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Arvada first responders working on Thanksgiving got their fill of turkey and stuffing on Nov. 25, as volunteers with Chow For Champions delivered hot meals to police officers, firefighters and paramedics across the city who were working during the holiday.

The initiative began during the initially COVID-19 lockdown during the spring of 2020 when the Arvada Resiliency Taskforce wanted to show appreciation for first responders and frontline employees in the city working through the pandemic.

That fall, Arvada resident Kimber Just posted on the popular Arvada Neighbors Facebook group expressing an interest in providing meals for first responders around the holidays and asking if anyone in the group would be interested in helping her effort.

The post caught the eye of one particularly influential community member — District 2 City Councilmember Lauren Simpson.

“Kimber (Just) just posted on Arvada Neighbors that she wanted to do something to honor first responders in Arvada, and would anyone be interested in joining her,” said Simpson. “I said `I’m on city council, I don’t want to pounce on your idea, but I want to work on it.’”

Simpson then got in touch with Arvada Chamber of Commerce President Kami Welch, who helped to get Chow for Champions involved in the effort.

“Kami said, `We actually have the Chow for Champions line still open,’ and that’s how all these partners came together,” said Simpson.

This year, five volunteers joined Simpson and Just to collect meals provided by Great Harvest Bread Co. and the Arvada Elks Lodge and deliver them to the city’s eight fire stations and four police stations.

Arvada Police Chief Link Strate said the department is appreciative of community support this holiday season and reminded community members to donate to local food bank Community Table, which is currently experiencing a food shortage.

“We’re so grateful to have support of our community and chow for champions. This year we’d like for people to not forget people who are food insecure and not forget Community Table,” said Strate.

Just said that she was appreciative of the community support the project has received this year.

“I can’t express enough my gratitude for the help and support of our volunteers. This is why I started in the first place. The support of the community and coming together is a beautiful thing,” said Just.

Simpson said that she and Just are accepting donations for Chow for Champions Christmas initiative, which will see meals doled out to first responders working during the holiday.

“Everyone working on the holiday gets a wonderful hot meal,” said Simpson. “It’s just such an awesome way to say thank you to the first responders. It sucks to be away from your spouse, siblings, kids, friends on holidays. We all want to be watching football on Thanksgiving Day, not responding to someone’s tragedy or domestic issues.

“And these are the people who do that, who get up in the morning and still serve. Thanksgiving is all about gratitude,” Simpson continued.