As they filled bags and boxes with truckloads of groceries at the West Seattle Food Bank Tuesday, volunteers couldn't help but feel a bit empty.
It'sthree fold, actually, said volunteer Mike Cervino. One because he was a great comedian. Two, because he donated here and three because people really rely on that here.
In 2004, Robin Williams performed stand-up at the Showbox nightclub in Seattle, and without telling anyone, donated all of the proceeds to the food bank.
I was just astounded, said Executive Director Fran Yeatts.
Yeattshad no idea about the comedian's plan until someone called her asking for tickets to the show. Confused, she began callingaround and found out that Williams would indeedbe making people smile in ways that transcended comedy. He performed more shows in 2007 and 2008, raising nearly $50,000 for the organization, just as the economy was collapsing and need was skyrocketing. Never once did Williams askfor any recognition.
Robin Williams is the type of person who really understands there are a lot of people who are really, really struggling, said Yeatts.
It's an inspiring story, especially to food bankvolunteers like Bill Bacon who struggles with bipolar disorder and understands the darkness that can come with depression. For him, it isn't how Williams ended his life, but how he lived it that continues to inspire.
In spite of the problems that some people have, they can still to great things, he said. I think Robin Williams is a classic example of that.
Aaron Ellis was volunteering at the food bank when Williams first came to town in 2004, and got to meetthe comic legendbackstage at the Showbox nightclub. He had no ideathe two would have so much in common.
He was this real guy, this regular Joe that had the same issues, said Ellis.
Like Williams, Ellis suffered from depression and addiction. Ellis said it wasWilliams' humanity, his willingness to openly admit his shortcomings and relate to a regular guy from West Seattle that made those few minutes so inspiring.
He said it was an honor for him to be able to do these things, to give back, said Ellis. That meant the world to me. It solidified my sobriety to this day.
A decade after his meeting with Robin Williams, Ellis is still sober. He hopes to return to volunteer at the food bank, and he prays that others suffering silently with the deadly demon of depression get help. He also hopes societywill tryharder to understand instead of judge.
I realize it makes no sense, but it's what happens, he said. This is our reality.