November 19, 2020

Using CARES Act funds to show the homeless Pueblo cares

Food kit volunteers, from left, Autumn Naden, Jennavieve Gehlhoff and Kelly Gehlhoff add tuna fish packets to the parcels inside the Pueblo Convention Center Friday.

The start of the benevolence was a table full of sliced peaches, which gave way to copious caches of canned ravioli, trail mix and fig bars, fruit snacks, tuna and popcorn.

The end point, at least in this spacious room inside the Pueblo Convention Center, was a pickup truck bed full of well packed brown paper sacks.

The true culmination, however, is the comforting knowledge that 1,300 under-privileged men, women and children will be on the receiving end of these healthy grab-and-go meal kits.

On Friday, representatives of the Pueblo Food Project and the Pueblo Food Council were joined by volunteers of all ages in the assembly of the nutritious parcels funded with $7,500 in CARES Act money, as managed by the city of Pueblo.

"The idea was put together by the COVID-19 Hunger Relief Task Force, a group of hunger relief organizations in Pueblo County," explained Monique Marez, coordinator for the Pueblo Food Project. "And all the volunteers you see have come together to put the kits together so that we can deliver them this afternoon."

An early 8:30 a.m. start ensured that by noontime, the kits would be on their way to those served by Pueblo Rescue Mission, Posada, Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen and Pueblo Cooperative Care Center.

A multi-station assembly line set-up allowed for quick packaging of the food kits.

From each station, volunteers relentlessly plucked items and placed them into sack after sack, with the completed kits loaded into the truck for what became a successful succession of deliveries.

"This is hard work but it's also fun," said nine-year-old Jennavieve Gehlhoff. "It's important for us to help the homeless because they don't have anything to eat or drink."

Two of the kit assemblers are key members of the Pueblo Food Council.

"Because of the pandemic, and because it's been so cold, we feel it's important for us to put together all these food packages," said Deric Stowell. "The goal is to provide for those without adequate access to food."

"It's a lot of fun to be here," added Tom Carrigan. "We have old folks like me and you have young kids as well. We are seeing a good distribution of age among the volunteers, but it's also about teaching the kids values.

"And a lot of people can't come out and do what we're doing right now, so it's good for us that can to be here and share the things we have."

The Pueblo Food Project, a community coalition open to every eater in Pueblo, is collaborating across the county to support the community through the pandemic.

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Chieftain reporter Jon Pompia can be reached by email at or at
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