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Connections 4 Life provides food for body, mind, soul

 

Last updated 6/22/2022 at 9:44am

Jody Smith

A volunteer helps sort food in the Connections 4 Life warehouse in Fountain.

Connections 4 Life Center (C4L) provides services to local families that offer nourishment for both mind and body. While the center is best known for its stocked food pantry, other services include an outreach thrift store, pet food, life skill classes, counseling and Bible studies. A daycare for little ones to be watched over while parents partake in activities is available for those who need it.

The C4L center is a 6,500-square-foot warehouse located next to the El Paso County Health Department, at 6436 U.S. 85/87 in Fountain, and is the largest outreach of its kind in the community. The food pantry started in a closet back in 1999 at Restoration Church, and has now grown into the success it is today.

Executive Director Gretchen Baker asks clients, "What's your need, and how can we find a solution?" The goal is to provide individuals and families with as much help and guidance as possible before their situation becomes too serious.

When clients first walk through the doors, they are greeted with a warm welcome and are asked to fill out a form based on their current situation, which helps Baker to know how the center can best fulfill each client's specific needs.

The food pantry offers three programs. Every Thursday of the month, the food pantry is open from 2-7 p.m. with no income requirements necessary. The first or third Friday is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). On this day senior clients over the age of sixty can receive a box already packed with food and labeled with what's inside. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is available the same day. Clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) automatically qualify for this service, which is offered once a month. A pet pantry is held in the parking lot every third Thursday of the month from 4-6 p.m. to help feed furry family members.

In one month, an average of 400 family members receive the help they need. Depending on the number in a family, the pantry has shelves and freezers labeled small, medium and large to indicate how many are in a household. There are a variety of options including meats, dairy, produce, breads and pastries. Also, a selection is provided for those with special dietary restrictions, which are gluten free, diabetic, keto and low-sodium foods.

"We are designed to supply more than 75 percent of the food for a family, as long as they can cook," Baker said.

Even hygiene products, and at times, items such as diapers are available for distribution.

The donations are 100 percent provided by the community. Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado is one source. Little Caesar's Pizza is one of the many businesses that contributes to C4L. Clothing, home furnishings, toys and many other items are dropped off at the front doors of the center, which will then be for sale at very affordable prices in the outreach thrift store. The store also gives out three free items once a month. Vouchers for eyeglasses are also available once the client brings in a prescription to be filled.

With so much dedication and work the center currently provides, Baker would like to have other programs brought in that will help and benefit existing and future clients. Those might include food stamps and more help for the homeless and veterans with the Independence Center. Also, a bilingual translator for Spanish-speaking families would be helpful.

Recycling is important to the center. If food has almost reached its expiration date, and hasn't been taken home by clients, the items will then be donated to local soup kitchens where the demand for donations is also great and appreciated. When produce like grapes or apples starts going bad, it is then offered to local farm animals. Boxes are even recycled once they've been used a few times too many. If there is a way, nothing will go to waste.

The center's success toward helping the community over the years has been based on faith, community and volunteers. Donating their time, volunteers have ranged from ages 7 to 86. People want to support and be a part of a cause that brings change for the better, Baker said.

She says new faces walk through the door every week, and then there are people who have been going there for years. These people are more like family now, where hugs are exchanged upon arrival.

To learn more about the center and their services, go to http://www.connections4lifecenter.org/index.html, or call 719-387-9919

 

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