“The biggest problem is getting people to come forward”
People in the East River Valley needing to put a little extra food in their cupboards will have some help from the Oh Be Joyful Church food pantry that opened its doors May 16.
With a slowing economy and the high costs associated with living in the area, food bank organizer Darlene Egelhoff is sure there is a need for some area families to supplement their pantries with donated goods, although finding those people hasn’t been easy.
“We are off to a slow start. The biggest problem is getting people to come forward as being in need of supplementing their diet, but we are hanging in there for the long term,” says Egelhoff. “Either people are embarrassed or don’t want other people to know that they need to supplement their food with food from the food bank.”
But whatever the reason is that people stay away, the need is real, Egelhoff says, and sometimes people just need to feel comfortable before they’ll let you know they need help.
“I’ve gotten people that just want to talk about the food bank, then they’ll send out some feelers and by the end of the conversation they ask if they could get a little food,” she says. “That’s how it all starts.”
According to Egelhoff, some people are asking, “Are there really starving people in Crested Butte?”
According to Renee Brown, the County Health and Human Services director, there are quite a few people living in Crested Butte who travel to Gunnison to use the services offered by the county, like the food assistance program and Colorado Works, which provides financial, medical, and other assistance to needy families.
“There is a large population in Crested Butte that struggles to pay their bills, and with the economy really slow, a lot of people are out of work in the summer around here,” says Egelhoff. “I wouldn’t be surprised that, seasonally, people get laid off in the summer and they come to the food bank just to subsidize the lack of income in the off-season.”
And while getting people to show a need is hard, getting others to help, even in a slow economy, has been easy for the food bank with people donating food and time in abundance.
“Although we haven’t needed to utilize any of the volunteers yet, we’ve had a good response. As far as the donations go, a lot of people will just run through the church and drop something off and [the Union Congregational Church] made a large donation,” she says. “The support we’ve gotten from the community is great.”
Clark’s Market is also involved in collecting food to be donated, with a box in the store for people to drop goods in after shopping. At times, the store has donated food that it is unable to sell.
Part of starting the food bank was learning how the process works. Seeing one in action gave Egelhoff and the others some good ideas.
“We did go down to see how the Gunnison operation works and they are happy to have a food bank up here because there’s been quite a few people from [Crested Butte] go down to Gunnison to use the food bank . . . Having us in place gives them some relief from the needs in the north end of the valley,” Egelhoff says.
Volunteers with the food bank are also happy to deliver food to the physically disabled, elderly or anyone who is homebound, if there is a need.
People who could benefit from the food bank’s offering can find it open every Friday between 1 and 3 p.m. in the basement of the Oh Be Joyful Church, or any other time by appointment through the church or Darlene Egelhoff, who can be reached at 275-2007.
Anyone wanting to donate non-perishable food items to the bank can do so either in the foyer of the Oh Be Joyful Church at the corner of 7th and Maroon in Crested Butte or at Clark’s Market.