How do you thank absolutely everyone? If you’re part of this community, you have the gratitude of Taos Feeds Taos.
“I’m thankful to this community. It’s everybody coming together that makes this possible,” said the organization’s board president, Francis A. Córdova.
It’s a sentiment echoed by board members and officers, volunteers, donors, and contributing partners. Most importantly, it is expressed by the recipients of food distributed at the 34th annual Taos Feeds Taos giving event held during the 2019 holiday season.
“I had one lady say to me that having this food lets her buy Christmas presents for her grandkids,” Córdova said.
Taos Feeds Taos gives community members a way to share the rewards of their prosperity with the less fortunate among us, providing about two weeks’ worth of nonperishable food, and ham and fresh produce for a holiday feast. A massive endeavor involving year-round food drives, fundraising, and coordination with the business community and civic organizations to gather, store, set up, prepare, and distribute, it spans beyond the city limits of Taos to reach every corner of the county.
“I’m proud to be part of such an organization,” said Louise Gallegos, vice president of the board and main coordinator of distribution outreach to the north. “We collaborate with a lot of different organizations because without them we couldn’t do what we do.”
The experience never fails to inspire Gallegos.
“When you see a first-timer a week or two later, they cannot believe how much food was in there. They’re so appreciative of it,” she said.
Board member Mary Mascareñas heads distribution in Peñasco with the help of her fellow Peñasco residents, the Knights of Columbus, and Peñasco Community Center.
“You cannot do miracles with just one person, and you can’t do it justice either,” said Mascareñas, who established distribution in Peñasco about 20 years ago.
“It feels so good just to see the faces of the people who get the boxes, and they’re happy to have them,” she said.
Taos Feeds Taos is the product of the late VFW veteran Jim Ulmer’s vision of putting food on the tables of those in need back in the ‘80s. After approaching First Sergeant Córdova at the National Guard Armory, himself a service-dedicated man, that vision became reality.
The two men put their connections to work and secured the support of General Edward D. Baca and use of National Guard facilities and equipment. With the help of Ulmer’s VFW comrades, 300 boxes of food were given out in 1986 in the very first Taos Feeds Taos distribution. The program has since blossomed into a community-wide demonstration of compassion and generosity unmatched in the state of New Mexico.
These days, the tireless efforts of everyone involved produce around 1,200 boxes of food, always more than enough to supply all the qualified applicants. Fundraising is a year-round effort that starts in July with the Super Save car show. The Bent Lodge November fundraising breakfast is another big event for the organization.
Taos Feeds Taos starts taking applications for assistance in mid-November. Recipients are selected based on need, following the poverty-level guideline, and proof of residence. According to Córdova, not everyone who needs assistance applies, and board members and volunteers take the time to reach out to those people as well.
The big push comes during the holidays, with Taos Municipal Schools and Charter Schools, Taos News, LMNOC broadcasting, Super Save, Albertsons, and countless individual volunteers promoting events, gathering donations, filling boxes, and ultimately distributing the food in December.
Board member Linda Knief and her crew of volunteers and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative employees set the stage for the hundreds of volunteers who come to help fill boxes. All contributions, including the use of personal time, equipment and fuel, storage and gathering space, are donated; all funds raised go to purchasing the food for distribution.
Year 35 has begun for Taos Feeds Taos, and more people are getting involved.
“I’m also training the younger generation,” said Córdova. “We’re even getting some younger board members. That way this won’t go away. I don’t want this to go away.”