Tragedy turned into generosity by former football player John Griffin and his partnership with LDS church
Catholic Charities of Denver and volunteers are quickly distributing 40,000 pounds of food to its shelters and area food banks as families face uncertainty and tighter budgets amid rising food costs this holiday season.
A semi-truck delivered 26 pallets of shelf-stable food and diapers on Nov. 16 before the Thanksgiving holiday to the Salvation Army Emergency Services Center in Aurora before being distributed. The food will help alleviate the strain for people living on the margins.
“The food will be shared all throughout Colorado,” says Mark Hahn, director of volunteer & community engagement for Catholic Charities. “It’s an instant shot in the arm of support and help and true love at a time when it can be really stressful and hard to come up with the daily necessities to help feed your family and feed those that you love.”
The special delivery was made possible by John Griffin, a local Catholic and past volunteer for Catholic Charities. He is a member of Black 14 and this is the second year Griffin has made the donation in concert with other members of Black 14, a civil rights group that was kicked off the University of Wyoming’s football team in 1969 for wanting to protest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints’ then–ban on allowing Black men to be priests. Griffin later graduated from the University of Wyoming and held leadership positions during his career with The Brand Company and United Airlines.
More than 50 years later, Griffin and the LDS church have partnered to distribute food in the Denver area. As a part of their Mind, Body and Soul Initiative, the remaining Black 14 members living in other states have also brought food and supplies to nearly a dozen under–served communities.
“Our goal here is to turn tragedy into philanthropy. That’s essentially what we’re doing now,” Griffin shared with a crowd gathered around the stacks of packaged food. “Catholic Charities alone has 900 families who will participate in this program today. I’m glad I’m still here to be able to participate in this.”
Griffin shared great gratitude for his life and for reconciliation with the LDS church that enabled him to positively impact the community.
“We could have still remembered about it and graveled about it forever,” Griffin said . “But we chose a different route. That route was ‘let’s give back.’”
Darren Walsh, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, called Griffin a role model.
“What I admire about you and your group is you turned adversity into a positive,” Walsh said. “You really found a way to take that and make something of it, but not just for yourself but for others in giving back to the community. … You’re a role model to us all.”
Walsh said the donations came at a critical time and is grateful that Catholic Charities can do more to help those in need.
“Everyone knows right now with the increase in food prices, supply chain woes that are happening right now and increase in gas prices … that’s (difficult) for those living on the margin,” Walsh said. “This is such a beautiful gift to help those families who are in need right now.”
Catholic Charities is distributing the food to its own food bank and its ministries including The Little Flower Assistance Center in Aurora, Archdiocesan Housing Inc., Samaritan House Fort Collins, Guadalupe Community Center in Greeley, Marisol Family locations and Marisol Homes. Other local community partners that will receive food include St. Augustine Food Bank in Brighton, Twin Parishes Food Bank, Community Ministry, Struggle of Love Foundation, The Salvation Army, Denver Rescue Mission and Christ in the City.
Representatives of local food banks and human services ministries gather for a photo after a truck delivers 40,000 pounds of food that will be distributed across Colorado before the holidays.