A Generous Helping

Regis sophomore serves up meals for teens in need

 

Guenevere Diaz credits a reading assignment in her spring semester religion class with inspiring her act of uncommon generosity.

Her grandparents’ example of giving and working for the greater good probably helped, too.

Whatever Diaz’s inspiration, the sophomore accounting major turned the account balance from her campus meal ticket into meals for teens experiencing homelessness.

Diaz is a native of Guam, where, she said, “I did a lot of community service.” But since coming to Denver, finding a mission here proved challenging. “It’s a new environment. I didn’t really know what I could do here.”

But reading “Take This Bread” in religion class as the coronavirus spread and the world was shutting down proved the right inspiration at the right time. “The book was kind of like a sign or the push I needed,” Diaz said of author Sarah Miles’ account of finding faith and, with it, the motivation to feed thousands of hungry people.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Regis campus to close, Diaz lived in Lakewood with her grandmother, Carol Ibanez, a city planner for Arvada and her grandfather, Mark Skinner, a former Peace Corps volunteer who works for the state Office of Economic Development. Skinner manages disaster recovery grants given to fire, flood and other disaster victims; he knows a thing or two about connecting those in need to assistance.

So, when Diaz realized she had an account balance of more than $1,500 for on-campus meals she’d paid for but could no longer get, she knew what she wanted to do. After buying some hand sanitizer and EmergenC for herself, she and Skinner contacted The Action Center in Lakewood.

Ordinarily, The Action Center, which has served people experiencing homelessness for 50 years, provides food, clothing and household goods, along with counseling to help individuals and families move toward self-sufficiency. This spring was anything but ordinary, so the center was forced to limit its services to providing only food.

“Mark called and said he had these funds and just asked, ‘What do you need?’” said Development Director John Covert.

Skinner and Diaz next got in touch with Bon Appetit, the food service provider for the Regis campus, and arranged to purchase $1,500 worth of food. And so, on a sunny morning in late April, Diaz and her grandparents drove to the campus, picked up crates full of food and hauled it to The Action Center. “They just brought a ton of stuff over,” Covert said, probably enough to provide take-home meals for up to 40 of the 3,000 students the center’s Grub Club program helps in a typical month.

About 10 years ago, the center added Grub Club to its menu of services. The program provides non-perishable food to high school kids in order to assure they have something to eat on weekends when they can’t get meals at school. The program was suspended when schools closed this spring, but Covert expects it to resume in the fall.

He said he is particularly grateful that Diaz’s donation came at a time when the need already is great, and is likely to grow. As a Regis graduate himself, Covert said he was impressed with Diaz’s generosity. “She really embodies the spirit of Regis University.”

But Diaz said she benefited as well. “I always like the feeling I get when I help people. I hadn’t felt that in a while,” she said.

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