GOSHEN COUNTY – It’s been nearly seven months since the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies mobile food pantry last rolled into town – leaving hundreds of residents short on meals each day in the valley. But local 501(c)3 charitable organization Goshen HELP has stepped in to save Christmas for those who battle food insecurity in the county.
On Thursday, Dec. 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Goshen County Fairgrounds’ Pavilion, Goshen HELP will offer its first mobile pantry as a partner agency with the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies.
“We’ll be paying the cost to bring that truck,” Goshen HELP Executive Director Kyle Borger said. “We’re going to host a food pantry at the fairgrounds the third Friday of the month as often as possible … so the plan there is we can distribute a substantial amount of food, bring the excess back to (the Goshen HELP) food pantry and distribute it throughout the month. Our hope is to raise $2,000 a month to support both our mobile food pantry and the food pantry at our office.”
Residents should note, unlike previous mobile food pantries, only one serving may be taken per attendee and individuals must be present to collect food. Excess items will be taken to the Goshen HELP food pantry at 2510 West C St. and available during regularly scheduled appointments.
“It will be cold, so people are encouraged to wear their winter clothes,” Borger said. “Residents are going to need to bring a photo ID, sign up for our pantry, and need to be a resident of Goshen County. The food pantry application is online (goshenhelp.com). They can print it and bring it with them – or people can fill it out at the mobile food pantry, too.”
Goshen HELP will also host a free coat distribution in conjunction with the first mobile food pantry.
Borger said he expects the food pantry in his office to have set hours in January. The organization served 20 families on Friday, and plans to hold another event following the food truck’s stop in Goshen County, depending on donations.
“Perhaps we’ll see enough donations in December and have another food pantry this month,” he said. “In the future, we plan to be open a couple times a week with the food pantry, here. Right now, there are once-a-month limits – if someone comes to this pantry, they can’t also participate in the food truck pantry. In the future, we hope to take the limits off.”
The Goshen HELP pantry will also feature shoppers’ choice.
“The difference is … some food banks will create a box, sometimes that’s the food you’re given, and it contains product you don’t want or need so it goes to waste,” Borger said. “With shoppers’ choice, not as many items are going out the door. For a family of one to three, we allow 20 items; a family of four to six receives 40 items. That way, we can limit it down to what they really want or need (and supplement donations).”
Volunteers for the mobile food bank are encouraged to arrive at 8 a.m. on Dec. 21.
In addition to the food pantry, Goshen HELP provides case management, including rent and utility assistance.
“In two month’s time, we provided assistance in the amount of $10,000 … and had contact with 68 people,” Borger said. “Our yearly budget for that assistance is $34,000, so there are going to be months where there is not much available. Continuing on with our emergency services, rent and utilities … we have a lot more people who want our services than we have funds for. Part of the reason we want to raise funds locally is so we can assist more people.
“The reality is there are four or five families we aren’t going to be able to assist per week, who could be evicted,” Borger added.
Aside from $77,565 in reimbursable Wyoming Community Services Block Grant funds, Goshen HELP has also received $10,000 through Goshen County Economic Development Corporation, and $10,000 from the Wyoming Community Foundation.
“Other than that, we’ve received ongoing donations,” Borger said. “We’re trying to get more. We still need to raise about $20,000 over the course of the next fiscal year to pay for ongoing expenses.”
Businesses or corporations that donate $250 per month are featured as sponsors, or $100 to be counted as a pledge partner, on the Goshen HELP website, as well as with a banner at the food pantry. Borger is also willing to speak to groups at meeting and events.
“These donations really help us take care of the day-to-day expenses,” Borger said.
All donations are welcome, however, and $10 a month can purchase 40 meals through Borger’s connections with Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies.
He also leads the local Salvation Army, which provides emergency assistance for rent and utilities in Goshen County, and works in conjunction with Goshen HELP.
“Now that we have both, we can use them to be supportive of each other,” he said.
The Salvation Army has a goal of $12,000 this year for its Kettle campaign. To date, the organization has provided more than $12,250 in assistance, up from $4,800 last year.
“We are in need of bell ringers,” Borger said. “Each day without a bell ringer is a loss of about $300.”
From January 2018 through part of November, the local Salvation Army gave out five emergency food vouchers, 15 emergency fuel cards, emergency hotel stays totaling $1,600, nine medical assistance vouchers,16 rent assistance vouchers, and 36 utility assistance vouchers.
“If we could have somebody ringing the bell all the time, we would hit our goal, probably,” Borger said.
To donate to Goshen HELP, send checks via mail to Goshen HELP, P.O. Box 394, Torrington WY 82240, or go to www.goshenhelp.com to contribute online. Those wishing to volunteer may contact Borger at (307) 509-0377 or [email protected] Donations for The Salvation Army must be made out specifically to The Salvation Army.