Of the many impacts that coronavirus has had on our community, the nationwide shortfall at food banks may be one of the most devastating. Over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last six weeks. The exponential increase in demand for food is unfortunately met by a drop in donations. Some of the major sources of food donations – hotels and restaurants – are shut down, while another source – grocery stores – have been picked clean by anxious customers. There is, of course, the good will of the community, and that is exactly what came to the rescue this week. Despite the dire situation of many Americans, the Denver Area was boosted by goodwill in a food drive held last weekend.

As the First Presidency reminded its membership in church-wide communication April 14, 2020, “We are to be “anxiously engaged” in relieving suffering and helping those in need.” They further stated, “We invite our members to participate in… relief projects in their areas and communities as opportunities arise and as local government directives and personal circumstances allow.” Denver Area residents responded to the First Presidency’s message and the needs of local food banks with rousing success. 

Starting Saturday, April 25 and ending Saturday, May 2, 13 stakes helped restock food and pantry essentials for over 20 area food banks. With just over a week’s notice, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped refill empty shelves with food, paper goods, and even masks. Over a hundred thousand pounds of food were donated, and tens of thousands of dollars came in as well. Each stake was able to supplement the needs of one or several of their local food banks. The Parker Task Force, recipients of Parker and Parker South Stake’s efforts, reported that their total donations more than made up for the two food drives they’ve had to cancel (scheduled for April and June). Boulder Stake’s donations calculated enough to feed 30 families for a month.

As the idea was born, Katie Moon, JustServe Director for the Denver North Area, recalls feeling hopeful, but unsure about the expected response. Given the size of the task and the timeline in which she and her team hoped to meet their goals, there was no telling what result to expect. Nobody knew that they were about to pull off a miracle. The outcome was, “…nothing short of amazing. I was overwhelmed by the amount of generosity I was seeing.” For hours, the lines of cars filled with people donating kept coming. Across the Denver Metro area, rented U-Hauls, pick-up trucks, trailers, and moving vans were filled to capacity. The former scare of not being able to fill personal needs was set aside, and the needs of others took priority.

That exact re-prioritizing of needs brings a silver lining to trials. And it’s one of the ways that communities can come together. Last weekend’s food drive was no exception. Many stakes partnered with other local churches, doubling results and building relationships along the way. When he arrived to donate, Father Michael, of St. Matthews Episcopal Church, thanked the organizers for inviting him and his congregation. His sentiments mirrored those of the rest who were able to help. Moon reports, “Many people thanked us for giving them a way to help others.” Some went one step further. When they took inventory of what else was needed at their initial drop-off, they went back to the store, bought specific food items, and returned with a second load of donations.

Those were not the only steps given in service. Physical donations were supplemented with monetary donations. In Littleton Stake, volunteers were able to do the shopping for those who who couldn’t get out of their homes. This helped fill the specific item requests from their recipients, St. Mary Parish Pantry and Nourish Meals on Wheels.

Volunteers filled Costco flatbeds with food, all bought with the thousands of dollars of donations. Though household budgets are stretched tight, members of The Church of Jesus Christ dug a little deeper and donated even more. Estimated reports show at least $20K in monetary donations were raised last weekend alone. This helped address both the needs of the hungry, and the need of those who are high-risk to remain isolated. Sarah Hill, JustServe Director for Denver South Area said, “The creativity people showed in being able to do such a project in such unusual circumstances was very exciting.”

Of the generosity, Hill further said, “It was heartwarming and impressive to see so many people help. It’s a tough time for everybody, but being able to serve others is at the core of everyone’s well-being.”

While healthcare workers help those afflicted with coronavirus to breathe, Denver residents have helped in their own way. Food bank directors, and their recipients, may all be breathing a little easier themselves, as shelves are re-stocked, pantries filled, and food for the hungry has been re-supplied. The impacts of a pandemic are far-reaching. But in Denver, so is the service and brotherly love that comes with it.

