By: MEG COLWELL, Courier reporter & LP Americorps volunteer – Updated: 2 days ago

Posted May 12, 2020  Valley Courier

CENTER — Long before the pandemic made its way to the United States, La Puente wondered how to make food more accessible to the folks of Center. While a makeshift food bank existed in Center, staff and volunteers knew they could expand in a more meaningful way.

Even amidst this pandemic chaos, La Puente is proud to announce a solution has been found. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, on April 29, Center Food Bank had its grand opening.

Though the need has existed for some time, La Puente faced obstacles. The biggest, of which, was a lack of staff. However, one of La Puente’s Rainbow’s End thrift stores is currently located in Center. The store is run by three wonderful, long-term volunteers: Vonna Gallegos and Tara and Harley Miller.

Their boundless passion is famous among the organization – everyone knows Vonna, Tara and Harley are fully committed to La Puente’s mission. They are the embodiment of the values La Puente strives to uphold. On their own time, using their own resources; often going out of their way to support Center community members.

Not surprisingly, each were willing to also manage the Center Food Bank. So, out of the Rainbow’s End Thrift Store building, a much-needed food bank opened.

Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 1-5 p.m., the Food Bank is open to the community. In order to obey social distancing rules and keep everyone safe, the Food Bank operates out of a drive-thru. To access the window: drive through the green gates, to the south side of the Rainbow’s End building. There, clients will complete an intake; before receiving a prepackaged box of food. Volunteers load it right into the client’s vehicles, so there is no opportunity to swap germs.

La Puente gives a huge thank you to Vonna, Tara and Harley. Without dedicated volunteers like yourselves, the organization simply could not operate. Along with those private donors, who have purchased items for the Center Food Bank out of the kindness of their hearts. You allow La Puente to make more services available to more clients.

Another shout-out is owed to Sherice Shriner, La Puente’s (HFAC) Healthy Food Access Coordinator. Shriner aids in distributing foods to pantries all throughout our Food Bank Network. She keeps the pantries connected and stocked.

Finally, the organization thanks to the local grocery stores for their unfailing donations. Again, La Puente is inspired by your generosity and could not operate without your support. Thanks to everyone who makes La Puente services possible. Together, we can.

Volunteer Manager Tara poses with Healthy Community Organizer Sherice
La Puente’s Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley