Gluten Free Community and the Spirit of Giving

This week I was made aware of 2 great endeavors in the gluten free community. The holiday season is traditionally a time to think and act in a charitable manner. As great as it would be if we did that year round, please take a moment now to check these out. Do what you can. If neither of these speak to you-then find something that does, and make a difference. Give time, money, effort-whatever it takes.

The first is from Gluten Free Dee (Dee Valdez) who has taken on the call of getting gluten free food into food banks. This is the press release, and for the original story and links please visit Dee’s blog.

Nationwide Movement To Get Gluten Free Food Into Food Banks Begins In Loveland Colorado

“There is a great need to develop a systematic approach to establishing Gluten Free Food Banks across the nation,” says Dee Valdez, who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 17 years ago. About 15 years ago, Valdez remembers talking to a mother with a sick 7 year old who had Celiac Disease. The exasperated mom said she had to choose between feeding her whole family or just feeding her sick daughter the very expensive gluten free food she could find. The distraught mother said, referring to her Celiac daughter, “She’s just going to have to live with diarrhea. “

“I was devastated by her reality,” says Valdez, “so I gathered as much gluten free food as I could and left it on her doorstep. Unfortunately, my reality didn’t allow me to help parents like her again, until now.”

Loveland’s House of Neighborly Service will be the test site for the new program Valdez is designing to be implemented in communities across the country. There are scattered efforts to gather gluten free food for the holidays or offer a monthly gift card to help offset the extra expense of a gluten free diet. “What I see that is missing is a systematic approach to feeding gluten free families in need,” say Valdez. “If someone has Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance, they can become very ill in the short and long term if they eat gluten containing food because that is all they have.” Bread is plentiful in food banks across the country. Gluten free bread is not. Valdez, or Gluten Free Dee, as she is called, intends to change that.

Gluten free food donations are now being accepted at House of Neighborly Service, 565 N. Cleveland, Loveland, CO 80537. It is asked that the food be identified as such when dropped off. Anyone available to deliver their gluten free food Tuesday, December 8, between 4 – 6 pm can be part of an exclusive group dedicating the new gluten free section of the existing food bank with a Ribbon Cutting, Press Conference and Festivities.

“We are excited to be able to provide an option for people with gluten sensitivities who are financially struggling, especially considering the cost of a gluten free diet,” says Erin Becerra House of Neighborly Service (HNS) Food Program Manager.

HNS provides food baskets for an average of more than 500 Loveland/Berthoud area households each month. The mission of the food program is to provide wholesome food to nourish people who are food-insecure.

Although only about 1% of the U.S. population has Celiac disease, new gluten free food manufacturer General Mills says its research shows about 12% of U.S. households want to eliminate or reduce their gluten intake.

“I honestly don’t know how many additional people will come in for help knowing that we now have gluten free food available and how many of the families we are already serving will take advantage of this new option,” says Becerra. “I believe that we will be able to provide assistance with the help of our generous community, and the support of gluten free food manufacturers and retailers who are willing to donate products for those who cannot afford them.”

Families in need of gluten free food, who live in the Berthoud, Loveland areas served by House of Neighborly Service need to be screened for services Monday – Thursday. Please call 970-667-4939 to find out the appropriate paperwork to bring to determine eligibility.

“This is an opportunity to be part of a group setting a precedent that will spread nationwide,” says Valdez. “We can make a difference. We can change someone’s life.”

-The second is a very cool children’s book which will benefit the NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.)

Celebrate the season with Jolly the Elf, proceeds to benefit NFCA!


Jolly the Elf, a delightful and fun Christmas story now available as a children’s book, has teamed up with NFCA to help raise awareness of celiac disease! Through the Jolly the Elf charitable partner program, author Jo Shepherd Ripley will donate a percentage of book sales to the non-profit organization in an effort to support its mission and programming.

For every book or Jolly product sold through the Jolly Website ( that indicates “celiac” or “NFCA” in the “Where did you hear about us” box (on the Buy Now Page), part of your purchase will be contributed to the NFCA.

“We are thrilled to partner with such a wonderful organization that is the NFCA,” said Jo Shepherd Ripley. “It is so important to help people suffering from celiac understand what they may do to help themselves. Anything that Jolly can do to assist in those efforts is an honor and a privilege for us.”

Jolly the Elf, has a special connection to celiac disease as one of its contributing illustrators, Philadelphia area high school student Jake Hunter, was diagnosed with the disease in 2006.

“My symptoms are gone. Now I can concentrate on what I love to do most – draw,” Jake says of his life since receiving a diagnosis and adopting a gluten-free diet.

Jake’s “elf icons”, as they are called, appear throughout the Jolly the Elf book and help capture the whimsical spirit of the Jolly Tale.

Make this magical tale a family holiday tradition by ordering a copy today and help support celiac disease awareness efforts with your purchase!

Order Jolly the Elf online through the book’s website, Enter the special code ‘CELIAC’ in the space marked ‘where did you hear about us?.

Remember to enter the code ‘CELIAC’ to ensure proceeds from this great book go to a great cause!

More about Jolly the Elf

Jolly the Elf is a story for all ages. If you know the reindeer that saved Santa, meet the elf that saved him. Jolly knew Santa was in trouble. He did not have enough time to keep track of all of the good boys and girls. Santa needed help from a friend. He needed Jolly. Jolly and his friends help Santa see how good and kind children are being by going to their homes and reporting all the wonderful things they do back to Santa. Jolly and his friends are part of what every child needs – somebody to believe in them. For anyone who has children or is a child at heart, this story gets to the quick of what it means to be a person, a child – reach for the stars and maybe you will catch one.

Jo first read Jolly the Elf to a friend in Philadelphia in 1963, but since then has spent much of her life spreading the tradition to everyone she and her 11 children meet (who then spread it to their friends and family). As each holiday season comes and goes, more and more families fall in love with Jolly too. Since that day in 1963 when Jolly came to life, many stories have been written based on him, but none ring as true as the story of Jolly himself.

More about Jolly the Elf contributor, Jake Hunter

At 14 years old, I weighed 74 pounds. I often wondered why I was so short and weighed so little when I ate so much. I also really wanted to know when I would stop feeling so lousy. My stomach pains and nausea were never ending. My doctor finally referred me to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with celiac disease.

At first it was difficult, but I chose to take control of my disease and remove all gluten from my diet. I have even started cooking a lot of my own food. Now I love to cook!

Sometimes it is hard since most teenagers eat mainly of pizza and cheeseburgers, but my grandmom makes most of my rolls, pizza and stromboli so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Today, I am 17 years old and weigh over 100 pounds.

I started sketching at the age of 3. When most kids were coloring in coloring books, I was busy drawing on every piece of blank paper I could find. My friends still have pictures of Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers that I drew for them when I was about 6 years old. I feel great about having some of my artwork in Jo Shepherd Ripley’s book Jolly the Elf.It has given me an opportunity that I did not expect.

-Really great stories. Really great causes. How are you going to make a positive impact today?

Filed Under: celiac disease


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  1. Erin,
    Thanks for letting your followers know about what we’re starting in Loveland Colorado but plan to roll out to other communities in 2010. If anyone is interested in bringing this systematic approach to their town, please contact me and we’ll see what we can do together!

  2. Erin says:

    Dee-you are very welcome. You are doing a wonderful thing, and it deserves every bit of publicity we can bring to it!

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