Until recently, the Black Forest fire was the most destructive in the state’s history. More than 500 houses were destroyed and thousands of people lost their most expensive possessions. Amanda Suddoth and her family were just one such family.
After the devastating loss of her home, Suddoth decided it was time to get to work and make a difference for others affected, not just by the fire, but by life’s hardships. In June 2013 she opened Crosses for Losses in the Black Forest region. The organization’s initial success led to the opening of My Neighbor’s Cupboard in Penrose in May 2018.
My Neighbor’s Closet specifically serves Fremont County seniors and military, as well as eligible families, and offers an assortment of goods for customers. From fresh and dry goods to baked goods straight from the oven, the cupboard has everything customers could want.
The building they lived in left a lot to be desired when they moved in. A new roof and gas lines were needed to make the building functional, but the community came to their aid.
“We have amazing people who have stepped in to take care of our utility bills, put a new roof on the building and put in new gutters,” Suddoth said.
Alongside her self-proclaimed “fight buddy,” Jenny Holiday, Suddoth set to work feeding the people of Fremont County. In 2018, just before the government shutdown, they served around 300 people a day.
As Suddoth and Holiday’s husbands work for the federal government, hard times lie ahead for the fledgling organization.
“The government shutdown was coming and we still had nothing, we were definitely not ready to feed the masses,” Suddoth said.
Since the Cabinet was not legally allowed to partner with larger organizations, they had to seek support elsewhere. However, after an outpouring of local support (and coverage from local news stations), Care and Share announced a mass food distribution that would take place nearby, so Suddoth and Holiday did what they could to participate.
They set up a distribution center in the backyard of the closet and quickly served the masses.
“Our backyard ended up being a drive-through place, so people were coming in, dropping off tons of food and as fast as he came in the back door, he came out the front door,” said Suddoth.
Overnight, the closet served 1,000 struggling families.
Cupboard’s success has continued despite the ever-present challenges, and in 2020 they opened a location in Westcliffe. Suddoth and Holiday also operate a mass distribution system (called the Mobile Market), where food trucks are available for pickup every other weekend in Fremont and Westcliffe County.
“We support and our mission is to care for the elderly and veterans and the working class who are literally struggling. The people who can’t get help are the people we help,” Suddoth said.
“People are falling through resource cracks more than anything,” Holiday added.
When COVID hit in 2020, Cupboard refused to close and faithfully continued to serve the community. Five workers agreed to keep the cupboard open 24 hours a day during the worst of the pandemic and they managed to distribute 1.5 million pounds of food and feed 34,000 people. In 2021, the Firm has grown to serve 35,000 people. For reference, in 2019 the closet distributed 335,000 pounds of food, a growth of nearly three times the amount of food distributed.
“We’re adamant about not jumping people through financial hoops, not showing up and the car in front of you gets it all because it’s their buddy and you get nothing. We work very hard to making sure there’s fairness across the board,” Suddoth said, “It’s about how you treat people.
The closet has also become a popular gathering place for socializing. Two stay-at-home moms make a weekly trip every weekend from Colorado Springs to sit at the tables right outside the front doors and drink their coffee. Seniors participate in giant checkers games inside the closet, and fresh coffee and tea are always available.
When asked how they overcame so many obstacles, Suddoth and Holiday recognized a single strength.
“It is the house of God. We are not capable of doing what we are doing,” Suddoth said. “We sit down and say ‘it’s not even possible.’ Anyone who analyzes and calculates (numbers) would say “it’s not possible” and we say “we know”.
The Cupboard also makes a point of trying to feed the spiritual hunger of the local community by distributing large print Bibles to those who would like one. More than once the mobile market line has stopped so that Suddoth, Holiday or another worker can pray with an individual or family.
“So many people are rushing towards the finish line of death expecting nothing more and there are things that are further away and why aren’t we sharing this?” Suddoth asked. “I don’t want to be in this rat race. I want to share this, you know what, for anyone who thinks they’re progressive, why are we so stupid to think there’s no God? »
The day before Thanksgiving 2020, they discovered that their building was set to go on sale on January 1, 2021. With less than two months to raise the funds to purchase the building, Suddoth and Holiday scrambled to find properties. ideas. Within three days, they received a phone call from a potential donor in Colorado Springs. Thirty-eight minutes later, the building was purchased thanks to the generosity of the local community and the donor. They signed the documents on December 16, 2020.
“In short, it’s God, it’s community, it’s dignity and humanity. It’s about loving your fellow man and not just making it a slogan,” Suddoth said.
The mission of My Neighbor’s Cupboard and the wonderful people who support it will continue to serve the people of Fremont County for the foreseeable future. For more information or to volunteer with the organization, call (719) 494-6584 or visit their Facebook page at [email protected]