The Struggle of Love Foundation: Showing Our Love to Save Our Lives

The Struggle of Love Foundation: Showing Our Love to Save Our Lives

The Struggle of Love Foundation: Showing Our Love to Save Our Lives

By Zilingo Nwuke

It’s no surprise after 15 years of serving and supporting Denver communities, LaKeshia and Joel Hodge are providing “Sacks Of Love” through a drive-thru food pantry helping residents in need during this COVID-19 crisis.

Located in the Montbello community, the pantry operates Monday through Friday providing delivery service to Denver’s most vulnerable residents – the elderly and disabled – and anyone else in need.

Since March 14 the Struggle of Love (S.O.L.) founders have been organizing and operating this much needed service while hoping to decrease the spread of the virus. “I’d say we have seen more 20,000 people come through the food pantry,” said Executive Director LaKeshia Hodge.

Determined to make it happen, S.O.L. partnered with Food Bank of the Rockies, Families Forward Resource Center, Academy 360, Denver Rescue Mission, Montbello Organizing Committee and the City and County of Denver. Collectively, they have kept the pantry stocked, and with committed volunteers, maintained a delivery service.

LaKeshiaIt wasn’t easy at first. Lakeisha and husband Joel took on the task of operating and funding this undertaking by themselves – initially buying all the food.  

The Hodges created Struggle of Love out of personal experiences with homelessness. They use that experience to help identify and offer services they feel would have been valuable to them during that extremely difficult time.

“Our goal is, and will always be, to give back to the community in areas of struggle,” said Founder Joel Hodge. “And what better way and time than now, to show love as this virus is ravaging through our communities and killing our people?”

As the food pantry started picking up and help was needed, they reached out to their sponsors who assisted in getting it where it is now.

“Things picked up pretty quickly. The need grew really fast, but with the volunteer base and everybody just helping out, it has really been a smooth operation,” said LaKeshia. “I’m really appreciative of all the volunteers. They come every day; we can count on them!”

Out of concern and safety for everyone involved of contracting the virus, extensive safety measures are in place in the 3,000 square foot facility; allowing for adequate social distancing. All volunteers are provided with the proper PPE and the space is disinfected each night. Individuals picking up food are not allowed in the building.

Sacks of Love are prepared with fresh produce (fruits and veggies), a variety of meats, bread, cakes, can goods, rice, and beans. And when available, water, milk and eggs are distributed. “It’s a simple process to receive a Sack of Love,” said LaKeshia. “Just drive up with a mask on, sign a simple questionnaire and a volunteer will load the food in the vehicle,” she said who is prepared to continue this “special pandemic” drive-thru food services as long as it’s needed.

The Hodge’s are not strangers to helping communities and giving back. The dynamic duo has been recognized locally and nationally as being a strong organization for community outreach.

In 2005, the nonprofit Struggle of Love was created to provide community awareness, involvement and social activities, for disadvantaged youth and families. Since then, S.O.L. has been a tower of strength in the Park Hill, Montbello and Green Valley Ranch communities.

“We spread love. That’s what we do,” said LaKeshia Hodge, also the CEO, “So, whatever that looks like, meeting the needs of the people, whatever that may be, we try to be there to bridge the gaps and spread the love in our community.”

S.O.L. was built from the ground up.  The Hodges’ made the right connections and made something out of nothing. It began as a fundraiser for the funeral for a family friend’s daughter and S.O.L. skyrocketed and turned nothing into noble. What started out as a blessing for someone else also became a blessing for the Hodges. 

LaKeshia and Joel met under difficult circumstances in 1999. Having already experienced a hard life and finding a way out of it, they knew what people in these situations were going through and what was needed to help them.

S.O.L. started with their annual Reach for Peace picnic 15 years ago and since then has added events annually. “We started with a community picnic that is now duplicated in other communities,” said Joel. “We basically provide a “wraparound” service. Any service that we cannot provide through our organization we lean on our partners to fill in those gaps,” said LaKeshia. “Whatever we can’t do, we make sure that we can find a resource that will be able to assist the need that someone is experiencing.” 

In addition to their most successful program, the Reach For Peace Picnic which draws 800 people every year, SOL provides a multitude of annual events or programs that are all either free or very affordable. 

LaKeshia and Joel Hodge hopes to one day expand. “That goal is past, present and future. We want to hire a team but have been challenged with access to funding. So, the same goal that existed in the past, exist today and is going to exist in the future,” said LaKeshia.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a Love Center,” said Joel, “for youth who don’t integrate into rec centers well, don’t integrate at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, in other words, the forgotten youth. It would be a safe haven for them.”

There are always disadvantaged youth who are in need of some type of assistance and sadly, there will always be youth in this position.  Fortunately, the Hodges are working to do something about it..

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know could use a “Sack of Love” stop by the food pantry 12000 E. 47th Ave. in Denver. To volunteer, donate or for more information about S.O.L., visit call 720-353-3399.