With the new year comes new goals for many Gunnison Valley residents and organizations alike. However, focusing on the future often reqires recognizing past accomplishments.

Cassidy Tawse-Garcia, the new executive director of the Gunnison Country Food Pantry, knows this all too well. Garcia officially stepped into her new position Jan. 1 but started working for the food pantry in mid December.

Garcia has a burning passion to help others, and with her new position she is continuing that work. She moved to the Gunnison Valley in 2009 to live the life of a “ski bum,” enjoying the opportunities that nature had to offer. She stayed through that summer and began working with the Crested Butte Land Trust.

“The summer was so amazing that I stuck around for a while,” Garcia explained.

After moving in and out of Colorado over the next few years, Garcia decided to come back to Gunnison for graduate school at Western State Colorado University in 2014. With an anticipated graduation in 2016, Garcia organized her graduate project. She wanted to focus on how the immigrant community was being served — specifically through the food pantry. It was through this effort that Garcia’s journey with the food pantry team would begin.

Last year, Garcia began to volunteer her time at the pantry. Trying to find new ways of involving the community, Garcia suggested starting a fundraising campaign.

She saw it as an opportunity to tell the story of the pantry while getting more people involved. This past November the pantry had its first successful fundraiser, and began planning many more. With determination and an inclination to help others, it only made sense for Garcia to apply for the newly posted executive director position.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me,” Garcia explained, “to give back to the community and helping progress the food pantry.”

In previous years, there were no paid positions at the food pantry; everyone was a volunteer, but with previous Executive Director Katie Dix finishing her term, pantry leaders saw it fit to begin hiring, as the work that comes with the director post can be taxing at times.

“They wanted to hire someone who could take on the job and fill the organization to make it more robust,” Garcia stated.

After applying for the job and going through various interviews, Garcia was hired. Her background in nonprofit work and volunteering made her a perfect fit. As she begins her new role at the pantry, Garcia is thrilled to help modernize the pantry.

“I want to move the pantry to a more modern age, starting with digitizing some of our systems,” Garcia explained.

But that is not her only goal. Garcia said the pantry’s first goal, as always, is to successfully serve the recipients and reach those who are in need. Garcia would also like to focus on additional fundraising efforts in the coming years.

Last year, the pantry served about 40 households a day, equating to about 250 households each month. Overall, the pantry served more than 5,000 people and distributed 16,000 pounds of food per month.

Garcia hopes to serve more people in the community— and is ready to create new programs that will help reach others who are in need. She says the pantry is in a growing stage.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds for the pantry,” Garcia said. “It is all evolving into something new.”