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Fort Lewis College Veterans Club cooks chili for the homeless

Effort marks club’s first community outreach

Jake Yost isn’t much of a cook, but he was all in Monday helping to organize a meal for the Durango Community Shelter in an effort to give back to those who need it most.

Tim Baxter, who lives at the shelter while attending Fort Lewis College, was credited as the cook for the meal. Yost, the president of the FLC Veterans Club, said it was a joint effort between the Veterans Club and the FLC lacrosse team. Funds from the Veterans Club were used to supply food for the meal.

“We were trying to do something to give back to the community with the club’s savings,” said Yost, a former corpsman in the Navy who has played lacrosse for the past two years. “One of the statistics that stood out to me when I heard it was that 22 veterans commit suicide per day, so we’re out here to do anything we can to help.”

It was the first community outreach initiative put into motion by the Veterans Club.

Yost said he cares about the veteran population and homelessness issues in Durango.

Rainy Fox brought canvas bags adorned with veteran-themed words and phrases for use by homeless residents. The bags were donated by the Grub Hub, a student organization the runs a food pantry on campus.

“We were just looking for something to do with the community,” Fox said.

People at the shelter expressed plans to leave and reintegrate back into society.

Michael Barela, an FLC student, was living out of his car and needed a place to stay after a housing situation fell through, so he decided to seek refuge at the shelter. He is a 1990-96 Gulf War veteran and is on track to graduate in the winter.

Durango Community Shelter, 1055 Avenida del Sol, is part of Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. For more information, visit www.voacolorado.org.

Barela, who helped cook, works as a bus driver for Durango School District 9-R and FLC, and will move to Farmington, hopefully with a new housing situation, after the winter to complete student teaching.

Another shelter resident, Ron Fuller, said he has been there for three weeks, but he plans to leave as well.

“They’ve helped me out pretty good,” he said. “The staff around here is very good. I eat here and down at Manna every day and every night, but I go to town all the time.”

Fuller plans to pan for gold in the mountains.

Curtis Willis, who lived at the shelter for seven months, heard about it from Barela, who is helping him move to subsidized housing in Farmington.

“Overall they do a real good job, ... but could be a little more strict,” he said.

Lindsay Noisom, who advises the Veterans Club, said it was the first community outreach from the club.

“Michael was the inspiration this time, and we’re always looking for more funding for these kinds of things,” she said.

fstone@durangoherald.com This story has been updated to correct several inaccuracies. Parts of the story that should have been attributed to Michael Barela were originally inaccurately attributed to Tim Baxter. Also, Yost was a corpsman in the Navy. Only the Veterans Club paid for the meal, and Rainy Fox’s first name was misspelled.

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