The words “food pantry” and “low-resource families” conjure up familiar images: Lines of parents down on their luck, collecting donated groceries to keep themselves and their children afloat.
Usually absent from that scene is any consideration for celebration — the essentials must come first.
Five young girls from the Centennial area came to Parker to change that.
“It’s not really an issue that gets much (attention), but it’s still an issue that people can’t celebrate their birthday,” said Josey Dooley, 12, who has been a Girl Scout since first grade.
Dooley and her fellow Scouts started on a project in February to assemble “birthday kits” — boxed cake mix, canned frosting, birthday candles, balloons, favors, party hats and cards — for low-resource families. They set up a donation box at their school — Creekside Elementary in southeast Centennial — and collected items at the school’s book fair, according to a news release.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado slowed them down, but they pivoted to collect donations online. While unable to meet in person this summer, each girl made cards for the kits.
The girls “rented out a space at a library and did an assembly line — we each did different things,” Dooley said.
She noted that many families with low income may not qualify for some forms of public assistance. The girls partnered with Parker food pantry SECORCares, delivering hundreds of the birthday kits to be distributed to families from SECOR’s building.
“We take care of 42 ZIP codes — Douglas, Elbert and most all of Arapahoe County,” said Mark Heistand, operations director for SECORCares.
The pantry serves about 300 to 350 cars, roughly equating to that many families of four, per week, Heistand said. The pantry offers perishable and non-perishable foods along with individual and family counseling, financial counseling, legal aid, references for medical services, medical and dental screenings, senior foot care, chiropractic care, limited financial assistance, and other programs to help people get back on their feet.
SECOR stands for southeast community outreach. In 2006, SECORCares became a nonprofit, but it started out at the nearby Southeast Christian Church “in a closet” because those involved saw there was a need in the area, Heistand said.
In the 1990s, the effort began as a Christmas outreach program from that church, offering food and gifts to those who might not otherwise have a Christmas celebration, according to SECORCares’ website.
“Even right here in Parker, (many) homes have someone in it in food insecurity or living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Heistand said.
Through the “birthday kit” project, the girls will earn the Girl Scout Bronze Award, which is the highest award for Girl Scouts in fourth or fifth grade, according to the news release.
The first hundred kits were delivered last month, the release said. On Nov. 16, the girls delivered a hundred more with the remaining hundred kits to be delivered when SECORCares has space to store them.
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