The Crestone Food Bank has come a long way from Judie Rose’s kitchen where it began more than 20 years ago.
“When I find a need, I fill it,” says Judie, who remembers serving about 25 people each week, beginning in 2001. “I began to volunteer when I was young, working in a hospital with handicapped people. Over the years, I continued to volunteer and learned how to get things organized and how to be a leader.”
Under Judie’s leadership, the Food Bank moved into the Crestone Town Hall in 2006, operating with one freezer and refrigerator and joining the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley. Its main food source was the network’s warehouse and main food bank in Alamosa, supplemented by donations from the Crestone area.
When Denise Peine became manager in 2011, the Food Bank was serving about 40 households a month. “I wanted to participate in activities that benefited the community,” Denise says, “and when Judie Rose asked me to take over from her, I was happy to do it.”
“Big Tom” Whitehead and Grace Morisette were also key food bank helpers during this time.
The food bank’s location remained in a small kitchen in the back of Town Hall, with a waiting area in the conference room “which was often overcrowded and disruptive to Town Hall staff,” Denise recalls.
By the end of 2016, under Denise’s steadfast leadership, the Food Bank was serving 90 households a month and it was determined that a new, larger location was desperately needed.
In February 2017 Patti Jackson took over management of the food bank and, shortly after, Wendy Chanden joined as co-manager. Like their predecessors, both had long histories of community service. “Wherever I have lived, I always looked for a place to serve in the community,” Patti says. “In the past, I found much satisfaction in working at local soup kitchens, so when Denise put out the word that she was ready to retire, I was happy to step in and assume more responsibility.
“Having spent my childhood in a very underserved area of Mississippi, I understand the impact that food security has on individuals, families and the community in general and am thrilled to see how well the Food Bank is operating under Marge’s leadership during these most challenging times.”
As a team, Patti and Wendy worked extremely hard to obtain healthy and nutritious food from diverse sources and to serve increasing numbers of residents. Within a year or so, however, the Town of Crestone reconfigured its office space, leading the Food Bank to seriously seek a new location. Elaine Johnson, Steve McDowell and Matt Johnson, owners of the Crestone Mercantile grocery store, stepped up and offered to build a small addition on the west side of the store for the Food Bank.
“It was the right thing to do,” Elaine said at the time.
While construction was under way, Patti and Wendy developed plans for the new facility and obtained funds for new appliances and furnishings through a generous grant from the Saguache County Commissioners and from a community fundraiser. A grand opening celebration was held in May 2019, at which time the Merc owners were acknowledged for generously donating construction costs of the addition and agreeing to provide space to the Food Bank rent free.
Following Patti’s retirement in October 2019, Marge Hoglin, Wendy Chanden and Enid Malecek took over as co-coordinators. Wendy and Enid have since retired and Fane Burman has served as co-coordinator since early 2020.
Marge and her volunteer team keep the Crestone Food Bank well stocked with healthy, nutritious food. Care and Share deliveries have increased from once a month to twice a month. Two new freezers and one refrigerator have been added, and we currently serve more than 250 households a month.
With an aging population, stagnant wages and an escalating cost of living, it is likely that these numbers will continue to rise.
We are grateful for the community support that makes it possible for us to serve residents in need, and we are grateful to the previous Food Bank managers and volunteers who laid the groundwork for current operations.