COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Short Creek Dream Center food bank has seen an influx of people in need. On the busiest days, approximately 2,000 people might show up in the two-hour window of time to be served.
Glyn Jones and Jena Jones, both executive directors of the Short Creek Dream Center, have been running the food bank out of Colorado City for about a year. In order to adhere to the recommended guidelines and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they have transitioned to a drive-up service.
In order to facilitate this, Glyn Jones said the city set them up with some safety cones where the vehicles can line up on the street and around the block. People then drive up, call a number to check in – so they can keep their windows rolled up – and then they pull up to pick up their food.
For those who have a trunk or a pickup truck, the staff will load the food for them. Everyone else is required to load their own food.
The food bank is open Friday and Saturday from 1-3 p.m., and in the past few weeks, they have given out around 50,000 pounds of food a week.
The lines have been astronomical, Glyn Jones said.
“They’re lining up about an hour and half ahead of time – almost two hours. The line goes down the street, around the block and around the next block.”
Despite the long lines, however, Jones said there have been no bad attitudes, which is something he initially worried about, especially with the panic and fear brought about by the pandemic.
All of the food is transported from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance out of Phoenix to Colorado City. Because of the size of the families in Short Creek, they have been able to petition for more food amidst this crisis. A couple of recent deliveries have been two semitractor-trailers full of food.
“This is ham and vegetables, apples, oranges, eggs, milk – St. Mary’s has really stepped up and been able to provide us with a lot of food,” Jones said.
In addition to the drive-up service, Jena Jones said they have also been making home deliveries for the disabled, the elderly or those who are sick or terminally ill, adding that deliveries aren’t just food; they deliver any essential items those people may need, whether it’s laundry detergent or toothpaste.
One of the ways they have worked on bringing back a sense of community given social distancing recommendations has been hosting contests and encouraging people to decorate their vehicles.
“One lady decorated her whole van to look like a unicorn,” Jena Jones said. “She put a horn on the top of it and balloons and painted all over it.”
They also invite the school counselors and police officers to come out and wave at the kids, she said, and have been using dry erase markers to draw smiley faces and other positive notes on the windows. She said their ability to provide a consistent amount of food to the community is a way to pacify some of the fear and uncertainty.
One of the first contests they did was a cooking challenge, which was inspired by the premise of the television show “Chopped.”
“At the food bank, we never know what we’re going to get every week,” she said. “Sometime you get green onion, and then walnuts, ham and bacon, and milk and eggs and try to make something from that. So we did it like an episode of ‘Chopped.'”
Jones said they told participants to send in their best recipe using food bank ingredients. The contest was well-received, she said. People were posting on Facebook and sharing their recipes.
“They submitted videos. They submitted photos – step-by-step directions.”
The best part was that it brought back some of the camaraderie that’s been lost, she said, and it has also been a way to educate people in cooking foods they’ve never cooked before.
Throughout all of this, their main mission has been to stay open. Since all 14 members of the Dream Center staff all live in one building, they decided to not bring on any volunteers so that they could kind of quarantine themselves and prevent the risk of transmitting the virus.
Glyn Jones said if anyone got sick from a volunteer, it could potentially shut the whole food bank down.
“Food crisis is something this community didn’t need to have on top of all the crisis that’s going on,” he said.
Jones said the most surprising thing to him has been the positivity he’s seen in people. He said he had expected some bad scenes with people who were frustrated or in a panic because they were unable to get food elsewhere, but that has been “absolutely the exact opposite” of what they have experienced.
“Any sort of worry has been completely dispelled in my mind,” he said. “This community is very resilient. When you show the love and caring, they instantaneously respond back with that.”
Jena Jones said that seeing all the support that rallies around these food banks has been awe-inspiring, as well as the fact that every week, a semi drives all the way from Phoenix – seven to nine hours one way – to deliver the food.
“Sometimes they’ll send us two when we need it,” she said
It’s this outpouring of love that has really stood out.
“Every weekend we love it because of the smiles,” she said. “I love waving at the kids. I love drawing on the windshields to the moms. I love the air hugs. I love the signs that they make us. Not only does it make you feel good, but it just makes your heart smile. How can you not see all these people? How can you not see these kids that are just smiling and waving and showing you love back through uncertain times? It’s really incredible. It really is.”
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