Before relocating to Colorado from Maine to begin a VISTA year with Hunger Free Colorado, my supervisor informed me that I would be going on a weekend-long application assistance trip to Durango. In terms of vehicles, I was somewhat familiar with the name “Durango,” but it quickly became clear that the town has far more to offer than the Dodge.
In addition to the many noteworthy attractions, the breathtaking scenery, and the cultural diversity, Durango prides itself on providing high level services to its citizens. Because of my background in food security work at soup kitchens, I was eager to meet with the staff, volunteers and guests at the Manna Soup Kitchen. As we walked in the door at 8:30 A.M. with our laptops, banners and materials, I was immediately struck by two things: volunteers dancing and singing to Frank Sinatra and the quiet, lighthearted banter of Manna’s guests. To say that people seemed comfortable would be an understatement.
Mealtimes at Manna consist of socialization, good food and additional forms of assistance. At a guest services table, there was a volunteer who distributed vouchers for free haircuts, referrals to the Durango Food Bank, hygiene products and public transportation vouchers. There was even a local kindergarten class that happily marched in for lunch with backpacks full of cans from a food drive that they held. As a new member of Hunger Free Colorado, it was exciting to be a part of such community togetherness. We distributed over 100 hotline cards, helped several people apply for assistance programs, and answered questions about existing benefits.
Based on the success of our trip, I’m confident that we will continue to form valuable and lasting partnerships with community organizations across the entire state of Colorado.