In the brisk January air Saturday morning, Susan Wortman speedily packaged bags of soap, shampoo and toiletries in the parking lot of Clinica Family Health in Lafayette.
At the head of a long line of vehicles that stretched through the parking lot and wrapped down Old Laramie Trail, she handed out the supplies. As she did, Wortman, Clinica’s vice president of development, was showered with words of gratitude from those receiving the donations.
“People coming through (are saying), ‘Thank you. Thank you so much,’ and over, and over again, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this for us.’” Wortman said. “It’s a great sense of purpose and our community coming together to take care of our community.”
The distribution Saturday was part of a pop-up grocery distribution for people recovering from the Marshall Fire. The affordable health care clinic hosted it in partnership with the Louisville nonprofit organization Community Food Share. The distribution was also available to general community members who needed food assistance.
All around Wortman, roughly 15 volunteers hefted cases of water, jugs of milk, oatmeal, popcorn, apples, bell peppers, hummus, snacks and salad greens into cars.
“We’re a community health center; we should help our community,” Wortman said. “Knowing that low-income people are always struggling for food, and now we have all our neighbors who have undergone this enormous tragedy, we know they need help as well. It seemed like a great time to put something like this together.”
The Marshall Fire sparked Dec. 30. Driven by hurricane-force winds and dry conditions, it sped through eastern Boulder County, destroying more than 1,000 homes in its wake.
Brenda Proskey left the line Saturday with a trunk full of groceries. She said her and her husband lost their Louisville home and everything they own in the Marshall Fire. They’ve been living temporarily in a condominium in Louisville since then.
“It’s awesome to see the support and caring of the community; just to know we’re not alone in this,” Proskey said, her voice thick with emotion.
Fellow Louisville resident Larry Eckstrom said he and his wife’s home was damaged in the fire. Saturday’s grocery distribution was a “great help.”
“We’re on a tight budget,” Eckstrom said. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it.”
Between two lines of cars, Kevin Peed, chief operations officer of Community Food Share, moved deftly Saturday to keep rows of food fully stocked, direct traffic and load trunks.
“How many families?” he asked through the rolled-down window of a car.
Peed said they expected to serve about 150 to 200 cars throughout the three-hour distribution. He said he hoped Saturday’s grocery distribution showed how people in Boulder County are there to support those recovering from the fire.
“It’s our small piece of giving back to those who don’t have what they had three weeks ago,” Peed said.
Community Food Share is a nonprofit food bank that has been working to fight hunger in Boulder and Broomfield counties. The groceries distributed Saturday came from numerous partners, community members and food vendors.
“We’ve been inundated with a lot of food and resources, and we wanted to be strategic and find the best way to help the most people that we could,” Peed said. “We’ve done quite a few distributions in the past, to help out during COVID, with Clinica. They’re always a success.”
Peed said Community Food Share does currently have enough food donations. For those who want to help, he asked them to visit the nonprofit’s website to sign up for volunteer opportunities or make a monetary donation.
“Really, what we’re looking at for the future is what types of food are people going to be needing,” Peed said. “I think a lot of that depends on where they end up. Are they going to end up in a rental home? Are they going to end up in an extended-stay hotel? Those types of situations come with limitations. Are they going to have a full kitchen to utilize?”
In the months ahead, as larger national organizations like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army fade into the background, Peed emphasized that the nonprofit isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re going to be here long-term,” Peed said. “We’ve been here for 40 years and will be here for another 40 years.”
Community Food Share offers food pantry hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Louisville nonprofit, 650 S. Taylor Ave. For more information, as well as to see upcoming grocery distributions, people can visit the nonprofit’s website at communityfoodshare.org.