director for two months. She took over for the retiring Jim Kappelhoff, who was the director of NACE for about 20 years.

Before becoming NACE’s director, Yackel volunteered for two to three years at the Anoka County Brotherhood Council (ACBC) Food Shelf in Anoka. Yackel, an Oak Grove resident, later heard about NACE and planned to volunteer there. When she learned NACE was looking for a director, she applied for this job.

Besides volunteering at the ACBC Food Shelf, Yackel had prior experience volunteering at a local church and coordinating the Meals on Wheels program in Blaine and Coon Rapids during the 1990s.

When asked during a January 2009 interview what interested her in the job, Yackel said she has had a soft spot in her heart to make sure people are treated well when visiting a food shelf.

“I want them to walk away from here with not just food, but I’d like to be able to have them feel safe, their dignity intact when they leave,” Yackel said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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