By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE-Longtime Montrose residents can probably still recall seeing retired Baptist Minister Frank Koenig drive a beat up Sharing Ministries pickup truck around town himself, collecting food from generous local donors to be shared with the community. At 96, Koenig is no longer able to personally volunteer at the non-profit organization he helped to start 18 years ago. However, his dream has continued to grow, and the Sharing Ministries Food Bank has become an essential regional institution.
“When Sharing Ministries started, we were feeding 96 people a month,” Executive Director Oneda Doyal said. “Today, we serve 6,500 people every month; we help support local food banks in five counties (Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, San Miguel and Ouray).”
On Sept. 20, the communities can show up to help support the Sharing Ministries Food Bank by enjoying the Second Annual Sharing Ministries Street Dance on the grounds of the food bank at 121 North Rio Grande in Lower Montrose (LoMo).
“In this part of Colorado we work together to solve problems,” Sharing Ministries Board President Josh Freed said. “The Street Dance is our annual gathering; we want everyone to come out. Come enjoy live music, BBQ, and entertainment while supporting our mission to help local families fill empty shelves and put a nourishing meal on the table.
“Be a part of an annual event that brings a positive evening, food and awareness to our community in times of need.”
Besides, the unique, spacious LoMo location and local musicians make this the perfect bring-the-whole-family fundraiser.
“We want everyone to come out and enjoy the fun!” Doyal said. “It’s for a great cause–feeding your fellow citizens.”
Last year’s Street Dance Fundraiser with the Stupid Band drew an appreciative crowd, and this year’s lineup will include Mike Gwinn & The North Fork Flyers, Niceness, and Kipori “Baby Wolf” Woods.
The money raised at the dance, which starts at 2 p.m., will help the food bank purchase additional food, she said.
Sharing Ministries is a busy place throughout the week, with donations taken until 1 p.m. each day, and distributions scheduled between 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Fridays. A typical day requires the help of around 35 volunteers–the entire paid staff consists of just three–Doyal, who works full-time, and two part-time employees, Coni Rogers and Sherrie Greene.
Among the groups who regularly come to volunteer are Community Options clients (two days a week), as well as adult and high school special needs volunteers. Additional volunteers are always welcome–on Thursdays alone, Sharing Ministries runs three separate distribution programs to targeted groups.
“On Thursdays it takes lots of us,” Doyal said. “We rely entirely on volunteers.”
Regular food donations come in from both City Market stores, Safeway, Target and Walmart. Upon arrival, food items are marked with a bar code for pickup within six days and rotated systematically into the coolers or freezers.
Though food comes from a number of sources, the harvest season can mean healthier options. Local growers like Kerry Mattics, John Harold, Keith and Greg Catlin and others donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to Sharing Ministries in season.
“We have received 35,000 pounds of produce this summer,” Doyal said. “We have been very blessed!”
Sharing Ministries is a supplemental feeding program, and boxes are based on the size of the family and its needs. In addition to food, Sharing Ministries takes and shares donations of personal hygiene items–expensive but absolutely essential things like shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothpaste and even diapers.
“We always get frantic calls from single moms at the beginning of the school year,” Doyal said, “especially from those with teenagers.”
The family pet need not go hungry either–thanks to donations from large retailers, Sharing Ministries is also able to provide pet food and supplies. Hard times can be especially tough on families, and those caught in a multi-generational poverty cycle. It is not uncommon for people who have donated to Sharing Ministries in the past to make use of its services when they find themselves in need.
After all, that’s the whole point. And if a major portion of founder Frank Koenig’s dream has been realized–to keep locals from going hungry–his vision of building a new facility remains to be completed.
“We have launched a capital campaign, and we have a lot of good people in place,” Doyal said, noting that the planned expansion would increase warehouse space from roughly 3,000 square feet to around 9,000, and would help replace the present patchwork quilt of refrigeration units.
Last year’s donation of a new refrigeration truck by Alpine Bank has been a major step forward as well, she said. To learn more or to donate, visit Sharing Ministries online at www.sharingministries.com or call 970-240-8385. Or, just come to the Street Dance Sept. 20!