Outside of the volunteer fire station in Rock River are dozens of vehicles, each waiting for Food Bank of Wyoming’s mobile pantry to begin. Among the cars, trucks, and vans is Dennie Hoeck with his wheelbarrow.
“My vehicle went down, my starter wire broke,” said Hoeck as volunteers loaded up his wheelbarrow with fresh produce and other essential food items. Deciding to walk a couple of blocks for fresh food was an easy decision for Hoeck. “The closest thing you get here is a little mercantile, and they’re rather expensive,” he explained.
The mercantile is a small convenience store that offers a few basics. Beyond that, the biggest town closest to Rock River is Laramie, some 40 miles southeast down a mostly two-lane highway. Winters can be harsh, making travel difficult. This winter was particularly brutal.
“During the winter, our roads are closed a lot,” said Deanna Baton, who drove to the mobile pantry with her neighbor, Teresa Schnell. “This last year, it went from October 1 to the end of March, and we only had 12 days that were open.”
Rock River Mobile Pantry volunteer coordinator Sylvia Parvin has lived in Rock River for five decades and has worn many hats over the years, including running a small grocery store and game processing plant, and serving as town clerk, town treasurer, and town judge. On this day, she’s doing essential work at the mobile pantry, organizing volunteers and making sure distribution goes off without a hiccup. She also provides emotional support and friendship, often offering the people arriving to receive food, hugs and kind words.
Parvin describes Rock River as “country living with city water and sewer.” The population of about 250 is largely made up of ranchers and an aging population.
“Most people are retired and on fixed incomes,” Parvin said. “There’s also a lot of young families, and it’s just tough with kids and budgets the way they are. We serve around 100 families each distribution. I think we’re fulfilling most of the needs at this time.”
Volunteers arrived hours earlier to fill food boxes and bags delivered from the Food Bank’s distribution center, located about 100 miles away in Casper. Several employees from Clearway Energy and Canadian-based BluEarth Renewables were on hand to volunteer as well, including CEO Grant Arnold.
“We’ve been supporting Food Bank of Wyoming for a number of years and felt like it was time to increase our participation in the partnership,” said Arnold. “The goal is to be a better part of this community for years to come.”
BluEarth Renewables is a developer, owner, and operator of wind, hydro, and solar facilities located throughout North America. Often, these projects are located near smaller towns like Rock River, and BluEarth Renewables places an emphasis on finding ways to strengthen the communities they’re in.
“If we’re coming in and building a facility, we want to make sure we’re also giving back to that community,” said Erin Jenken, manager of communications for BluEarth Renewables.
In addition to making regular donations to Food Bank of Wyoming, the company ramped up their support this year and, in partnership with Clearway Energy, sponsored the mobile pantry in Rock River for six months.
“Part of the reason this partnership has grown in the way it has is because we were able to make sure our money ends up in the community, that Rock River is seeing the impact,” said Jenken. “And with the mobile pantry, we know it is.”
As part of their sponsorship, BluEarth supplied mobile pantry clients with reusable insulated grocery bags. Any bags and boxes of food that aren’t sent home with neighbors during mobile pantry distributions don’t go to waste, either: After the pantry closes, Parvin gathers up the remaining food and distributes it to people in the community who couldn’t make it that day.
Community effort and support from people like Parvin and companies like BluEarth Renewables and Clearway Energy power the work of Food Bank of Wyoming. We couldn’t do any of it without them or you: thank you for your support and generosity.