Making a difference in the world had roots for Devon Spurgeon in the Cheyenne Mountain neighborhood and school system where she grew up.
Spurgeon’s father died when she was was 8, leaving a huge hole in her life. Very quickly neighbors, peers and their peers, teachers and community members stepped in to fill the void. “Civic mindedness in Colorado Springs is unlike any other place I’ve lived in…Connectivity really exists here and this is where I learned it,” Spurgeon said during a recent interview.
She feels she was raised by the entire community, not just family. An example Spurgeon relates is always being included in events such as father/daughter dances by members of her “tribe.”
From a very young age, Spurgeon learned that the hallmark of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 is community service, which was an expectation rather than an option. Spurgeon’s first exposure to community service was through the Interact Club at Cheyenne Mountain High School. She learned how to contribute through activities such as food drives and other community events, generally gaining an awareness of ways to give back. She was also active in Young Life and youth fellowship at Broadmoor Community Church. She participated in environmental clean-ups, and helped people who were going through difficult times by providing food, support and babysitting services.
Spurgeon recalls three adults who were instrumental in connecting with her and being positive influences throughout her youth in Colorado Springs: Jerry Hurst, editor of the CMHS newspaper; math teacher Barbara Lewis; and a peer’s father, Claude Burke. These three all invested time and energy to guide her toward future involvement in philanthropic endeavors.
Spurgeon said that although she attended college in Illinois and now resides in Maryland, her heart is still in Colorado Springs, where she has many friends that she treasures and keeps in touch with on a regular basis. Currently she is a public relations strategist with Sheridan Strategies, focusing on crisis communications.
The accumulation of Spurgeon’s education, career experience, participation in community service and upbringing in Colorado Springs resulted in a rare opportunity. Three months ago pandemic restrictions caused an almost complete halt to airline travel. No longer was there a need for catering and food services on domestic flights, which left a surplus of food and put the and employees of catering company Gate Gourmet in danger of losing their jobs. Spurgeon and her colleague Michael S. Klein asked the compelling question: How can we take a jeopardized for-profit company, compile philanthropic dollars, and turn it into a lucrative nonprofit? Project Isaiah was born.
Gate Gourmet employees, facilities and food supplies that would have been used in airline catering were implemented to transition into a nonprofit providing meals for 222 organizations. Through Project Isaiah, meals have been delivered to the needy, hospital workers, local food banks, domestic violence centers, senior centers and patients who tested positive for COVID-19. As of last week 1.8 million meals had been provided, 550 jobs were saved, and 11 cities have benefited from this partnership provided through Project Isaiah.
Spurgeon notes that circumstances during the pandemic provided a unique moment in time where things could be done differently. Profitable businesses such as Gate Gourmet faced complete disruption. Spurgeon and Klein recognized an opportunity to get a lot of food distributed to people safely through the newly created nonprofit.
“I’m permanently changed by this experience and the organizations I’ve been working with,” Spurgeon said during a recent CNN interview. “I’m tough… and very motivated to try to make the world better.”
For further information and to make a donation, go to Isaiah.org. A $5 donation provides a boxed meal.