Spring 2021 Magazine

Denver Dream Center utilizes empty arena parking lots to distribute, serve food to community

With the NBA playoffs taking place in a “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and the NHL playoffs being played in the “hub cities” of Edmonton and Toronto, there are a lot of empty parking lots at arenas across the country. The Denver Dream Center is taking advantage of that space to serve its city.

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Each Friday, the Denver Dream Center is meeting at the Pepsi Center — home of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche — to hand out and distribute up to 300,000 pounds of food. Roughly 60 to 70 volunteers gather for “Food Fridays” to unload food from six to eight semi-trucks. The huge pallets of boxed produce, meat and milk are then prepped and divvied up so they can be handed out to any family that drives through the Pepsi Center parking lot. Food is also put on trucks from local nonprofits, like the Food Bank of the Rockies, who come through to collect food they can distribute in local neighborhoods.

“The food line has exploded,” says Bryan Sederwall, the DDC’s executive director and lead pastor. “We probably had 200 to 300 cars come through last Friday. And it just breaks your heart. It’s a lot of moms with like six kids in the back seat, and they’ll pull up and just have tears in their eyes. And we [give them] fresh produce, milk and then boxes of meat. We just stack them in their cars.”

The food comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Farmers to Families Food Box” program, which is funded through the $3 billion allocated to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. There are sites set up all over the country similar to the one in Denver.

This Friday (8 a.m. to noon) will mark the third such distribution day at the Pepsi Center, and Sederwall anticipates the operation continuing through October. Expected to join the DDC volunteers this Friday are Denver mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Police chief Paul Pazen. Former NFL player Jordan Norwood, who serves on the board for the DDC, is also expected to be on hand. Sederwall said former NBA players Rodney White and Jason Richardson have helped out with his events in the past, as have current Denver Broncos players Todd Davis and Justin Simmons.

“We have a lot of sports figures that we utilize and give them a space to serve, hand out food, take pictures and we make it a party in the parking lot. It’s about food but it’s a lot bigger than that,” Sederwall said.

The use of the Pepsi Center parking lot came through Sederwall’s connections to many of Denver’s pro sports franchises. He had been talking to Colorado Rockies owner Charlie Monfort, a good friend, about using a parking lot at Coors Field, but too much was still up in the air regarding the MLB season. Sederwall and the DDC also works a lot with Kroenke Sports, which owns the Nuggets, Avalanche and Pepsi Center, so the area surrounding the arena became the operation’s home base.

The Denver Dream Center is a “community of resilient people whose lives have been redeemed by God’s love, who share that love with others to transform and restore broken lives to wholeness.” The organization’s vision is to “bring hope to the hopeless” and its mission is to “rescue people, rebuild lives and restore dreams.”

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