Families feast in midvalley thanks to volunteers’ efforts | AspenTimes.com

Families feast in midvalley thanks to volunteers’ efforts

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Dozens of volunteers from Basalt and El Jebel shrugged off cold temperatures Wednesday to create a brighter Thanksgiving for 122 midvalley families.

The volunteers boxed up frozen turkeys and all the fixings at Basalt Community United Methodist Church, then distributed the care packages to folks facing tough economic times this year.

Anya Whittier, a freshman at Mesa State College, took the time to help out while back in Basalt visiting family and friends during holiday break. She said it will be rewarding to know while she is eating Thanksgiving dinner today that she helped make sure some other families enjoy a good meal.

Whittier said she helped with the Thanksgiving food distribution several times in the past as a member of the Basalt High School Key Club. It’s evident that the recipient families are grateful when the boxes are delivered. “I’ve had a couple people cry on me,” she said.

Whittier’s friend, Taylor Bellhouse, a midvalley resident and student at Aspen High School, jumped at the opportunity to join the effort. “I’m really excited about helping people out,” she said while filling a box with food. It was her first time helping with the effort.

The food was collected over the prior two weekends by Basalt Cub Scout Troop 242, which went door-to-door for non-perishable foods, and members of the Basalt High School Key Club, who collected food at the Basalt-El Jebel City Market.

Thanks to their efforts, the pews at the Methodist church in Holland Hills were piled high with canned green beans, cranberries, boxes of stuffing mix and potatoes and yams. Turkeys and fruit were kept cool in the basement.

Volunteers converged on the church at 2 p.m., received a check-in sheet with the size of the families they were collecting for, then wound their way through the pews to fill their boxes accordingly. The volunteers then delivered the supplies, and some made another lap.

Bob Stewart of Basalt was helping out for a fifth or sixth year. He is a member of the church and always thought it was a very worthwhile way to volunteer his time. Usually one of his kids helps as well. This year it was Melissa, a sophomore at Colorado State University.

Like a lot of the volunteers, the Stewarts said it just feels good to help other people out. While the families know the food is coming, the amount sometimes catches them off guard.

“Some actually are surprised,” Bob Stewart said.

Rev. Marie Gasau of the Basalt Methodist Church said the Thanksgiving food distribution always reminds her of the promising side of humanity, especially because so many youngsters get involved. Nearly all the volunteers over all the years have discovered the fulfilling nature of the effort. “Caring for others is actually caring for ourselves,” Gasau said.

The food boxes include Thanksgiving Prayers of Blessing, written by the Ecumenical Community of Basalt churches.

The need for aid was particularly great this year as the Roaring Fork Valley recovers slowly from the recession. The organizers of the distribution effort work with Eagle County Social Services and the Basalt Family Resource Center to determine who could use the food boxes.

“We’re up to 122 where we had maybe 100 before,” said Cindy Wilson, an organizer.

While midvalley residents were in a giving mood, it initially looked there was a shortage of turkeys. Monday night there weren’t enough birds, Gasau said, but donations kept coming, and by Tuesday night there were too many.

“I keep saying God has such a sense of humor,” she said.