The Stapleton Community Food Drive was created at a staff meeting during a discussion of volunteering as a group during the holidays. Playing off the company’s motto, “Get Comfortable,” the group explored what it means to offer people comfort. “In terms of the holidays, providing food was a no-brainer,” says Jody Donley, of her staff’s discussion. At that meeting in September, 2011 the Stapleton Community Food Drive was created by the New Perspective Real Estate Company. By 2014, the equivalent of 18,000 meals in food and monetary donations had been collected for Food Bank of the Rockies. In 2015, after becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, it was up to 31,656.
Three years ago, the program began delivering paper bags to every front porch in Stapleton to increase the quantity and ease of donations. The numbers of volunteers increased too, including sports teams and families. Donley feels it was especially impactful for kids to be involved because the drive is so visual. As they went block-to-block picking up donations, kids could see their empty cars filling up with bags of food. Then, as they’d drop the bags off, they’d see large bins of food being loaded in Food Bank of the Rockies trucks. “Kids would ask where the food goes,” says Donley, who serves as co-chair of the food drive with her husband, Matthew. “We’d explain that it goes to kids just like them whose families need some extra help sometimes. You’d see a light bulb go off when they’d see they could make a difference.”
An additional benefit of the food drive has been the re-stocking of food pantries at participating schools. When donations are dropped off, the food pantry volunteers pull the items most needed by their students who take home food backpacks. And since the food drive is a nonprofit organization, it also collects tax-deductible cash contributions. These contributions are donated to the school food pantries to purchase needed food items. “It’s hard to learn if you’re hungry. We couldn’t help our families without community support,” says Jo-Nell Herndon, PTA community outreach chair at Westerly Creek Elementary School.
Last year, Donley wrote a check for $800 to each of the participating school pantries—expanding the program last year to McAuliffe in Park Hill and this year to Ashley in the East Colfax neighborhood.
Donley encourages more schools to participate. “The kids can help with distributing bags, picking up donations and spreading the word to their school community directly.” Schools also use the volunteer days to fulfill their community service program hours.
This year, the Stapleton Community Food Drive runs Oct. 1–10 and volunteers are needed on Oct. 1 and 8 to distribute bags and pick up the donations. Donley says that despite their increased success each year, only 15 percent of the bags distributed were filled in 2015. She’d like to see that amount double, at least. “You just go out to your front porch, get the bag, go through your cabinet and bring the bag back out,” Donley says. “I mean, there can’t be an easier way to help out!”
Donley loves that it’s community helping community. “It’s very heartwarming to see our community rally around this project to help people we may never know.”
For more information about the Stapleton Community Food Drive, to donate or to volunteer, visit www.stapletonfooddrive.com.