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Grand County Food Bank
58 N. 100 East, 259-6362

  • Monday, 9 a.m. to Noon
  • Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

NON-PROFIT HAPPENINGS - November 2003

 

Moab: A Community that
Takes Care of its Own People

By Carrie Switzer

Grand County Food Bank Director, Pefe Duran, found himself injured and unable to return to work in the mines more than 21 years ago. For a short time he was a recipient of public services designed to help the unemployed and poor. Then, Pefe says, he “thought to do something,” and saw his way out of the bind he found himself in.

“I applied for money to start a food bank,” Pefe said , as he waited for a truckload of goods to arrive from Salt Lake City last month for distribution to today’s unemployed and poor. “I was in the same boat as these people are. I ended up with a 20-year job.”

Pefe has run the food bank all these years with notable success. The Association of Local Governments was the initial source of funding to open the food bank, and at that time, Pefe said, the need for a food bank in Moab was thought to be a temporary thing. The Association gave him an eight-month trial run.

But mining never rebounded, and no other single industry has replaced what once gainfully employed people 20 years ago. The service industry regularly turns out hundreds of workers at this time of year to make do, move or get by until the tourists return in April. For many, it’s a long, hard winter.

“Every year the number of people who use the food bank has been growing,” Pefe said. “The last two years it has grown more than other years. We serve 140 to 170 people a month during the summer, but in winter it jumps to 260 to 270.”

Food bank guidelines for eligibility follow criteria based on income and household size. Families must meet the State guidelines in order to receive services. If they qualify, families can go to the food bank once a month for a box of food that may include cereal, canned goods, beans, and often, household supplies and goodies donated by local markets. Pefe’s right hand at the food bank is his daughter, Ruby Robinson, who began working at the food bank as a volunteer herself 17 years ago. Specific numbers for use of the food bank, and other services offered through the food bank, roll off her tongue as if she were running her own household. And her friendly demeanor and natural compassion are further evidence that for her, providing services for the area’s poor is more than just a job.

“We will often refer people to other agencies if they need something we can’t provide,” Ruby said. “We work closely with the Department of Workforce Service, Seekhaven Family Resource Center and the Grand County Housing Authority. And we also provide other services right here.”

Those services include administration of the HEAT Program, a statewide public utility assistance program that can help families who qualify to pay their heating bills often through April. There are funds available for emergencies, such as imminent utility disconnection, evictions and prescription medication. Pefe is bilingual, which offers access to Moab’s growing Hispanic population.

The HEAT program begins Nov. 3 and generally serves 400 to 500 families in Moab each year. Housing and financial assistance is intended for use on a one-time basis only; however, Ruby said anyone might reapply for those funds after 18 months.

Pefe is a 40-year resident of Moab, hailing from Colorado to work in Moab during the uranium boom. He raised three children here, including Ruby and Moab resident Judy Keogh. Ruby has raised three daughters of her own here, ranging in age from 22 to 29.

While the need for help with food and heat continues in Moab, there is a concurrent generosity here, Pefe said, that meets those needs. Local churches, the Boy Scouts, mail carriers, the Alpha Rho Sorority and other civic clubs contribute to the food bank regularly, as does City Market and many individuals. Those contributions come in the form of money and food, Pefe said, and increase with need and the spirit of the holidays at Thanksgiving and Christmas time.

“This is a generous community,” he said, “a community that takes care of its own people. Even if we run low, and occasionally go out to the people and ask for help, in no time our shelves are stocked again.”
Pefe smiles grandly. “This is a community that takes care of the needy.”

The food bank is open Monday 9 a.m. to Noon, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located at 58 N. 100 East, and can be reached by calling 259-6362.

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