Strasburg Colorado’s CARES Food Bank reaches out to the community
In the early 1950s, Evelyn Schroth knew just what it was like to struggle to feed her family. She and her husband Walt were raising two young boys on a small farm near Hoyt, Colo. Nearly all of their meager resources were poured into keeping the farm going and paying the bills, leaving them with little money to buy food each month.
“There was a time when we lived on just biscuits and gravy for nearly a whole year,” Schroth remembered. “That’s about all we could afford.”
Though Schroth is in her 80s now, she has never forgotten what it was like to have trouble feeding her family. She loves to share her story with the folks who come to Strasburg Colorado’s CARES Food Bank. Schroth has volunteered there for the past 10 years. She started by organizing cans and handing out food behind the counter and eventually became the food bank coordinator – a position she’s volunteered for the past five years.
The CARES food bank (which stands for Christian Aid Resources and Emergency Services) is one of the only rural free choice food banks in the state. Unlike many food banks, this one doesn’t hand out boxes of food, it allows people to have a more store-like experience and pick only foods their family will eat.
“Free choice is a food bank option that I really believe in,” Schroth said. “It creates less waste because people can check labels for allergies and taste preferences and only get the foods they will really use.”
The Strasburg Community Church started the bank in Strasburg, Colo., (a town of about 1,700 people) in early 2000 as a way to reach out to the community. In the beginning they handed out food from the basement, but soon realized that the disabled and elderly in the area couldn’t use the service. So the church eventually put up a mobile building – with handicap access – in their parking lot.
Strasburg’s food bank gets most of its food from donations, Arapahoe County, Food Bank of the Rockies, and the Department of Agriculture Commodities. Five regular volunteers pick up, sort and organize donations. Ten volunteers help organize and pass out food every Friday afternoon and evening when the food bank is open. One volunteer offers her time and gas weekly to deliver food to five or more area folks who can’t make it to the bank because of disabilities, illness or lack of transportation. In October, 284 families received food from CARES.
CARES assists families in both Arapahoe and Adams counties. The bank serves a large area, which includes towns in the 40-mile strip of 1-70 from Watkins to Deer Trail. Families that receive assistance have to qualify by income and place of residence, but the food bank is permitted to help any person one time.
One couple the bank recently helped was trying to walk the nearly 600 miles to Kansas City, Mo., to get home to family. Each person had a backpack with some supplies, but nearly all of their food was gone. The local convenience store told the couple about the CARES food bank.
“When the couple came to the food bank we were able to provide them with things to eat on the road,” Schroth said. “Not only that, the Lord worked it out that so that another couple was dropping off a food donation at the same time the walkers stopped in. This couple watched the walkers gather their food and generously gave them some money, took them to town and bought them bus tickets home.”
Some other travelers the bank helped this fall came from Texas. A man, his wife and their 13-year-old daughter were driving through on a snowy, cold day in their broken down old car. They were trying to get home to Ft. Worth. They had just enough money to stay one night in a cabin at the local KOA campground, but didn’t have enough food. The food bank stepped in and gave them food for a few days and helped them find a way home.
“Helping people that are truly in need is what keeps me volunteering,” Schroth said. “I like to think of the food bank as a place to give people a hand up out of tough situations, not a hand out.”
For more information about the CARES food bank, contact the Strasburg Community Church at (303) 622-4600 or Schroth at (303) 229-3809.
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