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Jonson Kuhn | North Forty News
Community is important no matter where you go, but the sentiment especially rings true for the community of Red Feather Lakes. Located northwest of Larimer County within 400 square miles of rural area, it has its limitations as far as access and resources, which is why the North 40 Food Pantry is not only a valued asset, but according to food pantry Director Darlene Kilpatrick, for many people, it’s a means of survival.
“We’ve had families email us saying they wouldn’t have survived without us,” Darlene said. “We’ve had people confide that they’ve been in tears at the store because everything had doubled or tripled in price, and they’ve shared they couldn’t have gotten by without the pantry.”
Darlene is a Programming and Outreach Librarian with the Red Feather Lakes Community Library as well as serves as a Director for the North 40 Mountain Alliance, under which the food pantry exists. Darlene said that through the forming of the alliance and speaking more with community members, they slowly started to understand the growing need for something like the food pantry to exist.
North 40 Mountain Alliance (N40MA), is a nonprofit that started in 2018 as a result of the High Park Fire, Darlene said, to help people in disasters in the area come together as a community to be more resilient. Larimer County Office of Emergency Management had approached the Red Feather Lakes Community Library asking if they could act as a hub, where Darlene was already working.
Once COVID happened, through captains of the alliance speaking with various community members, it became clear that the assistance of food and supplies was greatly needed. Darlene had already been working on trying to organize a similar idea through the library, so when it all came together and local churches Morning Star and Chapel in the Pines got involved, it seemed like perfect timing.
“We’re far enough away, we’re remote enough, and we have no services other than the library that if we didn’t do it then nobody would have,” Darlene said.
Though many were initially involved, the North 40 Mountain Alliance took charge of the idea of moving forward with a pantry since they were a nonprofit with a bank account to handle the funding, however, seed money came from Morning Star Church and Chapel in the Pines, and soon after more help was received through a $4,000 grant from Larimer County’s Office on Aging. With community volunteers and startup money, the North 40 Food Pantry was able to begin distributing food to over 100 households by April 3 of 2020.
Much like the rest of the world, the alliance assumed the pandemic was going to only last for a few months, so they initially started the pantry in the basement of the Morning Star Church, but over time, as operations and demands expanded, they realized they needed more room. With the help of grant money, they were able to purchase freezers to hold more food, but that required more space, so the pantry moved from the basement of Morning Star Church to the basement of Chapel in the Pines where it is today.
Every Thursday Darlene along with volunteers of the pantry load up food from the Larimer County Food Bank in Loveland so that supplies are ready to go by the time they open their doors on Friday. Darlene said that while people within Red Feather Lakes have come to rely on the hours and the ability to shop and choose what they need as it’s needed, it’s also become a time to further connect with the community and better understand how exactly to help.
“It’s also a time when we can really connect with the community and find out what their needs are and then also connect people with other resources and sometimes it’s just being someone to listen and care,” Darlene said. “We’ve had families that had to leave because they just couldn’t survive up here and during COVID either lost their jobs or had family issues, we did all we could, but it just wasn’t enough. So, what we’re hoping to do here is definitely help people that are on the edge of survival but also give them a cushion or something as a safety net so that they know it’ll be okay when something happens to their car or their health, that they won’t lose everything.”
Darlene said that as inflation has increased, so, too, have the needs of the community, to where now they’re seeing more families come in than ever before; in the past, they were seeing anywhere from 60 to 80 families a week, but are now are up to 120. Darlene added that 120 families roughly comes out to over 250 to 300 people they’re seeing in just the course of the one day a week that they’re open.
The pantry’s hours are every Friday from 9:30-11:30 am, year-round, and even during bad weather make the effort to help people get the food and supplies they might need. Deliveries are also an option by emailing Darlene an order of what they need and the volunteers or Darlene herself will make the delivery.
Darlene said the stats for the pantry from when they started in 2020 to today break down as such:
- Children: 3510 (17%)
- Adults: 7204 (34%)
- Seniors: 10548 (50%)
- Total Residents served: 21262
- Total Households: 9434
Total of 488,584.5 pounds of food.
When visiting the pantry, they ask that everyone be mindful of their neighbors and if there is a limited supply of an item, please kindly leave some for the people behind you. They offer a great variety of veggies and fruit, fish, meat, salad, lots of Noosa, drinks, bars, bread, fruit, eggs, sweets, and more.
It’s also important to note that the pantry is open to everyone and there is no screening process involved. Darlene said that if you think “We or I have some need” or “this would help us get by,” then the pantry happily opens its doors to you.
“The hard thing is that because of our culture sometimes it can be tough to admit help is needed, so I hope that can change to where people can realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of, we all just need to help each other, we all have those rough times and we make ourselves stronger by accepting help and giving it,” Darlene said. “There’s a beauty in accepting help, too, which I think our culture’s not very good at emphasizing and I know that can be rough on some people that come. We’re all in this together and I can about every single one of them and I hope they know that. We’re here to help ease folks through whatever they might be going through.”
You can find the pantry at the Chapel in the Pines Church which is located at 23947 W County Rd 74E in Red Feather Lakes. If you need food and cannot get to the pantry, you’re able to email Darlene directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the library at 970-881-2664.
You can also pick up for a neighbor(s), as well. If you arrive after 10:30, you can pick up any leftover produce. The pantry also offers boxes, bags, and wagons to use, as well.
If you have a need or have a suggestion or concern about the pantry, please talk to us at the pantry or email email@example.com. You can sign up to receive notifications by registering at https://n40alliance.org/. If you need help with delivery or something else or anything else at all, you’re again asked to email Darlene directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on how to contact the alliance, make donations, or the partners involved, please visit n40alliance.org/north-40-food-pantry/.
“It can be very healing just to be around people as part of a community and to feel a part of that and to know that you belong somewhere, and we hope to give that to people,” Darlene said. “It can all be a lot bigger than just the food aspect.”