“It’s my turn to give back.” | Small Town Project

When Duane Gurulé co-founded Small Town Project in 2019, he had an entirely different vision of what the project would look like.

“We had a specific focus on creating a rural IT workforce in Rocky Ford,” said Duane, now the Development Director of Small Town Project. “But when Covid came, it really showed us the need for food [in the area].”

With folks now unable to participate in their IT program and unable to drive to La Junta or Pueblo for groceries, Duane and his team pivoted from providing workforce development training to providing food assistance. And the program quickly expanded.

“We went from having food on one shelf, to one room, to two rooms, to our whole office being a food pantry,” Duane told us.

The team had to move twice to find enough space for their growing operation and have been in their current location since November of 2022. Neighbors can now visit the pantry weekly and either receive a box of produce and shelf stable foods, or shop and pick what they want from the shelves.

Small Town Project is an especially meaningful project for Duane, who moved between Denver and Rocky Ford as a child.

“Rocky Ford raised me,” said Duane. “It was my safe space.”

After going to college in Denver and moving around the state, Duane eventually moved back to Rocky Ford – this time with his wife and kids. And now he’s proud to help the community that helped him as a child.

“We went to food pantries as kids, and those programs are what helped me through life,” Duane said. “It’s my turn to give back.”

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