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
- Aurora Interfaith Community Services
- Bennett Community Food Bank
- Broomfield Fish
- CARES Food Bank of Strasberg
- Community Food Share
- Covenant Cupboard
- Erie Food Bank
- Growing Home
- Harvest Food Bank
- Health and Hope Center
- Hope Starts Here Food Bank
- Integrated Family Community Services
- Jewish Family Services
- Lutheran Family Services, Food Bank for Refugees
- Montbello Organizing Committee
- Northglenn Christian Food Bank
- Nourish Meals on Wheels
- Open Arms Food Bank
- Parker Task Force
- Ruby’s Market
- St Mary Parish Pantry
- Thornton Community Food Bank
- Valley View Cares (SECOR)
- Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church
- Providence Presbyterian
- Beginnings Community Church
- Spirit of Hope Lutheran
- St. Matthews Episcopal Church
- The House Worship Center