Food Bank Recipients 

  1. Aurora Interfaith Community Services
  2. Bennett Community Food Bank
  3. Broomfield Fish
  4. CARES Food Bank of Strasberg
  5. Community Food Share
  6. Covenant Cupboard
  7. Erie Food Bank
  8. Growing Home
  9. Harvest Food Bank
  10. Health and Hope Center
  11. Hope Starts Here Food Bank
  12. Integrated Family Community Services
  13. Jewish Family Services
  14. Lutheran Family Services, Food Bank for Refugees
  15. Montbello Organizing Committee
  16. Northglenn Christian Food Bank
  17. Nourish Meals on Wheels
  18. Open Arms Food Bank
  19. Parker Task Force
  20. Ruby’s Market
  21. St Mary Parish Pantry
  22. Thornton Community Food Bank
  23. Valley View Cares (SECOR)

Interfaith Partners

  1. Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church
  2. Providence Presbyterian
  3. Beginnings Community Church
  4. Spirit of Hope Lutheran
  5. St. Matthews Episcopal Church
  6. The House Worship Center

The world has turned a bit upside down. Despite attempts at normalcy, COVID-19 is front and center. Busy, popular hang outs are strangely quiet, families on walks make wide berth for passersby, and general traffic is much lighter than usual. 

The good news, though, is that there is always good news. Charity in action is a constant. Signs of the goodness of others, and the ways humanity shows loving kindness appear daily. 

One simple method of continual service is seen through the birth of the Pray Act Trust movement (see PrayActTrust.com or follow #PrayActTrust on social) begun by Denver’s local clergy leaders. Each day of April brings an opportunity to join in group prayer (via public conference call), perform an individual act of service, and show trust in God throughout the process. Examples of service range from doing yard work for a neighbor, calling someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, or even chalking the neighborhood sidewalk with messages of hope and optimism. 

Pastor Del Phillips of The House Worship Center has taken the lead on the initiative. He reports, “Finding triumph in the midst of tragedy is not unfamiliar to people of faith.  In moments of tragedy we discover what is inside of us. The present pandemic tragedy has disclosed we are all born from the same flesh and blood fabric when faced with a virus that ignores race, creed, or color.  We have learned that people are willing to put themselves in harm’s way knowing there is no way to avoid the commitment they made to put others before themselves.  This tragedy has produced evidence to prove when we want to work together, working together empowers us to Pray, Act, and to Trust God.”

Another quiet way that service has been provided is the recent arrival of 9,600 rolls of toilet paper. The most publicized staple to be missing from shelves, toilet paper has become the hallmark of preparedness in this pandemic. Blessedly, coordination between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Denver Mayor Hancock’s Faith Council helps alleviate the problem for high risk citizens in the Denver area. Local non-profit senior centers will now be able to provide basic toiletry needs for thousands of people. 

Craig McIlroy, Director of Denver South Area Communication Council was on hand to help with  a delivery of a busload of 100 boxes of toilet paper to a senior living center. Having also helped coordinate the arrival of large food orders to local food banks, he is being the goodness in action. Unheralded by most, but very much appreciated, these gracious acts of service are given without expectation of reciprocity. Of the experience McIlroy reports, “It’s been a heartwarming experience. The ability to do something that means so much to others was really special.” 

Between the prayers, simple daily service, and the bus filled with toilet paper, all stories simply add to the illustration of living charity. While the COVID-19 case numbers grow, so does something else: people showing up with love. In spite of things turning upside down or backwards, facing towards the Savior continues to manifest in showing love for one another. 


The recent run on pantry staples is evidenced by bare shelves at the grocery store. Yet for those who have been following the advice to keep a supply of food storage on hand, the pandemic-inspired shopping panic has not been as severe. Fox31 News got word of the sage practices of many member families, and highlighted Rachel Lyons and her family on a recent news story. See link below.


A two-year partnership between Columbine Stake and a local elementary school has helped provide thousands of meals to local children. However, with the closing of schools through the rest of the year, local church members wanted to find a way to continue helping. After all, whether or not school is in session, those who need meals still are in need. Fara Sneddon, Director of Communications for the Columbine Stake reports that they usually deliver 200 lunches per weekend. Their new solution involves a partnership with Integrated Family Community Services (IFCS), who were “overjoyed” to receive Columbine Stake’s donations. Once again, the worldwide pivot to find ways to serve continues to show up in happy ways in the community. For further donations, to help with IFCS, or to receive food, visit IFCS website at ifcs.org or call 303-789-0501. “Together, there can be enough.”


Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s faith council is organizing a citywide effort during the month of April called “Pray Act Trust:”  Pray in unity with our neighbors, Act to assist others where we can, and Trust in our Father in Heaven that all will work out. Community involvement will be recognizable through the hashtag #prayacttrust

PRAY

Activities for the month will kick off tomorrow with a phone call for all members of the community. Pastor Del Phillips will introduce the month-long campaign, followed by several members of local clergy offering prayer. The kick-off will run from 12-12:30.  All are welcome to participate on the call.  Call in number is 425-436-6392  Access Code 485444. The audio will also be available on Pastor Del’s Facebook page (see below).

