Food Box Program Provides Over 60,000 Meals for COVID-19 Relief

Franklin D. Azar & Associates Joins a Growing List of Supporters
Mt. Carmel Wellness and Community Center
announced the continuation of their food box program, now in its second year, with the
latest sponsor to come on board, Franklin D. Azar and Associates. The much-needed
support comes to the aid of struggling families and residents affected by COVID-19,
fulfilling the immediate need for nutritious food.
Colorado is a rich state with a surplus of food, but high levels of economic inequality
create vast disparities in food access, as seen in Las Animas County. Mt. Carmel’s
mission is to provide health and wellness access to the underserved populations in
Trinidad, and to lead efforts to have Las Animas County rank in the top 50% of the 64
counties in Colorado for best health outcomes by 2030. Currently, Las Animas County
places the lowest of the 6o ranked counties in Colorado for overall health outcome ranking,
according to the Population Health Institute, with four counties not ranked.

Mt. Carmel Community Center Manager Ashley DiPaola conceived the food box program
in March 2020, which was made possible by initial seed funding from the El Pomar
Foundation. Within three weeks, the food box distribution went from 10 boxes per week to
30 boxes per week to meet requests from local residents. Subsequent supporters include
COVID-19 relief grants, United Way of Pueblo, Catholic Diocese DHS Food Pantry
Assistance, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, San Isabel Electronic Association, Basin
Electric Power Cooperative and Franklin D. Azar, as well as by individuals and local
businesses. The program’s goal was to provide food to individuals who were most affected
by the pandemic. Now, one year later, the community is still in need, with 60% of the
residents in Las Animas County on a food assistance program. By the end of 2021, Mt.
Carmel will distribute over 60,000 total meals as a result of the program.
“When we began to discuss the idea for the program last year, I kept thinking, why only do
one or two meals per person when we could create something more impactful? That’s when
we developed the idea of weekly food boxes,” said DiPaola. “When it first started, people
were walking miles from their homes just to get a food box.”

Items for the food boxes are sourced from local vendors and delivered weekly on Mondays.
Within hours, Mt. Carmel’s staff pack the food boxes and distribution takes place on
Tuesdays with contactless pickup. Delivery is also available for individuals without

The program supports anyone in need of food, including seniors, veterans and families,
and is actively promoted in area churches, schools and by Salud Family Health. DiPaola
notes one grateful woman who was about to spend her last ten dollars on food for her
children when she received her first food box.

“We had initially expected this program to be temporary at the start of COVID-19;
however, as the pandemic continues, the need has not diminished,” said DiPaola. “We are
so humbled to be able to continue to help the community in this way.”
Each box includes enough food to prepare six meals for a family of four, 24 individual
meals per box. Several types of meat, an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, a week’s worth of cereals, milk, bread, eggs and other nutritious meal components are provided in each box, as well as healthy recipes to utilize the ingredients. Food boxes also come with several non-food items such as toothbrushes, floss, puzzles, learning resources for children, and more. Boxes weigh nearly 50 pounds each, and at an average cost of $100 – $120 per box.

Azar, founder of Franklin D. Azar &Associates and a Trinidad native, has a longstanding
commitment to southern Colorado and recently became involved in the food box program
after seeing its widespread impact. Azar has offices in Denver, Denver Tech Center,
Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Trinidad.
In addition to its food box program, Mt. Carmel is continuing to offer a variety of virtual
and free innovative wellness and nutrition programs to help address the root causes of
healthcare access inequality, and will be expanding with the opening of the Mt. Carmel-
Salud Holistic Health Center this summer. Most recently, a new Walking Club has been
created, which will meet for the first time on April 14 th at Fishers Peak State Park. Mt.
Carmel is also working to bring more veteran-focused health and wellness offerings to
Trinidad. The effort is a result of a strengthened partnership with its sister non-profit, Mt.
Carmel Veterans Service Center located in Colorado Springs, and with Bill Phillips of Fort
Wooten and Veteran Service Officer for Las Animas County, Ray Odum.
If you would like to learn more about the Mt. Carmel food box program, please call 719-
845-4875. Visit Mt. Carmel’s website at to learn more about program
offerings, upcoming events and to donate.
Mt. Carmel Wellness and Community Center, in partnership with Salud Family Health, is
blazing the future of healthcare in Trinidad by integrating physical, behavioral and dental
health with wellness programming and, now, holistic healthcare.
A wide variety of wellness programs are offered, including the prevention and management
of chronic disease, weight loss, tobacco cessation, exercise, substance abuse and much
more. Mt. Carmel Wellness and Community Center is located at 911 Robinson Avenue,
Trinidad, CO 81082.