Kindness Matters Service Award Winner

Cooking Up Kindness

Fraser Valley Lions finance a teaching kitchen for people with diabetes

The Fraser Valley Lions Club is one of the 2021 Kindness Matters Service Award winners. Read more stories and check out a list of all the winners here.

If you’re looking for majestic mountains, grand rivers, and lush valleys, Grand County, Colorado will not disappoint. Home of the Fraser Valley Lions Club, the natural beauty that defines the area can also hide underlying needs.

Like much of the United States, Grand County residents have been facing a growing diabetes epidemic. The Mountain Family Center (MFC) in Granby has been trying to meet the needs of those facing food insecurity since 1979, and Fraser Valley Lions figured they would be precisely the right folks to partner with to tackle diabetes in their community.

While the Fraser Valley Lions have been supporting MFC for a long time, recent plans to renovate a newly acquired building prompted the director to reach out to the club for help.

“As part of their renovations, they wanted to build a teaching kitchen where they could show people with diabetes how to prepare more healthy meals,” says club chairperson Greg Orzech. The club was eager to help. It fit two of Lions main causes – hunger and diabetes, and they had the resources to help make it happen.

At first the well-funded club was going to foot the entire bill themselves, but then decided to try for an LCIF grant. With Lions in neighboring Jackson County on board, they were able to secure a US$31,875 LCIF Diabetes Grant. The total cost of the project was more than US$42,000, so the club kicked in the rest. Included in the cost was the training for three MFC staff to learn how to teach cooking for people with diabetes.

The plan is to later begin teaching healthy cooking classes to everyone, not just folks with diabetes. The center, which has grown since its inception in 1979 as the Fraser Valley Women’s Resource Center, aims to help anyone who needs a hand up. “They try to work with people to ensure they can sustain themselves over some period of time,” says Orzech. “The goal is to get them back on their feet.”

This includes people from all walks of life. During the summer of 2020, after wildfires ravaged much of the Colorado landscape, the center provided clothing to folks who came to check on their vacation homes only to find them burned to the ground. “They were wearing all these nice, fancy clothes. The center gave them something to wear in order to sift through what was left of their property.”

Of course, most of the people they help do not own second homes. The center provides a lot of food, medical care, and rental assistance to those who would otherwise have nowhere to turn.

The partnership between Lions and the center has enabled Lions to provide real aid to their community without requiring them to be social service experts. Orzech estimates they put about US$150,000 back into their community each year. But if someone needs rental assistance, MFC is better equipped to help. “They know how to do the screenings and all that. They have all that expertise,” says Orzech. “It’s a great working relationship from that perspective. We can use their resources and put the money back into the community and know it’s going to good use.”

At the root of it all, says Orzech, is kindness. He firmly believes it drives what Lions do. “I think everything the club does up here is really just acts of kindness,” he says. “Trying to help people who are in a tougher spot than you.”