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Schriever kids fill pantry

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), stands in front of the fully stocked shelves at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry with pantry workers and volunteers from the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids following a donation to the pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The Teens/Kids Helping Kids group held a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24 and raised more than $350 and collected 2,149 pounds of food for the pantry. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), stands in front of the fully stocked shelves at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry with pantry workers and volunteers from the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids following a donation to the pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The Teens/Kids Helping Kids group held a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24 and raised more than $350 and collected 2,149 pounds of food for the pantry. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), transfers food to Senior Airman Matthew Sarangay, 50th Contracting Squadron, during a donation drop-off at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids group during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24. The group raised more than $350 and 2,149 pounds of food to benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), transfers food to Senior Airman Matthew Sarangay, 50th Contracting Squadron, during a donation drop-off at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids group during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24. The group raised more than $350 and 2,149 pounds of food to benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander, stacks cases of canned corn outside the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The corn was part of the 2,149 pounds collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24 and will benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander, stacks cases of canned corn outside the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The corn was part of the 2,149 pounds collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24 and will benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Senior Airman Derek Guedes, 50th Contracting Squadron contract specialist, grabs a box of food to deliver to the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Through the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program, more than 2,000 pounds of food and $350 were donated to the pantry, which would help local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Senior Airman Derek Guedes, 50th Contracting Squadron contract specialist, grabs a box of food to deliver to the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Through the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program, more than 2,000 pounds of food and $350 were donated to the pantry, which would help local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

A food collection box sits in the trunk of a vehicle outside the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The box was one of several filled by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program during its spring food drive. The flyer on the front of the box was given to patrons of the Peterson Air Force Base commissary during a collection event April 23-24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

A food collection box sits in the trunk of a vehicle outside the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The box was one of several filled by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program during its spring food drive. The flyer on the front of the box was given to patrons of the Peterson Air Force Base commissary during a collection event April 23-24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

A trailer holding 2,149 pounds of food is parked next to the loading dock of the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program during its spring food drive. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

A trailer holding 2,149 pounds of food is parked next to the loading dock of the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program during its spring food drive. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), transfers food to Senior Airman Matthew Sarangay, 50th Contracting Squadron, during a donation drop-off at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids group during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24. The group raised more than $350 and 2,149 pounds of food to benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander (right), transfers food to Senior Airman Matthew Sarangay, 50th Contracting Squadron, during a donation drop-off at the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry in Ellicott, Colorado, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids group during a food drive at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary April 23-24. The group raised more than $350 and 2,149 pounds of food to benefit local families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

ELLICOTT, Colo. --  Every day, millions of Americans wonder where their next meal will come from, or if there will even be a meal that day.

According to the Hunger Site at greatergood.com, "more than 50 million Americans - including nearly 17 million children - are struggling with hunger."

Locally, the Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry has been assisting families in the community for 30 years.

"We're here to help needy people and help feed people," said Linda Thompson, Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry director. "Currently, we're assisting 75 families each month."

The pantry relies on donations to keep its shelves stocked for the families it helps feed, but on April 26 those shelves were nearly empty. Then, as volunteers gathered on the small loading dock outside the converted mobile home the pantry calls home, a trailer loaded with nearly 2,150 pounds of food pulled up.

"This is a lifesaver for us right now," Thompson said. "We were just about out (of food) and this will feed a whole lot of families for a long time."

The food was collected by the Schriever Air Force Base Teens/Kids Helping Kids program during the group's spring food drive. The program comprises Schriever youth and gives them a chance to participate in community service.

"It gives them the opportunity to serve somebody other than themselves and reach out and meet a need in the community," said Christy Sutton, one of the program's adult supervisors. "When they're helping other kids, it shows them that there's a way kids can help too. It doesn't have to be just adults."

Last fall, the group collected more than 1,500 pounds of food for Care and Share in Colorado Springs, but wanted the spring food drive to make an impact closer to home.

"Recently, it's been brought to our attention that many of our families on Schriever Air Force Base are in need of help, and Ellicott Helping Hands Food Pantry is our closest food pantry where they get supplies," said Jahnna Bythewood, 50th Operations Group senior spouse.

Donation boxes were posted around the base through most of April, and group members were taking donations outside the commissary at Peterson Air Force Base April 23-24. There was a table posted at both the entrance and exit. The group at the entrance gave shoppers a flyer explaining the group and what food was needed, while the exit group collected the purchased food.

Thompson said the group serves as an "inspiration to care about needy people" for other youth in the community.

"I like giving back to the community and I've always liked volunteering," said group member Mikayla Mobley, 16, during the collection at Peterson. "It shows that kids can also make a difference."

In addition to the food, the group also raised $351 in cash donations for the pantry.

Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander, helped drop off the donation and had high praise for the efforts of Teens/Kids Helping Kids.

"You are making a difference in our community and I just want to say thank you for being so awesome," she said.

Tierra Vista Communities also made a donation as its volunteer group raised $1,000 for the Ellicott School District.

"The Ellicott School District is an important service in our community, and we're proud to support it," said Jerry Schmitz, senior vice president and regional project director for Tierra Vista Communities. "Our partnership with Ellicott is ongoing, and we're glad to help them whenever we can, however we can."

With the combined food and monetary donations, Thompson said the pantry will be able to be a little more generous with its assistance and that the current food stores should last for at least a year.

"We're really thankful," she said. "This is a big blessing for us."