I really feel that the Credit Union philosophy of People Helping People can be seen in action within every Credit Union in our Association. That’s why it’s such a difficult task to select the Community Impact award recipients each year. But, this year, two programs stood out because of the tremendous impact they are having in their communities – Community Choice Credit Union’s Project Hope, and Colorado Credit Union’s Commitment to Conquer Hunger in Our Community.
The short video below showcases the Food For Thought Bak Pak Program that is the foundation of Colorado Credit Union’s commitment to conquer hunger in their community.
We also sat down with Lisa Mueller, the Marketing Manager for Colorado Credit Union, to find out more about the impact that they are having in southwest Jefferson County and why they continue to invest in feeding the children in their community.
Q: How did this program get started and how did Colorado Credit Union come to be involved?
Lisa: In 2012, Joe Gamarano, who is one of our members, scheduled a meeting with our CEO, Mike Williams. During the meeting he told Mike that he’d recently learned that there are more homeless youth in Jefferson County than in Denver County. Furthermore, many children in Jefferson County who are on the free and reduced lunch program receive meals at school, but do not have access to quality food over the weekends.
This impacted Joe deeply, and he felt compelled to help. He explained to Mike that he wanted to start a program that would send kids home from school on Friday afternoon with enough food to ensure their nutritional needs are met all weekend long and asked for our support. Mike’s response was to jump in with as much support as we could offer. Colorado Credit Union gave Joe an initial contribution to get the program started and we’ve been an involved partner ever since.
Q: Will you tell me more about how the program works?
Lisa: Essentially The Food For Thought BakPak Program provides weekend meals and snacks for students in Southwest Jefferson County. Children are identified by their school’s administration and their parents.
Michelle Morroni, who is the program’s co-founder and coordinator works with other volunteers to prepare menus and acquire food from Food Bank of the Rockies, grocery stores, and donations. Then, every Thursday morning, volunteers pack the food indicated on that week’s menu. The bags are distributed to students at their school on Friday afternoon, with each student picking up his or her bag on their way out of school for the weekend. This process repeats every week for the entire school year.
Q: What are the typical contents of the BakPak program’s bags?
Lisa: The bags typically include 2 breakfast, lunch, and dinner items plus 2 snacks. The average cost per student per week is less than $5.00. So, even small donations go a long way and make a big impact.
Q: How does Colorado Credit Union support The Food For Thought BakPak Program?
Lisa: We support the program through financial contributions and food donations and through staff volunteer days at Food Bank of the Rockies. We also build and maintain the program’s website, foodforthoughtbakpak.com, and design and print their brochures and business cards.
We’ve heard feedback from Michelle Morronithat the number of donations and volunteers has increased since launching the website and distributing the brochures. We were incredibly pleased to hear that and will continue to support the program through those services.
Q: What is the impact this program is having in your community and why does Colorado Credit Union continue to support it?
Lisa: Currently the program ensures that over 200 students in 25 different schools in Southwest Jefferson County have enough to eat over the weekends. That, in and of itself, is enough for Colorado Credit Union to continue to do all we can to support the program. But, in addition to meeting the nutritional needs of children, the program has led to improved classroom attendance, higher learning retention, and decreased disciplinary incidents. Parental involvement has also increased in participating student’s education and school activities.
It’s a remarkable program that is having a tremendous impact in our community and we are so proud to be a part of that. As a Credit Union, we are truly driven by the people helping people philosophy. Because we’ve been involved in this program from the beginning, and because it is having such a huge impact for so many families in our community, we are deeply invested in ensuring that it continues to thrive.
We support other community initiatives as well. But this one is particularly close to our hearts.