Meet Emily Crouse-Joo, Broomfield FISH’s Community Engagement Specialist! She is passionate about serving Broomfield, and describes the organization as “a nucleus of the Broomfield family, and there is something here for everyone.”
And you truly feel that as you walk into the building, a modern office with bright decor, the walls teaming with portraits of smiling volunteers and local artwork, such as the tree mural in the lobby, its branches composed of the swirl of donor names. The colors and faces that lead you into the building are like a patchwork quilt, warm, welcoming, and woven with a million stories.
“It doesn’t matter what your entry path to Broomfield FISH,” Emily elaborated. “Whether as a participant, as a volunteer, as a donor, we all make this Broomfield family.”
And Emily would know all about strong family ties. Not only is she Broomfield FISH’s Community Engagement Specialist, she is the granddaughter of one of the women who helped found the organization in 1963 through a club called Church Women United.
Emily reconnected to these roots when she saw a Broomfield FISH job posting in The United Church of Christ, here in Broomfield. Her grandmother, she explained, gave her “a legacy of serving the community.”
As a food bank and family resource center, Broomfield FISH serves the Broomfield community in so many different capacities. The organization goes well beyond food resources, as there is an array of services spanning to transportation assistance, rent and utility assistance, and a family resource center.
“When people are in need in the community, they come to us first,” Emily explained. “If you’re unable to feed your kids, pay your rent, turn on your lights… that is the point where you say, ‘I need to reach out for help.’”
And nothing brings a community together faster than a crisis, or a worldwide pandemic, for example. Emily described the covid pandemic as “traumatic.”
“When the pandemic hit, it felt like everyone sat down, and Broomfield FISH was left standing.”
Because most of the volunteers are over sixty years old, it was no longer safe for them to volunteer in those conditions. Therefore, the organization had to hire temporary staff and reorganize the entire operation overnight. In the wake of a pandemic, Broomfield FISH shifted from an entirely self-shop marketplace to a drive-up marketplace. Emily describes the organization’s rise to the challenge as “everyone coming together.”
During that time, Broomfield FISH served one in seven residents, which was a steep 14% increase almost overnight. Food distribution also increased by 45%, and the organization gave out $1.3 million in emergency financial assistance.
Fortunately, other organizations rose to the occasion alongside Broomfield FISH, as funding miraculously came in during the pandemic. Broomfield FISH received many grants, some of which had never been received before, and national DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) funding.
But many unknowns still linger for Broomfield FISH. Emily is uncertain of “how theses needs will change after switching back to ‘the new normal.’” Although the world is slowly transitioning out of the pandemic, the crisis left a scar. Broomfield FISH currently handles seven times the typical number of rent assistance requests, and foreseeably more as the eviction moratorium is set to end. Subsequently, the organization calls to action a “need for an independent housing authority and more affordable housing units in Broomfield.” In the last year alone, the organization has already helped more than 200 residents experiencing homelessness.
How can the residents of Broomfield support this organization, the nucleus of our community family? Emily explains:
“Financial contributions continue to be the greatest gift you can make to Broomfield FISH. We have our annual Harvest of Hope event called ‘Embracing Hope’ this year in early October. We really hope to see a great turnout there, as well as Colorado Gives Day at the end of the year.”
Emily encourages people who want to volunteer to visit broomfieldfish.org and fill out the volunteer link. Volunteers can come visit one time, or have an ongoing arrangement.
Emily also names Amazon Smiles and King Soopers Rewards as simple ways to contribute. Additionally, the King Soopers in Broomfield offer food bins where you can purchase food then donate by simply dropping it in the bin.
There is something at Broomfield FISH for everyone, if even just a seat at the table of a warm, welcoming family, tight-knit with stories of the community.
Curious about ways you can help us? Scan the code to learn more!