Bringing help and humanity to the isolated in the Denver metro area

Lakewood nonprofit helps feed 151 households this week

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Volunteers bring food to those at highest COVID-19 risk. Just a short distance off West Colfax avenue in Lakewood — an area not always thought of for charity, kindness and the spirit of goodwill.

The small but growing group of volunteers has been hard at work feeding metro-area residents that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are working with Benefits in Action, a nonprofit, in partnership with the State of Colorado to help those in need navigate health care benefits like Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for the past five years. In March, the Lakewood-based nonprofit launched a no-contact food delivery program to serve those in need who are homebound, or have a high degree of vulnerability to the virus.

According to the numbers provided by Jane Barnes, one of the founders of BIA, the need is definitely there.

“In March, we started calling the folks that we serve, and saying “how are you— is there anything you need? And people said, “we need food,” so that’s how it got started” said Barnes. “In the middle of March, we delivered no food. Today we have over 800 households on our list.”

Oct. 3 the group hosted an event called “A Day of Food Delivery” to distribute boxes of food to 151 households with the help of more than 100 volunteers in 46 cars. According to Barnes, each household received enough food to last about a week.

When asked why she was lending a hand, one of Saturday’s volunteers, Laura Boggs didn’t miss a beat. “Here’s the honest truth,” Boggs said. “One in three Coloradans right now, is hungry.” In collaboration with local food banks and community partners, BIA has been able to deliver food to more than 300 households per week since ramping up during the COVID-19 crisis.

Reg Cox volunteers on behalf of one of those community partners, the Lakewood Faith Coalition. It partners with several like-minded organizations to work on the hunger problem in Jefferson County.

“The Coalition to End Hunger in Lakewood benefits from volunteers and the service energy of the faith community, so that’s where I step in.” Cox said. “Covid caused everyone to pivot, so there was a gap based on food need, and Jane’s organization, Benefits in Action stepped in to fill that gap. We’ve built partnerships with the faith community, service clubs, colleges and universities, so Benefits in Action is just an example of stepping into the gap of a need and responding to it.”

David Kaye, a health educator who also trains people on diabetes prevention is another volunteer. He said as soon as the pandemic hit in March, he knew feeding people was going to be a problem, so he started looking around for organizations who could use his help. In April, he started volunteering with BIA. He said the best part of the gig is simply looking people in the eye and making their day with some food.

“Just knowing that you’ve helped someone and making that connection is fulfilling,” Kaye said. He also noted that although he’s seeing some people who’ve become more food insecure because of COVID-19 and the unexpected loss of a job, he thinks that the fallout from the virus is shining a light on a problem that’s been untreated for far too long.

Kaye said that a general lack of resources contributes to many of the health conditions that lead people to higher-risk category when it comes to COVID-19.

“This (virus) has exposed this impoverished underclass in our society, and it also has brought to the forefront, the health disparities,” Kaye said. “I’m hoping that coming out of this, we can sustain this momentum to begin to attack those underlying factors.”

Although BIA is able to offer its benefits navigation program throughout the state, right now, it only has the capabilities to provide food delivery to Adams, Arapahoe, Denver and Jefferson counties. In addition to its food delivery initiative, BIA has recently launched a new “Connectedness” program, which trains volunteers to make weekly phone calls to people who live alone, with the goal of making them feel a bit less lonely. The organization is also offering online peer support groups, led by a licensed therapist, and a new music therapy group, all in an attempt to make life better for underserved residents of our communities.

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