November was our first month in business and the shirts were not yet flying off the shelves, but we did manage to write a small check to help families in need. Business has picked up in December, so we are excited to write another, more significant check to the Crossroads group for the start of the New Year!
If you are unfamiliar with the Crossroads Urban Center – they have been around since 1966 and are one of the busiest food pantries in the areas. In addition to food, they also run a thrift store and help organize many other local projects to help fight poverty.
We talked to Glenn Bailey, Executive Director of the center, to get some more information on their mission.
What’s the one thing that most people don’t realize about the Crossroads Urban Center?
That Crossroads is more than just a food pantry. While we do operate one of Utah’s busiest food pantries at 347 S. 400 East in Salt Lake City, we also have a free/low cost Thrift Store at 1385 W. Indiana (850 S.), and we coordinate a number of community organizing/advocacy project to strike at the root causes of hunger and poverty. Over the 50 years Crossroads has been around, we’ve founded groups like Wasatch Community Gardens, the Disabled Rights Action Committee, and Utahns Against Hunger among many others.
How long have you worked at the Center? Why did you seek it out?
I’ve been the Executive Director here for over 22 years. I also worked at Crossroads in various capacities for four years in the 80’s. The first time I came here I just needed a job. I’d been doing low income neighborhood organizing in Oklahoma City, and came to believe that working with and for the poor and marginalized was what I needed to do with my life. The second time I was doing community organizing on the Southwest Side of Chicago, and they asked me to apply when they had a vacancy for the executive director. I was delighted to get the job. Crossroads is a fantastic place to work for social change.
What’s been the most rewarding moment? The most challenging?
Tough question. I think it’s rewarding for me just to be able to get up every day and go to work at a place that does meaningful things for people in need. Everyone has to make a living, but I get to make a difference while doing it. How cool is that? It’s challenging to watch people experience the grinding nature of poverty every day and see no end in sight. Fairness doesn’t even begin to enter in to it.
What’s the food/homeless issue you’d like legislators to address next session?
Medicaid expansion. This should be a no brainer, but, of course, in Utah it isn’t. This is the single biggest thing the legislature could do to improve the lives of the poorest citizens in our state, including homeless people.
What’s the single most impactful way a single Salt Laker can help out at the Center?
Donate time, money, food, clothing, or household essentials. Then contact a decision maker about public policies that combat poverty. We do charity, which is essential in our society. What we need is justice.
If you’d like to help out at the Center, call them directly at (801) 364-7765 and let them know that you want to volunteer.