Food Bank Director, Pefe Duran, found himself injured and
unable to return to work in the mines more than 21 years ago.
For a short time he was a recipient of public services designed
to help the unemployed and poor. Then, Pefe says, he “thought
to do something,” and saw his way out of the bind he
found himself in.
“I applied for money to start a food bank,” Pefe
said , as he waited for a truckload of goods to arrive from
Salt Lake City last month for distribution to today’s
unemployed and poor. “I was in the same boat as these
people are. I ended up with a 20-year job.”
Pefe has run the food bank all these years with notable success.
The Association of Local Governments was the initial source
of funding to open the food bank, and at that time, Pefe said,
the need for a food bank in Moab was thought to be a temporary
thing. The Association gave him an eight-month trial run.
But mining never rebounded, and no other single industry has
replaced what once gainfully employed people 20 years ago.
The service industry regularly turns out hundreds of workers
at this time of year to make do, move or get by until the
tourists return in April. For many, it’s a long, hard
“Every year the number of people who use the food bank
has been growing,” Pefe said. “The last two years
it has grown more than other years. We serve 140 to 170 people
a month during the summer, but in winter it jumps to 260 to
Food bank guidelines for eligibility follow criteria based
on income and household size. Families must meet the State
guidelines in order to receive services. If they qualify,
families can go to the food bank once a month for a box of
food that may include cereal, canned goods, beans, and often,
household supplies and goodies donated by local markets. Pefe’s
right hand at the food bank is his daughter, Ruby Robinson,
who began working at the food bank as a volunteer herself
17 years ago. Specific numbers for use of the food bank, and
other services offered through the food bank, roll off her
tongue as if she were running her own household. And her friendly
demeanor and natural compassion are further evidence that
for her, providing services for the area’s poor is more
than just a job.
“We will often refer people to other agencies if they
need something we can’t provide,” Ruby said. “We
work closely with the Department of Workforce Service, Seekhaven
Family Resource Center and the Grand County Housing Authority.
And we also provide other services right here.”
services include administration of the HEAT Program, a statewide
public utility assistance program that can help families who
qualify to pay their heating bills often through April. There
are funds available for emergencies, such as imminent utility
disconnection, evictions and prescription medication. Pefe
is bilingual, which offers access to Moab’s growing
The HEAT program begins Nov. 3 and generally serves 400 to
500 families in Moab each year. Housing and financial assistance
is intended for use on a one-time basis only; however, Ruby
said anyone might reapply for those funds after 18 months.
Pefe is a 40-year resident of Moab, hailing from Colorado
to work in Moab during the uranium boom. He raised three children
here, including Ruby and Moab resident Judy Keogh. Ruby has
raised three daughters of her own here, ranging in age from
22 to 29.
While the need for help
with food and heat continues in Moab, there is a concurrent
generosity here, Pefe said, that meets those needs. Local
churches, the Boy Scouts, mail carriers, the Alpha Rho Sorority
and other civic clubs contribute to the food bank regularly,
as does City Market and many individuals. Those contributions
come in the form of money and food, Pefe said, and increase
with need and the spirit of the holidays at Thanksgiving and
“This is a generous community,” he said, “a
community that takes care of its own people. Even if we run
low, and occasionally go out to the people and ask for help,
in no time our shelves are stocked again.”
Pefe smiles grandly. “This is a community that takes
care of the needy.”
The food bank
is open Monday 9 a.m. to Noon, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located
at 58 N. 100 East, and can be reached by calling 259-6362.