Colorado Latter-day Saint youth gather close to 16,000 pounds of canned goods for local food bank

What seemed like a mission impossible became a mission CAN-possible due to the ingenuity of the young men and women in the Fountain Colorado Stake who gathered more than 15,900 pounds of canned goods and non-perishable items for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado from May 3 to June 6.

Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stake presidency of the Fountain Colorado Stake had a meeting to discuss what could be done for the youth knowing that the pioneer trek originally planned for June 1 had been cancelled, said President Ryan Teeples, the first counselor in the Fountain stake presidency.

They knew of a local charity, Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, within the boundaries of the stake with which they had created a relationship with over the years and wanted to help. Also, the bishops’ storehouse nearby could donate some canned items toward a food drive to benefit the food bank.

“We decided to create an opportunity for the youth to go out and serve, thinking outside the box and to have something good to do in place of the pioneer trek,” said President Bruce M. Rands, Fountain Colorado Stake president.

Youth from the Fountain Colorado Stake make signs requesting donations of canned food for a food drive for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.
Youth from the Fountain Colorado Stake make signs requesting donations of canned food for a food drive for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. Credit: Joycelyn Mcllquham

They decided to plan a food drive and made of goal of collecting 10,000 cans within one month. They asked for 1,000 cans to be collected from each of the eight wards and one branch. Also, 1,000 cans were collected on the stake level.

Many people thought it was impossible and wanted the food drive to be planned a year in advance or perhaps a longer time frame of three to six months, said President Teeples.

As soon as the decision was made, they handed over the project to the stake Young Women’s president, Rachael Sherwood, and stake Young Men’s president, Jeramie Crabtree.

President Teeples said that Sherwood was the driving force behind the development of a point system that was created as an incentive to collect as many items as possible. The reward for the highest points earned from a stake unit was a pie party provided by the stake presidency. Points awarded were based on creativity, community outreach and items collected.

Many of the youth in the wards dressed up as superheroes or ninja squads to collect items. They produced videos and created posts on social media. One military commander offered to provide leave passes to soldiers who donated items.

The Fountain Colorado Stake boundaries include Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs. Approximately 20% of the Fountain Colorado Stake consists of military families.

The winning unit was the Rustic Hills Ward, who collected close to 4,000 items. Their youth program consists only of three young men and eight young women.

“Their determination outweighed the numbers in other wards. They really punched above their weight,” said President Rands.

Donations begin to pile up as young men and young women in the Fountain Colorado Stake gather canned goods and non-perishable items for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado from May 3 to June 6.
Donations begin to pile up as young men and young women in the Fountain Colorado Stake gather canned goods and non-perishable items for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado from May 3 to June 6. Credit: Lisa Misner

Sherwood and Sasha Harrison, the Young Women’s president of the Rustic Hills Ward, are “the real inspired heroes here,” President Rands said.

Harrison said they created a Facebook page just for the event, they had three drive-up and drop-off events at the church and local schools, they left paper bags with flyers on neighbors’ doors and asked for a radio announcement by a popular Colorado Springs FM radio announcing duo, who created an online video that was posted to social media.

“Once we saw how the community was coming together, it was a huge boost, the youth were really feeling the Spirit,” Harrison said. “I really had to rely on the Lord, and every little piece just came together.”

Another key component to the food drive was the use of a 72-foot semi-truck donated by Bailey’s Moving and Storage.

President Rands’ sons, who are currently off their missions and who worked as movers for the company, asked if they could donate the use of the truck toward the food drive. In turn, the company donated the truck along with three of their employees, which could have costs thousands, said President Rands.

“When the massive truck arrived, I thought there is no way we can fill 72 feet of truck, yet the food just kept coming,” he said.

Items from the bishops’ storehouse, which donated $3,500 worth of canned goods, had to be delivered in minivans since the semi-truck was filled to capacity with approximately 20,000 items.

An Instagram post shows canned goods and non-perishable items for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado gathered from May 3 to June 6.
An Instagram post shows canned goods and non-perishable items for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado gathered from May 3 to June 6. Credit: Joycelyn Mcllquham

“We are so grateful for the incredible food donation we received from the youth group at Fountain Colorado Stake from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Care and Share CEO Lynne Telford. “Over the last several months, we have been distributing 42% more food to our neighbors in need than compared to the same time last year. We certainly wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do without the support we receive from our kind-hearted community.”

Added President Rands: “This was a clear example that when we are going through difficult times, service is the key. When we serve the Lord, He blesses us.”

There was no large donor during this food drive. Each individual donation was collected by the youth and adults in the stake through social distancing, said President Teeples.

“As members of the Church, we can do hard things. This is an example of doing what seemed to be impossible and a miracle happened,” he said.