PENROSE, CO — Every month the line outside the My Neighbor's Cupboard drive-up mobile food pantry in Penrose is filled with hundreds of families.
"People start lining up around 2 a.m.," says volunteer Tna Pavetti.
The gates do not open until 10 a.m. Pavetti says no one is turned away.
"All the people that don’t qualify anywhere qualify with us," Pavetti said. "Normally you get about a month's worth of food per family, so it helps out a lot of people."
People like Violet Kochevar who, on the day we were there, was in line hours before the gates to the pantry opened. Kochevar also picks up food for a neighbor in her community.
"She's one of the largest distributors of food in this area," Kochevar said.
Rebecca Cardinell picks up food for herself and three other families in her town more than an hour away.
"It's a very joyful moment when I get back up there and I say, 'Oh my goodness wait until you see the oranges or cucumbers or tomatoes' and 'Oh wait until you get the eggs,'" Cardinell said. "You have no idea what it’s like to hand an older person a dozen eggs and a gallon of milk and see them hit the floor in tears because they haven’t had eggs or milk in months."
"It really becomes a mission you want to make sure the people around you have the things that you need because you’ve gone without yourself," said My Neighbor's Cupboard founder Amanda Suddoth.
Suddoth says she spent part of her early adulthood as a single mom trying to get by.
"I remember the first food bank I ever went to was the last one," Suddoth said. "They handed me this big bag of beans, and I didn’t even have electricity at that time. Things were really rough. What am I going to do with a pot of beans? As a 19-year-old mom I could’ve used some help with how to make that work but instead they ended up in the garbage and I never went back because that wasn’t help. That was, 'Here's some food, good luck, have a nice day.' It wasn’t investing and caring."
But Suddoth is investing and caring and passing on important life lessons to her team and neighbors. She also gives out recipes to use with the food she gives away.
"I was talking to a woman who has several children I said, 'We have a new customer' and she said, 'No, they’re not our customer. They’re our neighbors and they are our friends,'" Kochevar said.
It's a mission centered on loving her neighbors well.
"I’ve always had the theory of if you are asked to do something, and there’s not a reason you can’t physically go do it get up and go, do it," Suddoth said. "You can change somebody’s life by just getting up and going to do something."
It's that mission, that devotion to her community, that has earned Suddoth the News 5 Jefferson Award.
"I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more," Cardinell said. "They take good care of us. They offer prayers, companionship, true love."
Suddoth says it is a mission Jesus put on her heart.
"This is something that God put me on it’s not something that I could’ve ever have come up with or done on my own," Suddoth said. "An award is so weird because I am just doing what He called me to do."
The mobile pantry is open to the community on the 3rd Saturday of every month. The next event is Saturday, June 17th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. They meet at Penrose Elementary School at 100 Illinois Street. For more information click here.
So how do they pay for all of this? They get some help from Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado but they rely on the community for donations. Click here to donate. Donate with PayPal Giving Fund
Remember if you or someone you know is doing good in our community nominate them for a News 5 Jefferson Award. For 50 years, the national award, created with the help of Jackie Kennedy, recognizes people making extraordinary efforts to make their neighborhoods better through service. Local winners go on to compete for national recognition. Click here to make a nomination. KOAA News5 Colorado Springs-Pueblo: Jefferson Awards
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