Caroline - 1,308 miles, 18 hours
I made it. To. Dinver. And have actually been here for a little under a week now. I couldn't have asked for a better living situation with Joey so kudos to you for hooking that up! We both admitted that we were a little nervous having never met each other before the first day I showed up, but after a 4th of July celebration that involved lots of Kan Jam, fireworks, lasers, and dancing on the roof, we both agree it's going to work out very well.
I woke up the following day for my first shift of volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies. While the late night fourth celebration had me feeling a little tired at first, by the time I made the 30 minute commute in on my bike, I was more than ready to go. Upon walking into the food bank for the first time I got a rush of excitement and nerves all at once. I realized it's kind of been a while since I've started completely anew somewhere. With all the Koch confidence I know I have deep down inside of me somewhere, I took the plunge and started up a conversation with the first person within ear shot.
He was a younger guy, probably around 16 if I was to guess, that was a part of a larger group of boys that were volunteering for the day. After a bit of conversation I reached out my hand and said, "I'm Jonathan by the way. What's your name?" He replied by telling me his name was Tristan, but than he couldn't shake my hand. I sat there puzzled for a moment, and he went on to explain that he and the group he was with were all recovering drug addicts in a rehabilitation program. Based on program rules, they couldn't come in direct contact with anyone else at the food bank that day.
So right out of the gate, day one, my expectations of volunteer work while on my sabbatical are pretty much flipped upside down. Not just by some of the interactions I had with fellow volunteers like Tristan, but also through learning about the operation in Denver. At the Food Bank of the Rockies, they have the equivalent of 67 full time employees through their volunteer hours each year. That's right around 140,000 volunteer hours and it takes all kinds to make that happen: individuals, church groups, traveling youth camps, companies, organizations, clubs, and just like Tristan's group, at risk youth groups. I'm amazed at the scale of the operation at this place, which over the course of one year alone, will feed over 48 million meals to families just in Colorado and Wyoming alone.
In some ways that is an incredible feat to pull off and be proud of, but as one long time volunteer pointed out, it's terribly sad to see that number so high. Since he had begun volunteering with the food bank about 16 years ago, he said he's seen the number of meals served each year rise and rise from about 15 million to where it currently stands today. There is no doubt that food insecurity is a major problem in the United States and that it continues to grow. Large operations like the Food Bank of the Rockies are making incredible strides to help those in need through their day-to-day work, but many volunteers here are also begging the question, what is the root cause of the problem and what are we doing to fix that?
As you could imagine, there are definitely some hot thoughts beaming from my head on a regular basis out here in Denver. Lots to think about, but a lot of time to think about it all.
See you out here real soon Swan.