When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, some people like to take the bull by the horns, from carving out goals to following through. Dive in. Go big or go home. You might say Kelly Mahoney is one of those people. The Executive Director of Longmont Food Rescue woke up New Year’s Day in 2017 with decision and purpose: she was going to start a non-profit–one which would simultaneously address pressing issues of food insecurity and food waste while supporting and building community. On Monday, January 2, 2017 Kelly submitted the application for non-profit status. The reason for the slight delay of one day? It wasn’t the holiday. Rather, applications weren’t accepted on Sundays.
Lest the context of new year resolutions convey the sense that Kelly Mahoney jumped into her big endeavor hastily, know that the ideas behind the creation of Longmont Food Rescue were long in the making. Kelly spent most of 2016 researching, learning, and reaching out to local role models, while adjusting to life as a new mom and putting her career as an engineer on hold. What’s more, you might say Kelly’s whole life had been steadily guiding her to this point.
As a child growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Kelly cultivated unique, personal understanding and perspective on both what it means to be hungry and the powerful potential of community. She recalls early awareness of the struggles her mother undertook in raising Kelly and her brother as a single parent. “Some of my early, formative memories are of my mother dumpster diving so we could eat,” Kelly says. “That really stuck.”
When Kelly was in fourth grade, her mother’s family banded together to open a restaurant. It was a close-knit family business, and offered the true definition of home-cooking. In order for it to succeed, everyone moved in together, making Kelly’s home a 4-generation household. “There were ten of us,” Kelly says. “Great-grandparents, grandparents, my aunt, cousin, my mom, my brother, and me. It got a little tight sometimes, but looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
At home and at work, everyone had jobs. Kelly’s grandmother took care of dinners while her mother and aunt worked evenings at the restaurant. For the kids, it was always very clear that the primary job was learning and school. “My great-grandmother was all about family, 100%,” Kelly says. “My family took on the goal of making something, and it was really always about us children, about creating the opportunity for us to thrive.”
Kelly worked hard at school, but education came from the restaurant too, as well as from the inspiring teamwork and dedication exemplified by her family. “My family paid me when I worked at the restaurant,” Kelly says. “I was taught about money, saving, the value of money, the meaning of work.” Kelly took on all types of work at the restaurant over the years–cooking, serving, cleaning. All the while, she nurtured appreciation for the connection between money and food, and how intertwined the two can be. “I got a glimpse into lives of customers, and how people can really struggle,” she says.
After graduating college, Kelly left Pennsylvania to pursue a graduate degree in mathematics at University of Arizona. There, she worked with the local faith community to bring life-saving supplies to those in towns along the Mexican-US border. Upon earning her degree, she accepted a job with Lockheed Martin and moved to Boulder. Once again, she found herself both drawn to volunteering and called to the kitchen. This time, she volunteered at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. Alongside this involvement, she discovered Boulder Food Rescue. “I was seriously inspired by their grassroots organization, now serving thousands every week,” Kelly says.
Kelly was so inspired by Boulder Food Rescue, she reached out to the team, eager to learn more. Executive Director Hayden Dansky and her team were more than obliging, welcoming the opportunity to share and advise over the past two years and ongoing. “Everyone has been wonderful, and a crucial part of getting Longmont Food Rescue off the ground,” Kelly says. “We talked on the phone, met in person. [Hayden] was pivotal in forming and advising.”
To imply that the journey establishing Longmont Food Rescue was smooth would be inaccurate. It took exceptional focus and hard work. All the while, Kelly was managing on little sleep, navigating a precious, new and evolving family situation. “My son was a terrible sleeper from day one,” she says. “I couldn’t perform at my engineering job on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, and we made the tough decision for me to stay home. It was difficult, but it was also the perfect opportunity for me to start a new project on my own time, setting my own hours.”
Since establishing Longmont Food Rescue, Kelly has worked tirelessly round the clock, organizing her team, which is currently 100% volunteer, including herself. Somehow she maintains a seemingly endless supply of inspired, positive energy and momentum, dedicated to supporting our community and prioritizing the changing needs of her family. Is it sustainable? For anyone but Kelly Mahoney, the answer would be more easily, no. Yet alongside being a strong individual who can achieve all she sets her mind to, Kelly grew up with a powerful respect and understanding for the meaning behind the phrase, “it takes a village”. Volunteers are always needed. Many volunteers. Find out how you can contribute by visiting Longmont Food Rescue’s website today.
Thank you, Kelly, for all you do to support, inspire, and nourish our community!
LWL: You have more than a full plate. How do you fit fitness into your personal routines?
Kelly: I like running and mountain biking and fit it in where I can. That fluctuates week to week at this point.
LWL: How do you prioritize active living as a whole family?
Kelly: Family is number one. Bicycling is a big part of our family life and significant for Longmont Food Rescue–we deliver food by bike frequently. We can’t park vehicles in our garage because there are so many bicycles. It fits into being environmentally conscious and also getting exercise.
LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating as a family?
Kelly: I love cooking and eating vegetables…so my family is stuck eating healthy.
LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Kelly: The community. We have really passionate activists here in Longmont.
LWL: What would you like to see in Longmont’s healthy future?
Kelly: There is so much food waste occurring here–it’s not just national, it’s right here in our community, just like hunger. I would love to see continued, sustainable efforts to make positive change.