Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center, community members distribute meals on Christmas Day – The Denver Post

Dozens of volunteers buzzed around on Christmas Day inside Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center in Five Points, some carving turkey, others filling trays of food with the meat, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, greens and, of course, pies.

They put together 500 meals for people to pick up or to be delivered to various areas in the community. The event was the formal launch of the cultural center’s partnership with Denver native “Big Jon” Platt of Sony/ATV Music Publishing and the “No One Should Be Hungry, Period” campaign.

Denver resident Shadia Stevens was just driving by when she saw the Elijah McClain banner hanging above the center’s door and two tables outside the cultural center stacked with bags of to-go boxes. So she decided to stop by and see what was going on.

She picked up some meals and planned to walk around downtown Denver, giving them to people who were hungry.

“A lot of people are struggling,” Stevens said. This year Hunger Free Colorado released results of a study that showed one in three Coloradans were struggling with food insecurity.

That’s why local activist Brother Jeff Fard, who runs a nonprofit dedicated to socioeconomic development in Denver, especially in the Black community, wanted to make sure everyone had an option of a warm meal on Christmas Day. The center provides those in need with food daily, but this is the first year volunteers were distributing meals on Christmas Day.

“If food and the love that’s put into this food and giving is able to help anyone, that’s our goal,” Fard said.

During the pandemic and economic recession, it’s even more obvious that those who are going hungry are not only the people who fit the stereotypes of those without food, Fard said. “What’s different today is it looks like every one of us.”

Leeanne Wheeler lost her job in the previous recession and slowly ran out of money. She found herself homeless and with little access to resources, and she’s seeing others go through similar situations during this recession.

Wheeler, an Air Force veteran and former Aurora City Council candidate, is now a small-business owner and hopes events such as Brother Jeff’s will help community members and elected leaders get aligned to solve such problems.

People of different faiths, elected officials from Aurora and Denver of different political ideologies and various community groups gathered on Christmas Day to chip in. A Black-owned business was hired to help cater — a nod to the difficulties faced by small-business owners during the pandemic as well as Black residents who have been affected disproportionately.

For Mary Anna Thompson, the food distribution event was a “blessing” to help her get access to food during a financially difficult time. It also was a chance to feel the community spirit during a time where she’s been isolated as she deals with a breast cancer diagnosis and upcoming surgery.

“It’s hard to get in a festive mood when you’re facing all that,” she said.

Thompson heard about the event on Brother Jeff’s radio show and decided to stop by.

“Being financially strapped, just having a cooked meal just makes you feel part of the community and cared for,” she said.

The need to provide food to people has been clear to Pam Jiner of Montbello Walks for months. She picked up 30 meals on Christmas Day to deliver to seniors. Her group had been focused on outdoor activities for seniors but quickly switched to food during the pandemic. It has provided or delivered more than 168,000 meals since March.

“As soon as we started feeding seniors, we realized everybody is hungry. I noticed kids were getting in my line,” she said of food distribution sites at parks and apartment complexes for seniors.

Walking down the street that afternoon, Cheriss Tyler decided to stop by the center and pick up some meals and winter accessories. She had just left a homeless shelter that was closing for the afternoon.

“I feel grateful and thankful and not like I’m going to starve to death or freeze to death,” she said.

Lakewood resident Alice Randolph brought her granddaughters, Eliannah and Zaariyah, with her to pick up and distribute food because she told them that they’ve been blessed and are able to give back to others. She hopes such events will inspire more people to do the same.

“When people start to take action, that’s the most beautiful way to make change,” Randolph said.

The response to the call on Christmas Day made Fard proud.

“This is just basically what community looks like, and what better way for them to show it than on Christmas,” Fard said.

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