By Rachel Ophoff
Beyond Words International
You may have seen them grocery shopping, or maybe not: they can be hard to spot behind their overloaded carts. They’ve learned a thing or two about finding the sales and specials. These young women, with their mothers’ assistance, are helping to feed Pagosa.
Meet Lauren Peart, Nell Taylor and Olivia Craig. Sophomores at Pagosa Springs High School, they were typically busy with their studies, as well as extracurricular and community activities. Then COVID-19 brought life to a screeching halt. All the time they had invested in theater, music, sports and volunteer work dissipated into thin air. Their families were all significantly impacted in one way or another.
They could have let disappointment drag them down.
But they didn’t.
Working together, they launched a GoFundMe effort to resupply our local food banks. All three are student ambassadors with Beyond Words International (BWI). BWI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Pagosa Springs, offering humanitarian aid and healing arts both locally and globally. As soon as the crisis hit, Craig launched a social media blitz to raise funds for the Methodist
Church’s food pantry. Peart and Taylor, who had been saving money to travel with BWI on a humanitarian mission, donated their funds to the cause. But raising money was just the beginning.
They worked. Peart took over Craig’s work at the Methodist Church, and Craig reached out to Amazing Grace Church in Aspen Springs. Taylor visited Restoration Fellowship and picked up its shopping list.
When I met with them in mid-May, they had already shopped and replenished their respective food banks several times. Taking their responsibilities seriously, they learned to shop wisely.
Taylor learned that WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. WIC recipients are lower-income parents who qualify for assistance buying food. They receive debit cards that are only valid for nutritious WIC products. Taylor learned to leave those items and select others instead.
Peart knows where the day-old bread is. Regularly helping to restock the Methodist Church’s pantry has left her with mixed feelings. She’s glad to be able to do it, she wonders how the recipients are getting along, and it makes her sad when she returns and finds their supplies depleted. She does not give up; she just does it all again.
Craig felt like she hit the jackpot when she discovered that Amazing Grace Church not only has a pantry, they also have a freezer, a refrigerator and a large shed on site. Every week, Craig and her mom have been able to get not only nonperishables, but meat, rotisserie chickens, fresh vegetables, butter and 10-15 half-gallon jugs of milk.
Since these young women are an active part of helping our community, I asked them if they had any message they would like to share. Here’s what they had to say:
“I’ve learned not to take relationships for granted. We never know when someone can be taken away from us.”
“Please wear a mask and follow the CDC guidelines so our lives can get back to normal soon.”
Unfortunately, all three of them have suffered a discouraging experience in the supermarket. A few adults have given them the “stink-eye,” and worse, perhaps thinking they were hoarding food.
Good words for us all in these challenging times.
Pastor Mark Disbrow of Amazing Grace Church in Pagosa Springs summed up what Craig’s efforts have meant to them:
“Olivia has been a blessing to the community we serve, as that is the mission of our food pantry. She has provided so much help by raising money, doing the shopping, and delivering. That’s almost a three-person job!”
To the donors who continue to contribute money; to the churches that sponsor and run our local food banks; to the staff and volunteers who tirelessly distribute groceries; and to Craig, Taylor, Peart and their amazing moms: We here at BWI thank you.
It’s young people like this that give us hope for the future. We at BWI are grateful that they are part of our team. For more information on how to contribute, or to learn more about us, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/beyondwordsintl/.