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Food Bank of the Rockies the real winner at Taste of the Broncos

DENVER — Between a beverage truck and a make-shift photo booth, volunteers stood under a purple tent.

The tent, which was just yards away from tender ribs and chocolate-covered desserts, didn't draw a large crowd. There was no line that stretched 10 people deep, and there were no top-notch samples sitting on the table.

But at Tuesday night's Taste of the Broncos event, that purple tent was the most important tent of all.

That's where the Food Bank of the Rockies set up to educate Broncos fans and to recruit potential volunteers. The organization, which serves most of northern Colorado and all of Wyoming, helps more than 400,000 people annually, of which 70 percent are residents who have incomes at or below the federal poverty level.

DeMarcus Ware's reunion with his high school band headlined the night for good reason, but Taste of the Broncos also featured great food, drinks and fun to help Food Bank of the Rockies. (Photos by Ben Swanson)

Food Bank of the Rockies has been one of the Broncos' 10 flagship community partners for four years, and that status evolved into the organization becoming a beneficiary for Taste of the Broncos.

Perhaps more relevant, though, is a national program called Taste of the NFL which partners with Feeding America. Denver is one of 16 cities that hosts its own Taste event in addition to the league-wide showcase before the Super Bowl.

"They are honestly one of my favorite community partners," Broncos' Vice President of Community Development Cindy Kellogg said, "because the work is so grassroots and the impact is so immediately noticeable."

The food bank keeps its operating costs low – 96 cents of every dollar goes straight toward food distribution – but it relies heavily on donations. That's where events like Taste of the Broncos factor in: With every dollar earned by Tuesday's event, four meals can be served to those in need. And last year, the event raised $82,000 for the food bank, according to the Food Bank of the Rockies' Chief Development Officer Kim Ruotsala.

"Summer is the slowest time period for people that donate to the food bank," Ruotsala said. "It's really during the holiday season people think about the food bank and people in need.  An event like this that not only brings monetary funds but awareness to the issue of hunger right here in Colorado – you know we have one in seven individuals who are unsure where their next meal is gonna come from – so this is a huge fundraiser for us in the middle of the summer when we really need it."

That level of contribution helps carry the Food Bank of the Rockies through to the next holiday season.

Over the course of the four-year partnership, Broncos players and staff have volunteered at mobile pantry sites, and the rookies visited the food bank during a recent community day.

During that visit, the 2016 rookie class toured the facility to learn more about the organizations, but they also got to work stuffing boxes of food that would be delivered to seniors.

Safety Will Parks was one of the rookies who participated in that day, and he also volunteered his time on Tuesday to benefit the charity.

"It's very special, very special," said Parks, when asked about the Broncos' commitment to helping the Food Bank of the Rockies. "The food bank is one of the No. 1 things going on in Denver right now. [We're] helping out families that are less fortunate than others and it's a wonderful feeling [to give back]. I'm out here having fun."

Tuesday night often felt like a celebration. And to witness the excitement of the volunteers under a purple tent, it's pretty easy to see why.

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