ST. GEORGE — Gov.-elect Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov.-elect Deidre Henderson and their families kicked off inauguration week with a day of service at the Utah Food Bank’s Southern Utah distribution center in St. George on Saturday.
The first families sorted food into boxes to conclude the OneUtah Food Drive, Cox’s pre-inauguration initiative to involve Utahns in community service.
The inauguration events will take place through Monday in the St. George area, culminating in the inauguration of the state’s 18th chief executive at Tuacahn Ampitheatre in Ivins City.
Southern Utah seemed like the best place to hold the events because the warmer weather will allow for more people to participate outdoors, Cox said.
“It’s a special place for us,” Cox said. “My parents have a place down here so we’re here as often as we possibly can and I know that’s true of most Utahns. But it’s more than just the weather, it’s the people and that’s why we love to be here so much.”
Cox’s family sorted 1,608 pounds of chili, soup and boxed goods on Saturday to be distributed to food banks across Utah. Since the beginning of December, the OneUtah Food Drive has raised $209,178.33 and collected 35,136 pounds of food, which adds up to more than 800,000 meals for Utahns experiencing hunger, Cox said.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the food bank has struggled to meet the growing demand from Utahns facing food insecurity, Utah Food Bank President and CEO Ginette Bott said.
“Last year, we had 118,000 hours of volunteer time to help us do our jobs and overnight that changed for us,” Bott said. “When the pandemic hit, the volunteers stopped. At work one day, I had 200 volunteers in the warehouse in Salt Lake. The following day I had none.”
Currently, 511,000 Utahns face food insecurity, according to a press release from Cox’s office. When Cox decided to hold a food drive for the month leading up to his inauguration, he decided to aim for providing as many meals, which meant raising $125,000. The food drive raised twice as much as expected.
After he is inaugurated, Cox plans to keep service implemented in his administration and stay involved.
“We’re going to certainly springboard off of what we’re seeing right now,” Cox said. “We’re going to be doing service projects every month and inviting Utahns to join us and certainly have our cabinet members and state employees join us in these efforts. Utah is just better when we’re helping each other.”
The inauguration celebration will continue for the next two days.
On Sunday, Cox and Henderson will celebrate with a day of prayer. They will attend the Shepherd of the Hills Methodist Church service at 9 a.m., the New Promise Lutheran Church service at 10 a.m., the Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship at 11 a.m. and the Saint George Catholic Church service with a portion in Spanish at 12:40 p.m.
They will end the day with a “Freedom Fireside” discussion at 7 p.m. featuring religious figures from across the state. The discussion will be livestreamed here.
Monday will double as Inauguration Day and Utah’s 125th anniversary of statehood, which will be celebrated with fireworks and events statewide. Cox and Henderson will arrive at the Tuacahn Amphitheater at 9:30 a.m. Cox will take the oath of office at 11 a.m. Gov. Gary Herbert will sign off for the last time as chief of the Utah Highway Patrol and hand over the responsibility to Cox. Cox will visit Fillmore, Fairview and Spanish Fork on his way back to Salt Lake City, where he and Henderson will watch the fireworks from the state capitol.
Attendance at all inauguration events is limited to media and those who had previously requested tickets. Anyone attending is required to wear a mask, practice social distancing and pass a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of events. The Utah Inaugural Committee and the Utah Department of Health are providing rapid testing at Dixie Tech and three other sites in the area for those attending the events.
More information about the Utah Food Bank and how to donate can be found here.
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