If team members at Justin’s (Boulder, Colo.) ever had doubts about the wisdom of partnering with Conscious Alliance in the fight to strengthen communities through food security, those doubts surely would have been dispelled as 2021 drew to a close. That’s when members of both teams found themselves reeling from a 1,600-acre fire that broke out Dec. 30, leveling hundreds of structures and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, some of them much more accustomed to helping than needing help.
Penny Andino, who serves as vice president of marketing for Justin’s, was among them. She and her family had to leave their home behind during what has been called the worst Colorado wildfire in recent history.
“I was upstairs getting some coffee and chatting with my husband for a second, and we started noticing the light in the house was really strange,” she says.
When the Andinos went outside to investigate, they were met with thick clouds of smoke and a situation they never thought they’d encounter. The same holds true for team members at Conscious Alliance, a longtime community service partner of Justin’s.
“We ended 2021 walking out the doors Thursday evening, the 30th, with smoke billowing over and later that evening, an evacuation order from our new national distribution center that we just opened last year,” says Justin Levy, executive director of Conscious Alliance.
Crises tend not to rattle the Boulder nonprofit, but this one was personal – it hurt in a different way. “This is our community,” he says. “So it’s really close to home.”
After sleeping a few hours during the night, Levy received a call from Hormel Foods, the parent company of Justin’s. “Are you OK?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked, following up with, “How can we help?”
Hormel Foods, which expanded the partnership with Conscious Alliance after purchasing the Justin’s nut butter company in 2016, made emergency donations of money and food to aid Boulder residents.
“I’ve always been grateful for Conscious Alliance, and I feel like I’ve known intimately some of the work that they’ve done, but it’s like [another] level when your friends and family are supported,” says Julie Person, a volunteer nurse in Boulder.
Andino, who has worked with Conscious Alliance for years, has also known “what a great organization” it is, but when she found herself in need of the very services her company helps Conscious Alliance deliver, it was an eye-opener for her.
“They were so swift to act, and you just see firsthand the difference they make when people are in complete need,” she says.
For his part, Levy is grateful to be able to help.
“I feel really fortunate that Conscious Alliance has almost 20 years’ experience providing compassionate care and being there for community and uplifting community,” he says. “It’s the least we can do to give back.”