Coronavirus Pandemic: Denver Nonprofit & Former Inmates Help Struggling Families

DENVER (CBS4) – A nonprofit in northeast Denver is offering days-worth of groceries to struggling families. The group is being helped in the effort by a former inmate recently released due to COVID-19.

Every weekday at eleven o’clock, the cars start to line up in front of a nondescript building off East 47th Avenue in Montbello. What the drivers are waiting for are bags and boxes of groceries, the product of hours of hard work by dedicated volunteers with the Struggle of Love Foundation.

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“We have fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, meat,” said Joel Hodge, co-founder of the non-profit.

“Hopefully anywhere from 3 to 5 people can eat out of this for, if not, up to a week of food,” said James Marquez, a volunteer who helps coordinate the food giveaways.

The program is called “Sacks of Love.” The group has offered this help for years, but since COVID-19, it’s gone from serving several dozen families per week to several hundred.

“Melts my heart because I’m getting so many calls at night, during the day, we’re hungry, we have no food,” Marquez said.

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The group’s newest volunteer is Florencio Cruz Rodriguez. After 26 years in prison, he said was recently released several months early due to COVID-19 concerns.

When he got out, Rodriguez had little support and found himself on the verge of being homeless.

“How do I get an ID? How do I go apply for food stamps? Where do I go?” He asked.

Rodriguez found some of those answers with Struggle of Love, which found him a temporary place to live. In return, he’s volunteering for the organization and giving back to his new community.

“It eliminates me feeling like I’m not worth nothing,” He said. “It shows me my value to the community.”

Moving forward, the non-profit is willing to help other former inmates who are lacking a support system.

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“We’re trying to help them in their transition,” said Marquez. “You’ve got to remember, some of us are in transition ourselves and have been in transition for 20 years.”

Rodriguez calls his transition scary and humbling. He’s finding new purpose with each family he helps.

“It is a redemption thing for me because of the bad things that I did to the streets, the bad things that I did introduce to the streets. So, I gotta [sic} give something back something positive,” Rodriguez said.

The food pick-up is every weekday from 11am to 2pm at 12000 E. 47th Avenue in Montbello.

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