Finding a way to feed the light |

Finding a way to feed the light

by Kate Cunningham
Special to The R-C


The Carson Valley Community Food Closet, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), serves all of Douglas County from Tahoe to Topaz. The Food Closet provides food from all nutrition groups and all areas of the grocery store — fresh, frozen, milk, eggs, produce, and meat as well as canned goods, fresh bread, and other items—to about 1,000 clients (approximately 500 families) every month, more during the holidays.

The annual Share Your Christmas Drive-By Food Drive, sponsored by KTVN Channel 2 in Reno and held on the second Friday in December, receives generous support from our community. However, as the calendar moves forward to spring and summer, these supplies run low. Both financial support and donations during these months help the Food Closet maintain a well-balanced storehouse.

The Food Closet also encourages donations through local programs. The Plant-Grow-Give program encourages valley gardeners to do just that: plant an extra row in their vegetable garden and donate the fruits to the Food Closet. Last fall, the Food Closet sponsored the first Carson Valley Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. Sponsored in partnership with DAWG (Douglas Animal Welfare Group), the event, held at Minden Park, raised over $9,000 to be shared between the two organizations.

Donations can be dropped off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cash donations help purchase select items at a discount. Right now, the shelves at the Food Closet are swimming in peanut butter, but jams and jellies are in short supply. Let’s boost donations during this season when winter stores are running low and make it rain jams and jellies at the Food Closet.

Interested in volunteering? Food Closet volunteers serve clients, pack boxes, shelve items, and pick-up or deliver food. Volunteer applications are available online at The Food Closet is located at 1255 Waterloo Lane and can be reached at 775-782-3711.

Anje de Knijf’s story and her service are connected in a way that makes her passionate about what she does.

She has been instrumental in helping the Carson Valley Community Food Closet acquire the property next door for their upcoming expansion.

She is committed to “helping our community to never go hungry” and she said she hopes more people join in the effort.

Born in Holland in the mid-20th century, de Knijf landed in the Carson Valley 33 years ago — by way of a 10-year sojourn in Hawaii and a brief stop in Lake Tahoe.

Her relationship with the Valley is wide ranging. She support many local charities and serves on the Douglas County Planning Commission.

For more than 30 years, she has been a real estate agent and, at times, a broker — and for the last few years, she has been an agent with Intero Real Estate Services.

For more 20 years, she and her husband, Jason Kolenut, have been loving life together here.

The family recently welcomed Joy, a pit bull mix, who spent six months at the Douglas County Animal Shelter before coming home with them.

She said sees Carson Valley as a fabulous place where she wants everyone to succeed. As a Realtor, she is often the first point of contact for newcomers. No matter where in the United States they come from, she consistently observes that “people who move to our community cannot get over how friendly and helpful everyone is here.”

Her own commitment to helping others, particularly her commitment to the food closet, is rooted in her childhood experiences in the Netherlands. When she was a very young girl, her father worked for the Dutch government in the East Indies. In the 1950s, the family emigrated to the United States and landed in Oklahoma.

As the family began to learn a new language and adapt to a new environment, her father went from rubbing elbows with diplomats to bagging groceries to make ends meet.

Though they worked hard and though they received some support from a local church, those first years were tough. They settled on a farm where water was delivered in milk cans. Eventually, they moved into town. However, though they had food, there were times when supplies fell short.

And yes, at times, they were hungry — and she remembers that hunger, explaining, “I never want children to be hungry like I was when I was growing up.”

She understands that behind closed doors, families doing their best to make ends meet, hard-working families, may not have enough food.

This memory drives de Knijf’s commitment to do all she can to prevent any child or family in the Carson Valley from going hungry.

“We have so much food, so many resources in America, that there is no reason for a child to go hungry, no reason for a family to go hungry. We have plenty. We just need to figure out how to distribute it better.”

The Carson Valley Community Food Closet has been a passion of hers since the early 2000s when she conducted a one-woman campaign soliciting pledges from local real estate agents.

That first campaign raised $6,000. In 2010, she started volunteering — packing and distributing food on Friday afternoons.

Recently, as Kate Savage, associate director of the Food Closet explained, de Knijf was instrumental in securing the neighboring property for an upcoming expansion.

Volunteering her expertise as a real estate agent, broker, and notary, de Knijf facilitated the transaction from offer to close of filing and completed all the paperwork along the way.

The Food Closet recently reached its goal of raising $1.4 million for construction of a new building designed to house expanded activities — including classrooms for cooking programs.

She is active in many other organizations and community support groups including the annual Board of Realtor’s Christmas campaign. Each year, the Board of Realtors identifies a charity to support, such as Toys for Tots. This last year the campaign focused on an underserved segment of our community: Students in Transition — children in high school who are over 18 and virtually homeless, couch surfing from day to day, struggling to finish school on their own with little or no parental support.

The annual Intero Real Estate Services Chili Cook-Off, held each fall in the parking lot adjacent to the real estate office, is also a priority for de Knijf. Started in 2015, the first cook-off raised $6,000 for the Douglas County Senior Center Young at Heart program. In 2016, the event raised $8,200 for scholarships for children participating in classes and programs at the Community Center. This donation also received matching funds that allowed 100 percent of disadvantaged area youth to receive program scholarships. This past fall, Austin’s House received $15,000 — 10 percent of the facility’s annual budget — from the cook-off proceeds.

In 2015, de Knijf was appointed to the Douglas County Planning Commission and after serving as vice chair for two years was elected chair in February.

This opportunity, as she explains, “has given me such insight into the inner workings of our county and has opened my eyes to processes I had never even thought about. It’s been so educational — and has broadened my horizons.” She is grateful for the opportunity to see how things work and also recognizes that “the Planning Commission gets a first look at multiple perspectives on upcoming projects — from what developers are thinking to what residents would like to see.”

In her spare time de Knijf has been known to create custom totes from recycled plastic bags.

Drawing on her love of knitting and crocheting — and instructions gleaned from a book from our local library — she cuts the bags into strips and crochets them in simply elegant patterns to make a durable multi-use bag. In her hands, ordinary shopping bags gain a second lifetime.

Her favorite event is Carson Valley Days, which she describes as “an all-encompassing, down in the country, small town, wonderful event,” adding, “It’s our own thing.” Her favorite place is the Dangberg Home Ranch “a spectacular historic icon” that helps us understand the origin and history of our community.