ACT

Each day during the month of April join the community in service. How? Each daily act of service is consistent with Shelter in Place guidelines. These daily options help members of the community connect in spite of social restrictions while also creating positive impacts in their own lives and those of their neighbors.  This will be similar to what we experience during the Christmas season with the 30 days of Light the World.  These ideas will be at https://www.prayacttrust.com/.

Sunday, April 5th will be a citywide day of fasting and prayer.  A list of community charities will be provided where a fast offering can be made.

See the Facebook link for Pastor Del’s facebook live inviting us all to join.

WEEK ONE

We can come together in the midst of coronavirus quarantine. Join us daily for prayer at noon, perform a daily act of service, and trust God. 

Wednesday – April 1

Commit to pray every day for the next 30 days. Join us live for group prayer on Facebook or by calling in. Call in number is 425-436-6392  Access Code 485444. 

Thursday – April 2

Write a thank you note to someone. It could be instant gratitude via email, or a tangible thank you card in the mail. 

Friday – April 3

Offer to do a grocery run for someone else. If you are high risk, let someone else serve you and do a grocery run for you. 

Saturday – April 4

Find a story with good news. Forward it to five friends. 

Sunday – April 5

Join the community in a day of fasting and prayer. 

Monday – April 6

Donate the money you would have spent on your meals yesterday (or more!) and donate it to a local charitable organization. 

Tuesday – April 7

Cheer up the neighborhood walk. Chalk the sidewalks with messages and pictures of hope and joy. Make sure to tag your work #PrayActTrust

TRUST

The theme of the month comes from Psalms. “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  – Psalms 91:2

As our beloved prophet President Nelson recently shared, “Our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ know us, love us, and are watching over us. Of that we can be certain.

“These unique challenges will pass in due time. I remain optimistic for the future. I know the great and marvelous blessings that God has in store for those who love Him and serve Him. I see evidence of His hand in this holy work in so many ways.”

As we all unite in prayer, act in service, and trust in God, we will be lifted in the joy amidst our circumstances. #PrayActTrust


Mayor Hancock, Shawn DeBerry Johnson, Elder Thomas T. Priday, and project lead Craig McIlroy present charity recipients from 2019 Giving Machines with checks.

The excitement of the holiday Giving Machines continued Thursday as five local charities gathered in Denver Mayor Hancock’s office. Those in attendance were all smiles – with good reason. In Denver’s inaugural year the Giving Machines surpassed all expectations. Denver area helped raise more than $750K for charitable organizations – and Thursday was the payday. If there was one theme word of the day, it was huge. The checks were huge, the payments were huge, and, best of all – the impact for those in need is huge.

Two volunteers from Catholic Charities pose with NBA Super Mascot Rocky

Catholic Charities’ Director of Communications and Marketing, Cheryl Talley, reported how excited they were to be part of the Giving Machines. Citing the 3,000 meals that were donated to the women they serve, “this is more than a meal. This provides more than nourishment. It provides hope, and a pathway. This is a huge, huge improvement for the lives of women here in Denver.” Other gift options available through the machines means hundred of families Catholic Charities serve will receive 10 days’ worth of groceries, a years worth of diapers, and thousands more blankets will be provided. They can even provide many with a mattresses and bedding. Their total donation received was $89,126.

A sample social media teaser for BCDI shows how easy it is to give a huge gift.

Black Child Development Institute- Denver, received more than 2,000 donations, making their total gift $68,398. That translates into thousands of books for children, hundreds of STEAM kits, fresh produce for thousands of children, and many, many children who can now attend early literacy boot camps. Cassandra Johnson, Denver Affiliate President, shared appreciation for their most popular gift- a 20-book at home “starter library,” which means “children will have increased literacy skills” and put on the path to better educational opportunities.

Linda Loflin-Pettit, Chair of the Board of Directors for The Rose Andom Center illustrated the huge impact their gift makes. Both research and anecdotal experience show that women facing domestic violence have large transportation obstacles to overcome, both in fleeing abuse and in traveling to centers of support. Thanks to the 2,500 bus passes given at the machines, Loflin-Pettit is convinced that lives will be saved. The Rose Andom Center, Denver’s first one-stop center for survivors of domestic violence received $56,479. Other gifts given included hundreds of personal care items and toys for children’s waiting rooms, well-woman exams, and counseling and legal advocacy for abuse victims.

