MONTE VISTA -- At the end of 2012, San Luis Valley Energy Foundation, a foundation established by San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, made a $10,000 contribution to the Valley Food Bank Network. The Energy Foundation’s Board made this choice because they felt taking care of families in need was a priority.
Lance Cheslock, La Puente director said the contribution was cause for a huge celebration for the Food Bank Network. “I am proud to share in a community that includes companies like SLVREC. What SLVREC does—the way they help to take care of our communities—it’s amazing,” he said.
Cheslock offered some important facts about the work the Food Bank Network does within the Valley. First, he pointed out that the Valley encompasses a geographic area more than twice the size of the state of Connecticut. Moreover, it does so with only one paid staff position, Director Mel Huss. Everyone else volunteers.
Second, the Network serves the entire Valley. There are food banks in Creede, Del Norte, Monte Vista, Center, Saguache, Antonito, La Jara, Capuline and more. In total, there are 13 specific communities where people in need can obtain food. (See the complete list at http://www.lapuente.net.)
The need is huge. Last year, 12,200 individuals received assistance from Valley food banks, obtaining food for more than 450,000 meals. About half of those helped were children. In a Valley with a total population of approximately 46,000, that’s over 25 percent of the population needing assistance for at least a portion of the year.
The Food Bank Network receives 92 percent of its funding from non-government entities such as individuals and corporations like the SLV Energy Foundation. The 8 percent of government funding for the Food Bank Network comes from sources such as the City of Alamosa or block grants. Last year, a $30,000 Walmart grant came to a close, leaving the Food Bank Network Manager wondering where she would make up the shortfall. According to Huss, this made the contribution from SLV Energy Foundation invaluable to the Food Bank Network.
Cheslock said, “Food drives, especially those during winter months, bring in a lot of canned goods and very little protein. With contributions like the $10,000 from the Energy Foundation, we can supplement contributions to round out our offerings to families.
"Our Food Bank Director, Mel Huss, knows all the food prices everywhere and she gets excellent prices for everything. She makes every dollar go incredibly far. She is an amazing, compassionate person who came to us as a volunteer for over a year, and then began her work as Food Bank Network Director. She deserves credit for her incredible work in support of the Valley.”
Last year, the number of individuals contributing to the Food Bank Network was up; however, individual contributions were lower. The net contribution amount ended up being about the same. Corporate donations across the board were down. The state cut funding for every program, especially funding for children’s programs.
SLVREC Energy Foundation was established to help the cooperative’s poorest members make ends meet. Contributions from SLVREC members fund the SLV Energy Foundation. For this, SLVREC’s CEO, directors and employees extend thanks to the members of the cooperative. “It’s our member’s generosity that makes our Valley strong,” said SLVREC CEO Loren Howard. “Like Lance, I am proud to share in a community that includes people like our members.”
In addition to the contribution made by SLV Energy Foundation, SLVREC also contributes to Valley Food Banks through cookbook sales. Last year, the cooperative published a cookbook featuring recipes from their newsletter, the Newsboy. Copies may be purchased for $10 each with $5 from each sale going directly to the food banks. Cookbooks are available for purchase at SLVREC in Monte Vista or they may be ordered through the mail. A shipping charge will be added for cookbooks that are mailed.
SLVREC has provided electricity to the San Luis Valley since 1937. The company is member-owned and does not operate to earn a profit; rather, SLVREC serves members at cost and returns excess revenue to members in the form of capital credits.
The cooperative can be reached at 852-3538 or 800-332-7634. Alternatively, member services can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The cooperative is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.