Showdown spirit helps feed hungry in county

By Megan Kemper and Jett Goldsmith –

The View –  

Photo by Heather Monks
Jeanine, a volunteer at the Task Force, puts bread products that were donated by a local supermarket into the fridge so they will last longer. The Task Force is trying to use a lot more food from local gardens, which would be nicer to give out because it is fresh and community grown.
Photo by: Heather Monks, The View

The reason Kathy Wright volunteers at the Douglas/Elbert Task Force is simple.

“You and I can’t do anything very directly about the horrible things that are going on in the world — in Nigeria, in Syria, in Iraq,” the retired teacher said. “But this is something we can do that contributes to the good of everybody.”

The Douglas/Elbert Task Force, headquartered in Castle Rock, provides food, housing, clothing and other services for residents who are struggling financially. It was this year’s recipient charity for Showdown.

Donating to the task force has been a homecoming tradition for five of the six years that Castle View has held Showdown, said Bob Sutterer, adviser for student government.

“Homecoming has this idea of coming home,” Sutterer said, “so we thought a charity that is local would be best and fitting for that. We also thought that for competition, having to bring in something physical to donate, like cans or food, is a little more fun than if we chose a something where you just raise money.”

Students collected 1,060 pounds of peanut butter, canned foods and non-perishable items throughout Showdown week, the equivalent of $1,823.

Suzanne Greene, executive director of the task force, said the donation from Castle View provided food for just over a day.

“We rely on donations from the community,” Greene said. “There were 970 homeless children in Douglas County Schools last school year, and that figure doesn’t include parents or younger and older siblings who aren’t in the school system. That’s a lot of people who are in desperate situations.”

The task force told Sutterer the school’s donations help to bridge the gap between the times that people donate. According to Kathy De’Amore, the organization’s volunteer coordinator, people are much more likely to donate food and clothes during the holidays, so it is often at a shortage during other months.

The task force operates six days a week year-round. Last July alone, it assisted 1,326 clients. The organization operates just as any other human service organization: It provides a thrift store where donated items are sold at a low cost, and offers free meals, clothes and appliances periodically to anyone in need of them.

But its client services department also will purchase a night at a motel for transient families or victims of domestic violence, as well as offer suits, dresses and coaching for job interviews. And since the task force is dedicated to helping the communities of Douglas and Elbert counties, all of the money stays locally.

The organization depends on the help of volunteers, who in July alone dedicated 3,174 hours.

Theresa Jackson, who works in her free time pricing items and cleaning up around the shop, started volunteering at the Task Force in February 2013.

“I have a blast,” she said. “This is the best way for me to spend my Fridays. I love it.”

Theresa and her husband had been donating to the Task Force before volunteering.   “We were amazed at how much of it goes back into the community,” she said. “The money stays here for people who are in need.”