Laramie Interfaith is celebrating its new space, new name and excitement for the future with a Fall Festival Today at its new location by LaBonte Park on Canby Street.
For the last 30 years, the nonprofit went by the name Interfaith-Good Samaritan and had its administrative offices and food pantry on two different levels of the Laramie Plains Civic Center.
The new name and location, executive director Mike Vercauteren said, are steps toward “building a foundation for the next 30 years.”
“We’re making some changes, but more importantly, we want to tell people that we’re going to be a part of Laramie for the next 30 years,” Vercauteren said. “We’re going to be here, and we’re going to continue to do what we do.”
The Fall Festival features free barbecue from the Butcher Block and Forbidden Pig and the Laramie Jubilee Days royalty will be serving food, hosting stick barrel races and giving out prizes to children. Swing dancing lessons will also be available from the Laramie Swing Dancing Club, and Interfaith will be closing Canby between Seventh and Eighth streets for a block-party feel.
Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon will be in attendance as part of her platform fighting childhood hunger statewide and Fall Festival event coordinator Lisa McElwee said the nonprofit is “really excited” to have her “share the day with us.”
The grand opening also includes the Sue Wedel Run, Walk, Wheel fundraiser, which Vercauteren said Interfaith has been hosting for decades. The charity run is named in honor of one of the very first Interfaith board members in 1989, Sue Wedel. Usually held in the spring, Interfaith decided to postpone the event to coincide with the Fall Festival.
For those who don’t want to run the 5K race or take a leisurely 3K walk but still want to donate, there is also a “slacker’s run” 0.5K run available. The 0.5K “slacker’s run” requires a larger donation to Interfaith, McElwee said, but participants receive a t-shirt, medal and more without having to put in as much physical effort.
“They’re going to get faux-mosas and eat donuts,” she added. “We’re going to get a picture of them crossing the finish line.”
Tours of the new building, which features a larger food pantry, donation sorting area and more, will also be available.
“We wanted to welcome the community to come and see our new facility, come take a look at it,” McElwee said.
Although the grand opening is today, the nonprofit has been operating in the building since August 1. Vercauteren said the first month has already shown to have a big impact and it’s been “amazing to see the number of people that are coming to us now.”
“We used to average about 150 people coming through our door in a week, and it’s up to over 250,” he said. “Last week was over 250 people again that came through our doors seeking help.”
While the food pantry is a big part of Interfaith’s operation, Vercauteren said It’s the nonprofit’s rent assistance and other homelessness prevention programs that take most of its resources.
The new space not only helps connect those in need to the food pantry but to case managers and social workers that help more comprehensively with poverty as well.
“What we’re finding is that we can really function more completely as an organization and help people more fully,” he said.
The Fall Festival will also highlight 14 of Interfaith’s community partners who help the nonprofit fight poverty in Albany County.
“The problems that we address in Albany County, the problems associated with poverty in the county, it’s not Interfaith’s problem, it’s a community problem,” Vercauteren said. “Our partners are going to be here to say, ‘Hey we’re all in this together,’ and I’m really proud of that.”