By Mekialaya White

DENVER (CBS4) – This holiday season, due to the pandemic, the need for food is greater than ever. Volunteers of America is working to remedy that issue in Denver.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s a very important part of our tradition. For more than 125 years since inception, VOA has been delivering food year-round, but especially on Thanksgiving,” said President and CEO Dave Schunk.

VOA is giving out 1,500 food boxes in a completely different way than in years’ past. The meals are distributed outside, in socially distanced groups. Recipients simply can drive up and the meals are brought to them.

Schunk, along with Marketing and Public Relations Director Vanessa Clark, tells CBS4’s Mekialaya White they are seeing new populations of people in need emerging.

“Those that may be living paycheck to paycheck and now they’ve lost that cushion. They’re here and they need just a little help. More of a hand up than a handout, but that’s what VOA does. We’re there for them in that case,” said Schunk.

“And unfortunately the pandemic is affecting lower income folks, especially when we talk about things like celebrating Thanksgiving with just your household. If they’re used to pooling their resources and going to their grandma’s house or aunt’s house where there’s one turkey that’s going to feed 20 people, now we need four or five turkeys to separate amongst our households,” Clark added.

VOA has seen a 10-20% increase in food security since March. Amid that need, Coloradans have shown their generous spirit by volunteering.

“We feel honored in the position that we’re in. And we’re only here because of the great state of Colorado. The citizens are amazing. We’ve seen them step up in so many ways. At one point, we had to put our hands up and stay, ‘Stop! We really need you to take a break for a little bit. Let’s get COVID safe here and we’ll bring you back in as we come.’ They’ve been chomping at the bit to help,” said Schunk.

Clark says the outpouring of support has been tremendous. “We received thousands of phone calls and thousands of requests from younger people who said I’m healthy and I want to give back to the community. It’s an incredible thing to see and I think it’s unique to Colorado. We just have wonderful, generous, caring people here who care about their neighbors and care about people who are struggling right now. It’s an incredible thing to see. To go down to our food bank and see the employees and volunteers, masked, socially distanced, getting their temperatures checked, some of them are at risk themselves but they are out there. They are sacrificially giving of themselves. It’s emotional.”

If you’re looking to get involved, VOA says now is the time. “People want to connect. They want to do it in a safe way, even that eye contact from 6 feet away brings a huge blessing. What we try to say to our clients, whether it’s a Meals on Wheels delivery or we’re putting food on front porch, to say, ‘You are valuable. Hello, and happy Thanksgiving,’” said Schunk.

(credit: CBS)

VOA will also distribute Christmas boxes starting Dec. 7, as all the Thanksgiving meals have been reserved. For more information on how to receive one or to learn how to volunteer, visit voacolorado.org.

Mekialaya White