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Reaching out to those in need

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Gilpin County Food Bank sponsors food and gift drive

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Food Bank & Department of Human Services reached out this holiday season to those needing a hand with Christmas gifts and food. Many generous community members took the opportunity to help this office by donating items or volunteering their time.

Human Services’ clients picked up gifts at the Gilpin County Justice Center on Saturday, December 15, and picked up food boxes Wednesday, December 19 through Friday, December 21.

Holiday assistance actually began with Thanksgiving. “We gave out 86 boxes of food at Thanksgiving,” advised Food Bank Coordinator Jennifer Josselyn, “and we expect to give out about 100 at Christmas.”

Gifts were gathered for 82 children. Josselyn explained the process for receiving donated gifts. In mid-October, Human Services sent out letters to clients requesting that they fill out wish lists and return them by the first week in November. Parents would complete an anonymous list for each of their children, noting age, clothing size, favorite color, something needed, something wanted, something to wear, and something to read. These lists were then made available to community members starting on November 14.

“We made the wish lists available to the community in time for Black Friday sales,” Josselyn said.

Folks adopted families and provided the items they were able to donate. If a wish list was just partially completed, other individuals or Human Services would finish out the list. Staff members needed the items by Friday, December 14 in order to organize them. The wish lists were attached to their matching gift boxes or bags, assigned a letter and number, and collected by the parent or guardian on December 15.

Individuals, casinos, and churches donated the gift items and food, and volunteers helped organize, deliver, and wrap gifts. Donor organizations included St. Mary’s Church, Christ the King Community Church, St. Paul’s Church, G&F Gaming, The Lodge Casino, Z Casino, Century Casino, and Dostal Alley.

“Many generous individuals have donated time, money and gifts.  We have a very generous community! I could not run the food bank, the Christmas wish list program, or the summer lunch program without the staff of Human Services or the regular volunteers we have,” Josselyn stated.

The multi-purpose room at the Justice Center was filled with packages. CASA (court-appointed children’s advocates) provided soft, colorful blankets for any who needed them. Community residents provided toys, clothes, books, gift wrap, food, and money. Stocking stuffers included children’s board books, small dolls and cars, card games, action figures, coloring pages, stuffed animals, and candy.

The Justice Center was set up as somewhat of a shopping area, with Christmas songs playing, a gift wrapping station, bags to hold small items, and wagons to carry gifts out to cars. Clients browsed through the stocking stuffers and picked up the gift packages bearing their assigned numbers.

Warm, friendly staff members and volunteers stood ready to help. In addition to Josselyn, Case Manager Supervisor Karen Erdman assisted, along with volunteers Mark Lehrer and Holly Lanthier, who is Administrative Coordinator with Gilpin Public Health. Lanthier’s family — husband Greg and daughters Eileen and Abby — also helped.

These folks genuinely cared about what was going on with the people they served. The clients were treated like family, giving and receiving hugs and sharing their news. In turn, they expressed deep appreciation for everything.

“This is beautiful!” “Thank you so much!”  “Merry Christmas!”

Food items for Christmas breakfast and dinner were needed by Tuesday, December 18. Turkeys, hams, fresh vegetables, apples and oranges, pie fillings and crusts, bread, eggs, and a variety of other items were solicited. Any needed items that were not donated were purchased by Human Services staff from Costco and King Soopers. The food boxes were made up the morning of Wednesday, December 19 and given out starting that afternoon and continuing all day Thursday the 20th and Friday the 21st.

Staff members indicated a big stack of boxes among their supplies from the 9Cares Colorado Shares program. These contained scores of canned good, including tuna, soup, green beans, and much more. These goods are helpful, but there is a downside.

“People are told to clean out their cupboards and give to their local food banks,” Josselyn said. That’s fine, she agreed, but unfortunately a lot of people give food that expired long ago — even canned goods dated from the 1990’s.

“Don’t give that to the food banks — we have to throw out so much,” she reported. “Instead, please buy new food or donate money for food.”

Staff members and volunteers will be joining on Wednesday, December 26 through Friday, December 28 to go through all the 9News Cares items to check for expiration dates. Volunteers are welcomed, especially on the 26th; times are flexible.

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