LOUISVILLE, Colo. — While you can find volunteers everyday at Community Food Share in Louisville, Fridays draw a special crowd.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a small group of volunteers from the Kobu Foundation have come to the food bank every Friday to fill dozens of food boxes and bags and then deliver them to those in need in the Boulder area.
It’s an idea founder Kai Suematsu says started small but grew quickly.
“In the first month after the pandemic we had delivered a hundred meals, and now, we are over 100,000 meals delivered,” he said.
Tackling the issue of hunger seems obvious to Suematsu.
“Why is this a problem? Why do we still have people that are hungry when we produce so much food and we waste so much food?” Suematsu asks. “So, how can we make that connection? Can we be a part of that solution.”
Kobu may have only started at the beginning of the pandemic, but the idea to help those who are food insecure was not new to Suematsu or his friends Jamal Giornazi and Samariddin Melibouv when they started studying at CU. Suematsu, Giornazi and Melibouv have been putting their heads together since their days at Denver's George Washington High School, laying out their college path together in the Denver Scholarship Foundation's Future Center while also figuring out ways to feed the world.
“We started Denver Club of Humanities,” Melibouv said. “That was like a hunger relief organization that was redirecting food waste, but now it’s a food delivery assistance program.”
Giornazi is astonished by what they’ve been able to accomplish in the last year.
“To me, 100,000 meals, over 100,000 meals actually, and the amount of time we’ve done it — since the beginning of COVID, more or less — is insane for the how small of an organization we actually are,” Giornazi said.
“They’ve been such a great help for us, especially during the pandemic,” CEO Kim Disilva said.
Disilva is also impressed by the dedication of volunteers who are younger than those they regularly see.
“A lot of times when you see volunteers, they’re old in age and they’re wanting to give back,” DiSilva said. “And now having college kids and say ‘we see that there’s an issue within our community and we want to band together to really help that out’ is really amazing.”
These days, Suematsu, Giornazi and Melibouv are making plans for their life after college, not only for themselves but also the foundation they’ve created.
“Our goal is to be able to keep this going or pass it along to others who are inspired to do this work,” Melibouv said.
“It’s always refreshing to see the impact we have and how nice of a feeling it actually is,” Giornazi said.
But until they get to graduation day, you will find the founding members of the Kobu Foundation doing what they do best: being part of a circle of giving back.
“It makes me feel like I have something to work toward every day, every Friday,” Suematsu said. “Something I’m inspired by.”
Kai, Sam and Jamal all worked with DSF’s Future Center at George Washington High School when it was time to apply for college and scholarships. DSF operates Future Centers at high schools throughout Denver to inspire and empower student to enroll in and graduate from postsecondary institutions of higher education by providing them with the tools, knowledge, and financial resources they need for success.
The Kobu Foundation now funds its own scholarship designed specifically for students who make a difference in their community.