A child smiles in front of the Giving Machines. Donations options for Mile High Ministries and the Rose Andom Center show behind him.

Mile High Ministries received $60,448. Their services can now provide thousands more meals, hundreds of hours of tutoring and adult education classes, and months of nights of safe shelter for families who need support. What did they have to say about this support? “We are enormously grateful,” reports Jeff Johnsen, Executive Director.

Though six charities were recipients of the Giving Machines, there may have been one or two whose items for sale were most talked about. After all, how often do you get to buy a piglet from a vending machine? Church World Services, one of the two global charities, was definitely a draw with its unique options like chicken and sheep. Over 3,500 visitors chose to buy chickens. Yet, all benefitted from the machines’ universal appeal. In their 6 weeks at Writer Square, the Denver Giving Machines saw more than 9,000 transactions from its visitors, donating more than 25,000 items.

The Jaussi family stops to Light the World through a gift at the Giving Machines.

Denver-based Water for People, the other global charity, had unique attractions of their own. Their top seller, the tiger-worm toilet, was donated 1,169 times. Chad Arthur, Chief Development Officer of Water for People, explained that tiger worms help prevent the spread of disease through the latrine system. “This will make a huge impact.” Other gift options means 500 wells and 900+ hand pumps will be given from this year’s donations, not to mention the very thing we take for granted – hand soap. Water for People received more than $200,146 from Denver’s giving.

Operating costs and credit card fees for the Giving Machines were covered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church also covers a portion of administrative fees. Thursdays’ checks included the total donation from Denver Metro residents, and funds from The Church of Jesus Christ.

A donor buys a tiger-worm toilet for Water for People through the Giving Machines.

Though forecast to have modest success, Denver Area made its own way with the theme of “huge” and raised $753,069. Such success is sure to grow. Denver is set to host the Giving Machines in 2020, and we’ll see just how much bigger the impact can get. Look for their return to Writer Square from November 23, 2020 – January 4, 2021.

The Light the World campaign is an annual Christmas campaign designed to share love and service to everyone around.


Union Station shines bright for the Grand Illumination

In the time of year where family traditions and activities are central- you might be on the hunt for quality family fun. Denver offers many answers. Since the costs of fun and holidays can add up quickly, we offer five solutions that are friendly on your wallet. 

These tips are for everyone looking to enjoy family time together in Denver, and do it at low cost. It is possible to do both!

1. Start at the Giving Machines in Writer Square. On this day of fun and -mostly free activities- start off by thinking of those in need. After all, when was the last time your $3 at a vending machine bought meals for those at a shelter? Or you gave chickens for Christmas? With 5 local and 1 global charity benefitting from the machines, don’t miss Denver’s first year as host to the Light the World Giving Machines! Visit GivingMachinesDenver.com for more information.

A family makes their selection at the Giving Machines

2. Visit Santa Claus at Larimer Square. After you’ve been the giver of gifts, visit one of the most famous gift givers – Santa Claus! Here’s a chance to visit St. Nick, and enjoy the surroundings in Larimer Square while you’re at it! Photos are free – please just bring your own camera. Santa visits every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Click for more info. 

Children share their Christmas wishes with Santa on the Square

3. Travel “abroad” with a visit to the Christkindl Market. For a taste of the variety of ways holidays are celebrated, enjoy the Christkindl Market. Entry is free, and just a stroll through the many shops provides an eyeful of wonder and delight. Handmade gifts represent makers from many countries. Take your visit to the next level with an authentic German pretzel. Yum! Check further details at their website.

A scene from last year’s Christkindl Market. Photo courtesy: Denver Christkindl.

4. Go Ice skating at Skyline Park. Perhaps you’re ready to add some speed to your holiday tour. If you own your own ice skates, this activity is totally free. For those needing to rent – skate rentals are $7 for kids and $9 for adults. Hot tip for 4th graders : Free skating and rentals are provided to ALL Colorado 4th graders ALL Season long! See their website for more hours and information. 

Downtown Denver Ice Rink (Photo by Jack Dempsey)

5. Make a visit to the Mile High Tree. Wrap up your day with the sounds of the symphony, and the wonder of the Mile High tree. All events here are free! See a Christmas tree unparalleled by anything you’ve seen before. This 110 foot tall, immersive art installation can host up to 140 guests at a time, for a viewing experience from within the tree itself! Enjoy two different shows, rotating every 15 minutes. Open from 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Click for more info.

The view from inside the Mile High Tree