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Metro CareRing: More than a Food Bank

Metro CareRing: More than a Food Bank

Metro CareRing (MCR) is a hunger relief organization that offers urgent food assistance and other services aimed at supporting individuals and families in need. In addition to operating one of the largest food pantries in Denver, MCR provides assistance with utilities, transportation and identification documentation.

Utilizing over 160 ongoing volunteers and a small paid staff, the organization provides over 130,000 services each year and continues to grow. In its ongoing effort to curb hunger in Colorado, MCR has outgrown its existing facility, where conditions are cramped and parking is limited.

That’s where BRS came in, and I’ve been fortunate to have a major hand in the design of the planned 15,000-square-foot Hunger Relief Center that will replace the existing facility on the same site. It also just so happened that I’d been looking for ways to give back to my community outside the middle-class bubble in which I live, and after growing exhausted by unanswered inquiries to dozens of nonprofit organizations and traumatic trial runs with a handful of others, I decided to give Metro CareRing a shot. The organization’s no-nonsense tagline, “We provide nutritious food to hungry people,” was just up my BS-free alley.

The first evening I volunteered, I helped out in the back pantry sorting food donations into bins by food group. The radio was on and volunteers where jamming out while passing the pasta, tuna cans, peanut butter, fresh produce and hundreds of other edible items. Not only was it fun, but I immediately felt useful. After that, I decided to start volunteering regularly since the facility is open every Tuesday from 5:30 PM to 8 PM for patrons and volunteers—one of the few volunteer opportunities I’ve found that actually works with my 9-to-5 work schedule.

On my next visit to MCR, I met some of the program recipients and learned more about the comprehensive range of services the organization offers. MCR meets with individuals and families who are down on their luck and in need of assistance—and it’s their policy never to turn away anyone. They help people acquire government ID’s; assist in getting people’s power turned back on when they can’t pay their gas and electric bills; and provide patrons with free, quality, healthy food to help fill the gaps, among other services. It’s an amazing concept that prosperous people take for granted: allowing people to have a choice. Everything MCR has to offer is not only free but optional. A client gets to select his/her own foods to take home (within reason) so that undesirable items don’t unnecessarily go to waste. I saw one woman fill her allotted two bags for produce with nothing but potatoes and bananas; someone else went a little nutty with the artichoke selection, and a third patron got pretty stoked on leeks and parsnips!

Another amazing thing about MCR: The organization already has a wonderful following in the community. They routinely inherit half-used toilet paper rolls from DIA; tons (literally) of bread from local bakeries; and thousands upon thousands of pounds of fresh, often organic produce, frozen meats, dairy, eggs, canned and dried goods, and prepared foods from the likes of King Soopers, Whole Foods Market and Mile High Organics. Moreover, the organization recently partnered with Denver Urban Gardens to head up a community garden and composting project. The staff is highly qualified, committed, incredibly generous and just plain amazing. Volunteers come in with no expectations except for maybe some good tunes on the radio, like-minded company and the opportunity to help others in need.

The more I learn about MCR, the more there is to love. Through this incredible experience, I’ve met all kinds of people with whom I likely never would have come into contact. And you know what? It’s been the most meaningful time I’ve spent in years.

For information on how you can support Metro CareRing through donations, volunteer opportunities and more, visit www.metrocarering.org.

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 06:58pm

Tags: volunteering (3), teamwork (6), metro carering (1), food bank (2), community outreach (3)

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