by Gussie Fauntleroy

The Crestone Food Bank’s new food distribution space will open with a special ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Saturday, May 4 from 11am to1pm. Everyone is welcome to come celebrate the newly completed facility on the west side of the Merc, with refreshments including grilled hot dogs, healthy snacks, and beverages. The Food Bank will begin its weekly distribution schedule at the newsiteonWed.,May8from2to4 pm and continue every Wednesday after that.

The Crestone Food Bank is currently co-managed by local residents Patti Jackson and Wendy Chanden and run by a small group of volunteers. For many years it operated out of the Town Hall building in downtown Crestone. When the Town began renovating that space about a year ago and the Food Bank had to leave, volunteers put out a call for a new distribution space, one that would also meet food bank standards set by the Colorado Health Department and the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, which is run by La Puente in Alamosa.

With deep family roots in Crestone, Elaine Johnson, Steve McDowell, and Matt Johnson, owners of Crestone Mercantile (the Merc) answered that call. They generously offered to build a new structure on the side of the Merc and donated almost all the materials and labor for its construction. When asked why it was important to them to give this to the community, Elaine said simply, “It was the right thing to do!”

The 27 by 15-foot building will greatly expand food storage and distribution space at the easy-access site. It will be outfitted with new commercial freezers, coolers, and stainless steel tables, thanks to funding from Saguache County through its Sales Tax Grant program. “We have so much gratitude for Steve, Elaine, and Matt, our County Commissioners, and our private donors,” said Food Bank volunteer Marge Hoglin.

The Crestone Food Bank operates under the non-profit umbrella of La Puente and receives much of its food from that organization. It also gets once-monthly deliveries from Care and Share Food Bank in Colorado Springs, and generous food donations from local individuals and gardeners, the Merc and Elephant Cloud, and from Dharma Ocean and other spiritual centers following retreats. Food bank donations of fresh vegetarian and vegan food items are always appreciated, noted Sherice Shiner of La Puente. In addition, county Sales Tax Grant money is used to purchase supplemental items not provided by La Puente, including local eggs, ground beef, and ground turkey. “We have a really good food bank—good quality, healthy food,” Hoglin said.

That generosity helps feed hundreds of area families and individuals. In 2017, the Crestone Food Bank served almost 2,800 people, including more than 500 children and 450 seniors. La Puente allows each client a certain number of food bank visits per year, and visits are noted in a computerized system to make sure supplies are distributed fairly.

While the new facility was being built, the Food Bank operated temporarily out of the fellowship hall at the Little Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church on Alder Street. Through its new space, the organization plans to offer more home deliveries for the elderly,

shut-in, and those otherwise unable to get to the site. Anyone aware of someone who may need this service can contact the Food Bank at crestonefoodbank@fairpoint.net.

For those who can’t get to the Crestone Food Bank on Wednesdays, the Moffat Food Bank is open every Tuesday from 2 to 4pm at the Free Spirit Christian Church on 5th Street in Moffat.

On April 27, the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley held its annual Generosity on Tap fundraiser at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa, during which it honored area residents including Elaine, Steve, and

Matt for their generosity and support. The new Crestone Food Bank site is dedicated in loving memory to Elaine Johnson’s parents, Bob and Eileen Sisemore.

Email the Food Bank at crestonefoodbank@fairpoint.net to learn what types of food are most needed, set up a time to deliver food donations, or find out what kinds of volunteer help might be needed.