In 2016, April suddenly lost her job. She was scheduled to have surgery shortly afterward, so she planned to get through her surgery and then try to make a plan for the future. She and her husband weren’t wealthy, but they were financially comfortable and she had faith that they would be able to stay on their feet. Then, with her surgery came an unexpected diagnosis: breast cancer.
April and her family needed help. Without her income, they struggled to put food on the table, let alone pay other mounting bills. Not sure where else to turn, April went to the free food market at SECORCares to pick up groceries for her family.
SECORCares is a faith-based organization in Parker, Colorado, that operates the largest food bank in the southern Denver metro area. Recognizing that suburban poverty is a growing but often hidden problem, SECORCares seeks to break the chains of poverty in their community and bring hope and dignity to their neighbors in need by offering free groceries, financial support, help finding employment, life coaching and more.
“Parker is an affluent community, and a lot of people think there’s no problem here,” said Dennis Gorton, executive director and CEO of SECORCares. “But life happens, and situational poverty can happen to anyone. We are here to build relationships, encourage hope, and help our guests move forward stronger than ever.”
For the past several years, Centura-Parker Adventist Hospital has been partnering with SECORCares to help meet the whole health needs of their patients and communities.
“True wellness involves so much more than medicine,” said Michael Goebel, CEO of Parker Adventist. “Food security, financial stability, and hope for the future are just as important as physical wellbeing. As two pillars of our community, we can work together with SECORCares to help make all those things a reality for the people we serve.”
Over the past year, the financial impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in a staggering 300 percent increase in need in the Denver suburbs. SECORCares, with resources and support from Parker Adventist, has risen to the challenge, serving 3,000-4,000 guests per month on average. They are also partnering on initiatives like Food for Thought, which provides weekend meals for families of school-aged children, and a mobile market that brings food to people who cannot come to the market themselves due to age, disability, or lack of transportation.
“Our two organizations, both driven by faith, share a commitment to caring for our neighbors through any challenges our communities face,” said Greg Matney, director of development for SECORCares. “As the need around us grows, we are working to grow strategically, and Parker Adventist has been a vital partner in helping us expand our reach in more sustainable ways.”
To help navigate uncertainties in food sourcing, SECORCares is launching their own aquaponic garden, growing lettuce, herbs and other produce to ensure they could keep the market’s shelves full. Because aquaponic systems create such a high yield, Parker Adventist connected SECORCares with their purchasers to channel the excess produce to hospital food services, restaurants, and other buyers, providing additional income to further sustain and expand the work of SECORCares.
At Parker Adventist and across Centura Health, diversity, inclusion and social justice are top priorities. As the partnership with SECORCares continues to grow, Leeroy Coleman, the hospital’s director of Mission Integration, is helping develop strategic plans to advocate for underserved populations and ensure equitable access to food, housing, health care, and jobs for all members of the community. Leeroy has forged partnerships with local colleges to help connect students in need with SECORCares services. Plans are also in place to develop job training programs, building on the relationships already in place with colleges and business owners to connect SECORCares guests with careers that can provide long-term stability for their families.
Those who have received support from SECORCares know the work the organization is doing extends far beyond putting food on the table and helping people with their bills, and the impacts continue to ripple forward. Today, April is cancer-free, financially stable and working as a military family life counselor on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. She is also working with chaplains on base to start a cancer support group.
“Now that we’ve come through that crisis, we’ve been able to give back a little bit, and that feels really good,” April said. “We would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for SECORCares, and I want to be the hands and feet of Christ for others like they were to me.”