Metro Caring needs volunteers, donations

Anti-hunger nonprofit continues to serve amid pandemic

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Teva Sienicki, CEO of Metro Caring, points out that everybody has a story that revolves around food — whether it’s gardening fresh veggies with a relative, a specific dish that always accompanies a holiday dinner, or cooking that special meal from a recipe that has been passed down for generations.

“Food is something that brings us together,” Sienicki said. “We can love through our sharing of food traditions.”

And during this time of social distancing, Metro Caring is working to continue its mission of providing healthy, nutritious food and spark a togetherness in the community.

Metro Caring, at 1100 E. 18th Ave. in Denver, is a nonprofit anti-hunger organization that primarily serves the seven-county Denver metro area. Metro Caring has an emphasis on providing healthy, nutritious food “while building a movement to address the root causes of hunger,” states its website.

In the midst of COVID-19, Metro Caring is facing increased pressure to supply food for those who were already facing food insecurity and those who now need support following job loss.

“The need has gone through the roof,” Sienicki said, adding that it far surpasses the need during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. “This pandemic is exposing inequities in an acute way. (And) those needs are not going to go away overnight.”

Sienicki added that the economic crisis will likely continue after the public health threat has subsided, and will have a long-term effect.

Metro Caring is dedicated to working with the community to meet people’s immediate need for food, and, in fact, is primed to respond quickly in such a crisis, said board member Iris Gardner.

“Metro Caring’s model works because it gives people dignity during a time of need,” Gardner said. The model, she said, “is working with the community, rather than for the community.”

Though Metro Caring continues to operate with some adjustments to adhere to mandated social distancing measures, it is in immediate need of additional volunteers and financial donations.

Financial donations will support Metro Caring’s ability to buy food in bulk, and purchase personal protective equipment for volunteers.

As for volunteers, Metro Caring is asking that prospective volunteers are healthy, younger than age 65 and can commit to three, two-to-three-hour shifts each week.

“Volunteers are the heart of helping Metro Caring move forward,” Gardner said. “When we can give a part of ourselves, we reap the rewards, ten-fold.”

Gardner has always had a passion for providing access to nutritious for all people. She grew up in Denver and knew of Metro Caring, but moved out of state for 10 years. Upon returning, she began her volunteer journey with Metro Caring. In the past four years, she has worked in the organization’s Fresh Foods Market, helped establish the Spanish-language cooking classes and currently serves on the board of directors as she pursues a graduate degree and is employed fulltime.

“There is a special vibe at Metro Caring. It’s a slice of Denver — of Colorado,” Sienicki said. “Everyone has different strengths and assets that they bring, (which) creates a rich environment. It’s really an incredible family.”

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