“It was slim pickins’ back then,” Phyllis Nace said as she reminisced about the early days of the Wellington Food Bank in the late 1980s. A group of people, many from Zion Lutheran Church, became aware of a need in the community and decided to do something about it.
Phyllis remembers Dr. Bill Foster, Alicia Mackintosh, Gary and Carlene Loma, Paula Cardona, Barb Whitman and Al Schroeder, pastor of Zion Lutheran at the time as prime movers in the start-up.
The Larimer County Food Bank was getting started about the same time and from its inception the Wellington Food Bank was partnered with them. At first food items were distributed from the steps of the Zion Lutheran Church.
Steele’s Market was one of the first contributors, sharing food they could no longer sell in their store on Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins. Phyllis’s husband, Lowell, along with Patrick Osthelder, took on the task of transporting food from Steele’s Market to Wellington. “In those days we served about 30 families,” Lowell said, “and we had no money for transportation.”
Several of the early recipients looked forward to getting together for coffee and a social hour after they’d picked up their groceries. They always checked to see if there were sweets available to have with their coffee, referring to them as their “goodies.”
As the town and the need has grown, so has the Food Bank, and the workload involved with keeping it functioning. Phyllis says it is a big job these days. She knows, because she and her husband Lowell, who retired from his work in 2001, are still loyal volunteers twice a month. Phyllis worked as a para-pofessional at Eyestone Elementary for 21 years and especially enjoyed the years she spent as a reading specialist. The pair now lives in Nunn.
About six years ago, when Phyllis made the decision to quit taking major responsibility for the Food Bank, Mark Gabbert, pastor of Zion Lutheran, took over. “I warned him it was lots of works, but he was willing,” Nace said.
Phyllis and Lowell continue to volunteer because they love the people—both the recipients and the other volunteers, and these days they can enjoy working without the burden of being responsible for the operation. Today they often serve children of some of the original Food Bank recipients.
Perhaps Phyllis’s continuing involvement with the Food Bank is related to her background as the oldest of 13 children growing up in Emmettsburg, Iowa. “I was hungry as a kid,” she said. “I always think of the kids we serve.”
The friendships that developed thrugh the Food Bank effort have been important to everyone involved. Phyllis treasures memories of the early days and the joy the volunteers felt when an anonymous donor stepped up and when the Daniels Fund, based in Denver, surprised them by contributing several thousand dollars. When asked why, a representative of the fund said, “We heard you do good things.”
It was at this point that the Food Bank was able to open a bank account for the first time. They were able to grocery shop for the most needed items. “You should have seen people’s faces,” Phyllis said, pointing out the importance of having something as basic as laundry detergent.
These days Gabbert is assisted by Jennifer Griffin of the Filling Station who he refers to as his “right hand.” On Thursday, Nov. 20, along with several volunteers, the pair supervised the distribution of 95 turkeys, all the fixings, and enough canned food to satisfy all who needed it. The Awanas youth group from Zion Lutheran were on hand to help as well.
Donations came from the Family Dollar Store, Bella’s Market and Rice Elementary. Rice collected an amazing 46 turkeys and 1,484 cans of food through a special drive conducted at the school.
Today the Food Bank is located at Wellington Community Church, 8445 Third Street and is open the first and third Thursday of each month, 2-3 p.m. Call Zion Lutheran Church at 970-568-9301 for information.