Snow Bowl team continues to serve meals to the community it loves
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The days when customers walked through the front door of the Snow Bowl seem like a distant memory to chef Pete List.
On Friday morning, former Snow Bowl employees Jon-Claude “JC” Stevens, Sean Hengstler and Brandon Bailey, who up until a few weeks ago were being paid, joined List in the kitchen to create the daily Family Bowl dinner offering, which included black-eyed peas succotash, collard greens, grits and banana bread.
The crew was expecting to hand out about 300 meals between 5 and 7 p.m. — something they have been doing seven days a week since March 23 as a way to help those suffering from the sweeping effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started out right around a hundred meals a day,” List said. “And right now, we are up to around 300 a day.”
A few days after a public health order closed down Snow Bowl, List brought the idea of serving free meals to the community to Meryl Meranski and her brother Joel, who run the business for Western Centers, Inc.
“We decided to call it Family Bowl, which is a little bit of a play in the words of Snow Bowl,” Meryl Meranski said. “Just like everyone else, we had to lay off our hourly employees, and we just felt for all the service industry — folks in resort towns and really everywhere who couldn’t afford to have a nice hot meal every day.”
“With 80% of the people here in the service industry, whether they are seasonal or live here year-round, when this town shuts down, people still need to eat,” List said.
The Family Bowl program provides a fully cooked meal to anyone who might need it and is the only entity preparing meals for people daily.
“We don’t turn anybody away,” List said. “So even if you drive into our parking lot in a brand new car, we assume that you need to eat just like everybody else.”
Steamboat Resort has been providing an average of 200 meals a day to community members, and since the program began, a total of about 2,000 meals have been handed out.
The meals are handed out from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“The resort obviously has resources, and we’re trying to put those resources out there,” said Loryn Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “As long as the resources are available and the demand is needed in our community, we will continue. We do know for sure we’ll do it next week, and then, we’ll look at it again for the resources available for the week after that and continue down that road.”
In addition to handing out meals, the resort has donated food to LiftUp of Routt County, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and Routt County Council on Aging for its Meals on Wheels program.
“There’s so much need in our community,” Duke added. “We serve the community as a recreational facility, we employ so many of our community members and we saw the need to support our neighbors and our families and our friends and our co-workers, and this was the opportunity available to us.”
The resort also has teamed up with Alpine Taxi to deliver food to clients of Horizons Specializes Services in Steamboat and Hayden.
The Family Bowl program has kept List and his former employees busy in the weeks since the business closed. He is still getting paid, but the three other guys in his kitchen volunteer their time and are happy to get a little tip money from those passing through.
“The most rewarding thing is the notes that we get,” Bailey said. “We are actually thinking about getting a tattoo of one of them.”
All of the men have been thrilled with the support they are receiving from the community in the way of food donations from restaurants that had to close their doors and from local ranchers who want to support the industry they used to supply. In addition, $22,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe page that will be used to keep the Family Bowl program’s efforts alive as long as there is a need.
“There is no place I would rather be right now,” said Stevens, who has been working at Snow Bowl since it reopened in March of last year. “I enjoy being home with my family, but these guys are my family too. In the last month we have become really tight-knit, and we work really hard together to get some great food out to people who need it that are in the same situation as us.”
Hengstler lost all three of his jobs when things shut down in March, but he would rather give his time than worry about what he has lost.
“I got my last check from the mountain a week ago, so I think I will have to start working on getting unemployment next week,” said Hengstler, who volunteers between eight and 10 hours, six days a week. “I’ve been in this town for 30 years, and most of the people that go through this line are people that I know from the food and beverage industry. It’s rewarding to feed this town. I love this town.”
Bailey also lost his job but not his desire to stay in the kitchen.
“I was working between here, the whiskey distillery (Steamboat Whiskey Co.) and Mambo (Italiano),” Bailey said. “Then all this happened, and everything shut down. This was a good way to use our time and help the community.”
“It’s exceeded my expectations,” List said of the support Family Bowl has received. “I think we’re going to do it as long as it’s needed and is sustainable. When people stop coming, that’s when we will stop making the food.”
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