Demand climbs for LIFT-UP’s services | AspenTimes.com

Demand climbs for LIFT-UP’s services

An organization that feeds the hungry of the Roaring Fork Valley is facing such high demand this year that it is having trouble keeping its pantry stocked.

Garfield County-based LIFT-UP started dipping into its cash reserves in July to buy enough food to match demand, according to assistant director Janelle Weidler. As the holidays approach and LIFT-UP prepares for its busiest time, it is putting out a call for help.

“If anybody is interested, we’re desperate for food,” said Weidler. “Everybody wants to help at the holidays but LIFT-UP provides food all year round.”

The organization assisted 7,071 people through one of its various programs as of Sept. 30. That is up 66 percent from the same point in 2001, Weidler said.

LIFT-UP provides services such as three days of food per family for up to three times per year; cash for drug prescriptions; emergency gas for job interviews or visits to the doctor; hotel rooms in special cases; bus tickets to Denver and Grand Junction; and distribution of excess farm commodities.

In addition, there were 7,011 dinners served through the Extended Table program, which provides hot meals five days per week in Glenwood Springs. Traditionally the meal has attracted single males. Now servers are seeing entire families, said Weidler.

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LIFT-UP depends on contributions and volunteer help. It isn’t supported by the government. It operates offices in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, New Castle, Rifle and Parachute. Offices in Aspen and Steamboat Springs are operated separately.

Weidler said the increased demand this year is due to the economy slowing down since Sept. 11, 2001. Unskilled or low-skilled workers are getting hit hardest.

“The economy is not as good as it was so some of the menial jobs are disappearing,” she said.

Meanwhile, immigrants continue to come to the valley to seek work but many cannot find a job when they arrive. Those who cannot find help among family and friends turn to groups like LIFT-UP.

“Well over 50 percent” of the people assisted are Latinos, Weidler said. The Rifle office is typically the busiest but the office in Carbondale received just as many requests for assistance during the holidays last year, Weidler said.

The separate Aspen office of LIFT-UP hasn’t seen a significant jump in demands for services, according to director Jere Rood.

That seems to demonstrate the interconnection of the region: The loss of jobs in Aspen has a ripple effect throughout the towns of the region. Many of those affected by the economic slump live in downvalley towns.

LIFT-UP makes a special effort to make sure the holidays are special for needy families. Those in need are now encouraged to sign up at a downvalley LIFT-UP office for the Christmas Food Basket program. People who sign up by Nov. 27 will receive a voucher for a turkey at a supermarket plus receive a goodie bag of food to complement the bird.

Then, the families also receive on Dec. 17 a food basket for Christmas that includes everything needed for a full turkey dinner ? yams, stuffing, vegetables and dessert included.

LIFT-UP asks that applicants be truly needy and trusts that they are. “You know what’s really sweet? Some families we don’t see any other time of the year,” said Weidler.

Registration is also occurring for the Angel Tree Gift program. The gender, age and child’s size are listed on angels adorning trees at churches and LIFT-UP offices. People are urged to choose a recipient, buy an appropriate gift and return it with the angel to the tree or office. Clothing, toys or “something extra special” is encouraged. Those gifts will also be distributed on Dec. 17.

Weidler said LIFT-UP is anticipating that the high level of demand will continue through 2003 and that grants may be harder to come by since the demand is so great right now for various social umbrella organizations.

Therefore, LIFT-UP will be relying more heavily than usual on the generosity of Roaring Fork Valley residents who aren’t facing such tough times. Nonperishable foods can be delivered to the organization’s offices at any time of the year. Cash will also do nicely.

Financial contributions can be mailed to LIFT-UP, P.O. Box 1213, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602. For addresses and times that food can be delivered, call 945-2005.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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