Almost 850 people went to lunch together at The Broadmoor on March 6 and, in a little over an hour, provided the money for meals for 1,202,125 hungry people in southern Colorado.
The goal for the 2014 Care and Share Recipe for Hope fundraiser had been 1 million meals, said a delighted Lynne Telford, the food bank's president and CEO.
Across southern Colorado there are are more than 165,000 people deemed "food insecure," which means they are without regular access to food at some time during the year, Care and Share reported. Last year, food from the regional distribution food bank reached 104,000 people, so the money raised at the luncheon will help ease this deficit.
Telford said Care and Share works with 340 partner agencies that provide emergency food assistance, including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. Food is provided across 31 counties spanning 52,000 square miles. Among those at Recipe for Hope were representatives of a food pantry in Gunnison, which is in the Care and Share area.
"We can ... we simply must ... solve hunger," Telford said, her voice breaking with emotion as she spoke to the packed crowd.
A basket of apples on the stage of the International Center helped Telford illustrate the food bank's mission. She told of watching as food was distributed at a pantry in a small town and about the great delight a child showed as she bit into a red apple. The apple was a rare gift.
Then Telford invited all those at the Broadmoor lunch to pick up their own red apples near their plates. It was an "oops" moment as Telford heard "I didn't get an apple," from all around the room. One guest told another that she would cut her own apple in half to share. Others offered their apples to friends.
Why didn't everyone get an apple? In the Care and Share world, 60 percent of the people have apples to eat whenever they'd like and 40 percent don't, Telford said.
Shannon Mendes shared her story about being a person who never thought she would need help from charities in order to feed her children. There had been a domino effect when she was divorced by her military officer husband and, although well educated, she had to slowly find her way back into the working world. Day care ate up much of the money she made and she had to sell the family's house. When she turned the one last box of mac and cheese into three meals for her two sons and herself, she knew she had to find help. The food pantries, she learned, all partnered with Care and Share and she wanted to learn more about it. Now that she has a full-time job, she and her sons volunteer at Care and Share.
Those who don't know where their next meal is coming from "can be anyone," said Mendes. "It can be a neighbor. It can be that person in the next cubicle."
James Doty, 10, stole hearts with the story of his family losing everything in the Black Forest fire. The Edith Wolford Elementary School student said, "It's a scary thing to lose your house." He misses his books. "I love books," he said. And he misses his Legos. He helped out with his Cub Scout food drive and the fruit, macaroni and cheese, fruit rolls and spaghetti they collected helped his family, too. At the food pantry "we could have food," he said. "And books!" James likes that his mom, Kim, can get paper towels and cleaning supplies at the food pantry, too. There were special things for little sister Kate, 6, too, and for the luncheon she wore a princess dress with blinking shoes.
He told the audience, "Everyone in the Black Forest fire has a different story and I came here to tell you mine."