PENROSE, Colo. – The only food bank in Penrose is at risk of closing because the building it operates in is for sale, with a January 1 deadline for the organization to buy facilities or move elsewhere.
My Neighbors Wardrobe first opened in May 2018 after its founder and CEO, Amanda Suddoth, moved to town. He has been running a food aid program since 2013 in the Black Forest to help people struggling after what was, at the time, one of Colorado’s most destructive wildfires.
“When we first came here, it was very clear, after working with several other organizations, that there wasn’t such support here for such a huge population,” Suddoth said.
The nearest food bank or food pantry to Penrose is a short drive from the highway – too far, says Suddoth, for seniors, veterans and the many working families he can feed from his building.
If someone comes into the wardrobe, he only asks those who are senior, veteran, or hired. Because he doesn’t take people’s income and personal information, he can’t get money from the state and federal governments. He only believed that people came to him in times of need.
“We remove that burden. We’re not asking about your finances because, to be honest, it’s none of my business. All I need to know is if you are hungry, “he said.
Amanda Suddoth describes how she hoped to provide a different kind of food aid:
Neighbors Wardrobe I have been recognized by Caring and Sharing a food bank as a “Community Champion” because it “is an important ally in the fight against hunger in Southern Colorado.”
Suddoth’s intention to keep information confidential and create a low barrier for people to receive food takes away the stigma, and often insults, of seeing people coming together when they are in a position of needing help.
There were a lot more of those people who showed up in his building after the pandemic started.
“We have met many new neighbors. Many new neighbors and I tell you, we still know each of them. “Said Suddoth.
So far this year, the organization has distributed 1.2 million pounds of food to more than 33,000 people – a four-fold increase from 2019.
How to donate to My Neighbors Wardrobe:
As well as in buildings (which store thousands of pounds of food), Suddoth hosts massive drive-up food pick-ups in other small and remote towns where food aid is rare. Westcliffe and Cotapaxi are two of these cities.
His most recent drive-up event on November 21 had 200 cars in line before they started handing out food. They donated food from 7am until after 5pm that day.
The financial stress that affects the people Suddoth helps ultimately affects the people who help him.
Informally, he and his volunteers started providing food to needy people in 2015 at Penrose and moved into the building at 409 Broadway in 2018. The owner donated six months of rent to Suddoth. It has been extended for a while, until Suddoth receives the email this fall.
“At the same time the pandemic hits us all, they afflict them too, and they have to give their finances back so they can take care of their medical bills and their survival too,” he said. “They never asked us for anything, but they were always kind enough to give us this space.”
He hopes to raise $ 120,000 to buy the building outright to continue providing the food they need. The due date is January 1, and he says because his organization doesn’t take federal or state funding, mortgages aren’t eligible for Wardrobe to operate.
Suddoth always asks for food donations, never asks for money.
“We need help, friends. I don’t like reaching out and asking questions but, I’m asking on behalf of 33,000 people who won’t have these resources in January, ”he said.