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This year, rather than donating that questionable can of beans at the back of the pantry, donate time at Clear Creek County’s food bank instead.

In preparing for the coldest months and winter holiday season, Loaves & Fishes near Idaho Springs said volunteers are its greatest need right now.

The food bank along Highway 103 serves about 75 households weekly, with each household averaging about 30 lbs of food per week, according to its board members. Thus, Loaves & Fishes requires about 75 volunteer hours a week to operate.

Randy Wright, a Loaves & Fishes board member and volunteer, described how most of the food bank’s current volunteers are retired. So, the organization needs to be prepared if volunteers get sick or want to travel during the holidays.

“We always need more volunteers,” he said.

In addition to manpower, the food bank also needs easily prepared hot meals, such as casseroles and lasagnas.

Loaves & Fishes board members said they’d like to organize local groups, such as the Clear Creek County Democrats, to donate hot meals regularly throughout the winter months.

The food bank serves these meals to clients on Thursdays and Fridays to eat before or after they pick out their groceries, Wright and Executive Director Taylor Billingsley explained. While clients only shop one day each week, they’re welcome to the hot meal both days.

“We stress that, because some of our clients don’t have a way to cook their food,” Wright continued. “So, this might be the only time each week they have a hot meal.”

Wright said some clients enjoy socializing with each other on Thursdays and Fridays, so Loaves & Fishes has picnic tables outside so they can eat their warm meals and chat when the weather’s nice.

Local churches have been very generous in donating hot foods and other items, the board members clarified, but they wanted to extend the invitation to other groups as well.

The Democrats group donated its first round of casseroles and lasagnas on Nov. 8, and organizers said they’d like to keep doing so each week.

“We’re always looking for more opportunities to engage in the community,” organizer Larry Pyers said.

Other needs

While finding more volunteers remains Loaves & Fishes’ greatest need, Billingsley and Wright detailed other items that clients frequently request.

Money for hotel rooms, gas cards and shower passes are at the top of the list. Billingsley said hotels typically run $75 a night.

With COVID-19 protocols, the food bank can only have so many people inside at a time. Everyone is required to wear a mask, Wright explained, and everything is sanitized between clients.

Billingsley and Tim Leake, the board president, said Loaves & Fishes will continue expanding its weekly distribution options across the county. It’s already partnered with the new Clear Creek Health & Wellness Center and will be handing out boxes for families there on Mondays.

Billingsley added that, because the food bank is typically closed the last two weeks of December, this new partnership will provide for Loaves & Fishes clients during that time.

“We want to keep building it up,” he said of Loaves & Fishes’ operations.