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The Spirit of Grams

"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.”

Chris Hatch's mom, Balinda, had Chris when she was 15 years old.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Balinda dropped out of high school in ninth grade and Chris’ biological father disappeared shortly after she was born. Balinda 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 Chris, but not just because of all the moving. Chris had undiagnosed dyslexia, which was not discovered until she was in 3rd grade when her family settled in with her stepdad. After the diagnosis, teachers helped her with learning strategies and later she made the Honor Roll in high school and graduated with honors from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

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

After high school, Chris served as a volunteer firefighter and worked for her stepdad’s distribution company, where she excelled at logistics: getting important goods to those who need it, on-time every time, and overcoming challenges to do it. While going to college, Chris worked for PetSmart and rose to up to serve in management. In 2013, after Chris graduated with a degree in Social Work, Chris and her wife, Brandie, moved to Washington State.

In 2016 Grams came to visit, and Chris and Brandie took her whale watching up in the San Juan Islands. Sadly, something wasn’t right. Grams looked frail and thin, weak. Two weeks after returning to St. Louis, Grams passed away. “I was devastated.”

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

Chris’ experience as a people manager, distribution supervisor, social worker, and hungry child have given her the experience and tenacity to help her team overcome many obstacles during these unprecedented times, when our community needed food most.

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

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Chris Hatch serves as VOA’s Senior Director of Hunger Prevention. Her story appears here as a part of our #IAmVOA campaign.

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