When Rebel Rodriguez started attending The Rising Church in Olde Town Arvada, she wanted to serve the community. So, she got involved with the church’s food bank. A short time later, she ended up running it.
Today, The Rising’s food bank serves about 8,000 people a year with much of the volunteer work coming from the local homeless community.
Rodriguez’s work with the food bank and the homeless has earned her the recognition of the 2017 Arvada Chamber Woman of the Year.
“She works behind the scenes for no recognition or reward and does something that’s vitally needed in the community,” said Steve Camins, chair of the award selection committee.
Rodriguez, a full-time volunteer, said she was blindsided by the award.
“It was a surprise,” Rodriguez said. “But I am excited about it and I am humbled by it because I know there are probably several other woman ahead of me that do more. Sometimes I think that I don’t do anything super spectacular, so it is humbling and honoring.”
But The Rising Church Pastor Steve Byers said their food bank and homeless ministry would not be what it is today without Rodriguez.
“She helped make us aware of the homeless issue,” Byers said. “And it’s amazing what has developed here.”
Rodriguez first met the local homeless men when she was walking her dog in an Olde Town park. She stopped and said, “hello.” A short time later, she started volunteering at the food pantry and she invited the homeless men to help her.
“We’re we are almost five years later and they’re still helping out,” Rodriguez said.
The week at the food bank starts on Thursdays with Rodriguez picking up anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of food from Food Bank of the Rockies. A homeless volunteer usually drives with her to help. When she gets back to the church, two to five more homeless volunteers are there to help unload the truck.
They restock the shelves and get everything ready for Saturday.
Saturday is the big day when the food bank gives away the most food.
“I try not to be stingy,” Rodriguez says about the boxes of food given out. “It’s tough swallowing pride and admitting you don’t have enough. I try to make people feel like they just came to their aunt and uncles house.”
Rodriguez said she tries to get to know each person at the food bank on a more personal level, offering them prayer for their daily needs.
“She goes over and beyond,” said Liz Parsons, who has known Rodriguez for 17 years. “She just wants to do God’s work. As a friend, it’s so uplifting and it keeps thing in perspective.”
For the homeless who hang around Olde Town, sleep on The Rising Church property and volunteer with the food bank, Rodriguez helps create a safe haven for them.
“She empowers them and she believes in them, so we all do now,” Byers said.