Lift-Up feeding more families from Aspen to De Beque for Thanksgiving | AspenTimes.com

Lift-Up feeding more families from Aspen to De Beque for Thanksgiving

Lift-Up has helped feed the hungry from Aspen to Parachute for the past 34 years. It isn't putting itself out of business anytime soon.

About 1,100 families in the Roaring Fork Valley and western Interstate 70 corridor are giving thanks to Lift-Up for filling their plates this Thanksgiving. That is an increase from about 870 families last year, according to Lift-Up Executive Director Kimberly Loving.

The organization expanded its service area farther to the west starting in April, helping families in the small town of De Beque, but that doesn't explain the 25 percent increase in the number of families assisted for the holidays.

Lift-Up focuses on assisting the hungry, not determining why they are hungry, so the reasons for the growing demand are difficult to ascertain. However, Loving said some families are still struggling despite improvements in some sectors of the local economy.

Lift-Up workers say some families are still struggling despite improvements in some sectors of the local economy.

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"I know people think the valley's economy is coming back. In some aspects, it is getting better," she said.

But the oil and gas industry remains sluggish, so that affects residents from New Castle to De Beque, she noted. Others workers in the region found employment in retail but surrendered higher paying positions in other fields, she said.

Clients had to sign up during the last two weeks of October for holiday fixings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 1,100 families will receive aid for both holidays.

When they registered, they were assigned a time to pick up food at one of the seven towns where Lift-Up operates a pantry, including Aspen. They picked up the food Friday and Saturday.

"It's like an assembly line," Loving said.

The supplies included cranberries, green beans, potatoes, canned yams, dinner rolls and ingredients for pumpkin pie. They also received a $20 voucher for turkey or ham at local grocery stores.

Scores of volunteers staffed the distribution centers and greeted the recipients, who gave their thanks.

The holiday meals are only part of Lift-Up's mission. Its pantries in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle and Parachute provide food year-round. This year was the first that Lift-Up allowed those in need to pick up food once per month. They were able to get enough food to last about one week per visit. In prior years, Lift-Up allowed its clients to pick up food four times per calendar year.

The change in policy makes it impossible to compare the number of people assisted with prior years. Loving said the demand is growing.

The need might be enhanced this fall. Warm, dry weather has delayed the opening of Aspen Mountain and severely limited terrain at the start of the season at Snowmass. That could affect the number of people drawing an early paycheck at Aspen Skiing Co., the hospitality industry and restaurants. That could change quickly with wintry weather expected over the weekend and next week.

Lift-Up can always use food and monetary donations. It's particularly critical at this time of year. Go to http://www.liftup.org/donate-to-the-plate to find out what food is needed for the holiday effort.

scondon@aspentimes.com