Community support shows everyone cares in a crisis
By David Josselyn
The COVID-19 Pandemic has hit fast and furious, taking many of us by surprise. The governments are creating rules and restrictions that can change daily; sometimes several times per day. As we adapt to our new way of life, many of us are left making hard financial choices just to feed our families or ourselves, which is why the Gilpin CountyFood Bank is a great way to stretch your food dollars.
The Food Bank has been around for years offering a box of food to residents to help get them through some tough times, but recently, has become a necessity for many just to get by. After the mandated closures of non-essential businesses, the Food Bank embraced the largest demand in its history handing out in two days what it would normally go through in six weeks! Food Bank Coordinator Jennifer Josselyn stated in the seven years she has worked with the Food Bank, “I have never seen the shelves so empty!” After the mandated closing of casinos, the Food Bank had received donations from many casinos that had food just sitting behind their closed doors, but even with those contributions, the Food Bank shelves were quickly emptied. The Office of Emergency Management, headed by the unsung hero of Gilpin County, Nate Whittington, rapidly organized a Public Service Announcement video pleading for donations to the Food Bank. This resulted in huge contributions of food, boxes, bags, and checks pouring in from our community! With the community’s help, the Food Bank will keep rolling along providing food for everyone in need as long as food and funds continue to be donated.
A Little History
The Gilpin County Food Bank, operated out of the Department of Human Services offices in the Justice Center, was started by Karen Erdman and other staff members in 1995 as a basic-needs food program. They offered food provided by a federal government called The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, for short. There are no choices in TEFAP, the Food Bank gets whatever the government has set aside; from off-brand peanut butter to dry beans. The Food Bank expanded its program under Roxy Goss, a 15-year volunteer, and later, Linda Isenhart, who took in donations of food from other sources and setup an account with Food Bank of the Rockies where they could buy food for cents on the dollar. Jennifer Josselyn began volunteering for the Food Bank in 2013 and was later hired in 2015 by Human Services becoming the Food Bank Facilitator and later the Food Bank Coordinator. Under Josselyn, who partnered with Erdman, they added a holiday food box program for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a summer lunch box program for school children. What most people do not know is that the Food Bank operates independent of the County and is totally funded by donations and grants, which is why in times of crisis like this, they need all the help they can get.
Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:30 – 4 pm
Since the massive outpouring of support from the Gilpin community, the Food Bank had enough food for another week, but will continue to need help. The video created by the Office of Emergency Management and posted by the Gilpin Sheriff’s Department has reached thousands of people to date, and organizations are hearing the call. The Mountain Backpack Program, which provides food assistance to school children in Jefferson, Clear Creek, and Gilpin Counties, donated $5,000 worth of food straight from Shamrock Food Distribution and Supply, which is a tremendous support for the Food Bank.
With current restrictions, the Gilpin Food Bank has changed its distribution policies. Anyone who wants to use the Food Bank can come during regular distribution hours; every Tuesday and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm, at the Justice Center (2960 Dory Hill Road) where they will be greeted the masked Mrs. Josselyn upon entering the parking lot. Jenni will take down required information while offering applications for benefits, then they will drive clockwise around the lot to the front entrance where friendly volunteers (Gilpin County employees) will load their vehicle with food for humans, dogs, and cats (depending on your household) along with any applications requested, and then they drive off. No touching, staying apart as much as possible, and somehow giving a friendly virtual hug through their service. You are welcome to pick up food for other households than your own, too.
The Gilpin County Food Bank was never designed to feed families exclusive to other sources, but to supplement what they already have. If you want other options, there are other organizations in and near the county ready to help you out. The Food Bank of the Rockies sends a semi-truck to the Gold Mountain Village apartments (above Central City) on the third Tuesday of every month starting at 11:00 am. The food is for anyone in the community and they stay in the parking lot until the food runs out (usually around 1:00 pm).
The Nederland Food Pantry, along with the Clothing Closet, will gladly help folks from north Gilpin County and are open every Saturday, and the first and last Thursday, from 10 am to noon.
Loaves and Fishes in Idaho Springs is open every Thursday and Friday from noon to 4:00 pm for all residents.
The Holistic Homestead, headed by Arwen Ek and operating out of the Professional Building (972 Golden Gate Canyon Road, just past the fairgrounds), has some free food and offers a food share program giving out healthy, organic nutritious foods for cheap. The grocery store is open to the public every Thursday through Sunday and has opened special hours on Wednesdays for seniors.
It’s in times of crisis that you find out who your real friends are. Well, the way our community comes together in support, this county must be full of friends indeed. The quarantines, forced closures, stay-at-home orders affect all of us; we’re all in this together. Our lives have been turned upside down and there is no shame in getting help from others. Please, if you are hungry or not sure how you are going to pay for groceries on top of everything else, come by the Gilpin County Food Bank.