Amidst the incoming donations of food and the clients showing up to “shop,” you’ll find Jim Shelton in his office. It’s a desk in the corner between freezers and a stack of cases of Top Ramen that reaches toward the ceiling.
He doesn’t need walls for privacy because he needs to be on top of everything that’s going on at Evergreen Christian Outreach where he serves as the Food Bank Manager.
In talking about October’s being the biggest month ever with 800 family visits for everything from food and clothing to rent assistance and firewood, he decides to run the numbers for November, since it’s near the end of the day and the last day of the month. It shows 922 visits, 830 of which include food. A family is permitted to shop once/week for food, averaging about 50 per day for each of the days the Food Bank is open. Someone asking for food must meet just one requirement – being a resident within the area served.
EChO provided 220 Thanksgiving dinners on top of those numbers for November.
“This community is exceedingly generous,” he’s quick to point out, saying that enough frozen turkeys were donated for Thanksgiving to give clients a choice between ham and turkey for the Christmas dinner. The shelves were bare in September, but a prominent article in the Canyon Courier changed all that, he said.
While November is a big month for handing out food, it is typically the biggest month for receiving donated items as well. EChO received quite a bit of food from individuals who think to donate because of Thanksgiving, plus 5500 lbs. of food from 9Cares Colorado Shares. Churches donate year-round, and a variety of local businesses and groups hold periodic food drives for EChO.
Local grocery stores provide about 30% of the 13-14,000 lbs of food distributed each month. Approximately 95% of what comes from grocery stores is frozen meat, produce, and bread.
Part of Jim’s job as Food Bank Manager is to coordinate the “platoon of volunteers” who make trips to the Food Bank of the Rockies (near Stapleton) and various businesses that donate food items for recycling. Of the 200 volunteers who help EChO, 40-50 work in the Food Bank, stocking the shelves, weighing the food that comes in, checking expiration dates on the boxes and cans, and assisting clients who arrive to shop.
His 26-hour work week often stretches to 40, as his responsibilities include making sure the heat is working properly, the bears stay out of the dumpster, the snow is dealt with, and that the doors are locked each night. “I’m being paid for assuming a responsibility to make the job work,” he says with the same commitment as a 30-year employee of a major corporation.
Jim volunteered at EChO’s Food Bank for a couple years before being hired a year ago as its manager. Prior to that, he’d volunteered 10 years with Habitat for Humanity – more than half that time as Mr. Everything on the construction side of things. That meant getting variances, permits, plans, and organizing the construction of about 15 homes. He was involved with the construction of about 20 homes during those 10 years, often putting in 40 hours of volunteer time each week on top of his normal 40-hour work week with the phone company.
He and his wife, Cathy, are both heavily committed to community. “We have divided the Universe into two categories,” he explained, “the people and everything else.” Jim has always had a particular interest in helping people with food and shelter; Cathy devotes her volunteer time to “everything else.”
Jim and Cathy have lived in Evergreen for 17 years. About five years ago, the Sheltons took a year off and did a lot of traveling. It might have been a year off from volunteering in Evergreen, but not entirely, as they found themselves making time to help with rebuilding a school in Nepal and working on repairs of a hospital in Tanzania.
Next time you drop off items at EChO's Food Bank, look for Jim and tell him "thanks" for all he does.