Pantry Partnership Program Part 2

Just before Thanksgiving, we began this story about the partnership Lakewood Connects is participating in with two other nonprofits and Jeffco Schools to build, resource, and develop three elementary school pantries/hubs in Lakewood. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of these pantries/hubs and this is the next part of the story!

School district facility management approved the project and all three schools have determined their pantry/hub location, but more importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! What does this mean? This means that during the past two weeks school staff have begun giving families in need thousands of dollars in grocery store gift cards.

Situation: Many of these families are essential workers. That means they work in service industries and have a difficult time supporting online school for their students. As work hours have been recently cut for some of these families, they now face an unprecedented financial balancing act! The gift cards were something they didn’t expect and arrived at precisely the right time to transform their family Thanksgiving from a week of stress and anxiety to a time of great joy and blessing!

What’s next? How do we make these pantries/hubs sustainable for the long term without taxing school staff? The Lakewood Connects board is involved in discussions with partner nonprofit, Benefits in Action, and the Lakewood Faith Coalition to develop plans to build out a website, communication plan, volunteer sign up, training plan, and finally a food resource plan for these pantries/hubs. This long range plan will be built with trusted community partners and designed to support the five schools now in the program and the many others in the district that we will expand to support in the years to come! Look for upcoming Blogs that will update you on the progress of this work. Your insight/ideas/expertise in this program development are welcomed!

Pantry Partnership Program Part 1

Reg Cox with Benefits in Action Director, Jane Barns

Our world has changed over the past eight months in dramatic and challenging ways. The pandemic split us physically and ideologically and made election year tensions more divisive. The danger in retreating from society is that we can miss noticing the challenges of our neighbors and when we do see them, we’re too emotionally exhausted to find ways to help out!

Beginning last March, Lakewood Connects joined county-wide discussions with over fifty different organizations to build collaborative solutions for serious community food challenges. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of “Pantries” or “Hubs” at three Lakewood elementary schools. We’re excited to tell you this story in our next few newsletters!

Pantries/Hubs Goal? Build a sustainable network of school pantries at Lakewood elementary schools while merging district protocols with a vetted and trained support staff of community volunteers. The long range vision is to guide each “Pantry” into becoming a “Resource Hub” adding neighborhood leaders and community resources such as job enhancement, cooking classes, social emotional support, etc. A local pantry organized and staffed by neighbors and friends can remove barriers many in our world today face to realizing a thriving life.

On the 9th of September, two local nonprofits, Benefits in Action and the JeffCo School Foundation, partnered with Lakewood Connects to apply for a city of Lakewood Cares Act Grant. After the grant was awarded, our Director Reg met with school administration, the principals of the three schools, their leadership teams and the directors of both partner nonprofits to develop the next steps to setting up these Pantries/Hubs over the next few months. Realizing this goal is would be impossible to achieve in the middle of a pandemic without the support of dozens of leaders from multiple organizations that have stepped up to make this breakthrough plan a reality!

What has happened so far? School district facility management has approved the project, all three schools set up their contact leader to lead Pantry/Hub development and, most importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! (More about this part of the story in our next blog and December newsletter!)

These last few months Lakewood Connects has been involved in building and supporting partnerships that will bring solutions for some of the most nagging and heartbreaking challenges our community has ever faced. Know that this Thanksgiving week hundreds of families are experiencing a time of gratitude and relief thanks to your support. We can’t do this without you!