Lift-Up’s holiday food distributions up 30 percent in Garfield County | AspenTimes.com

Lift-Up’s holiday food distributions up 30 percent in Garfield County

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Contributed photoVolunteers assemble bags of Thanksgiving food for families in Glenwood Springs on Saturday at the Church of Christ.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Lift Up’s annual Thanksgiving food distribution program for the needy in Garfield County has seen a 30 percent increase over last year, with nearly 1,500 local families lining up for food boxes over the weekend, according to Lift Up Executive Director Mike Powell.

Demand in general at Lift Up’s food pantries throughout the county is also up somewhat this year, as is attendance at the nightly Extended Table free meal program in Glenwood Springs, Powell said in a press release sent out Tuesday.

The volunteer-based relief organization distributed Thanksgiving food bags and boxes to 1,487 area families throughout the county on Saturday and Monday, up from 1,148 families last year.

Food boxes went to 416 families in Glenwood Springs, 310 in Carbondale, 96 in New Castle, 525 in Rifle/Silt and 140 in Parachute.

“We had about 30 more families sign up to receive holiday food than we’ve ever had in the past,” said New Castle food distribution coordinator Betty Arthur. “We spent roughly $1,800 on food and another $900 on meat vouchers this year.”

During the registration earlier this fall, she said someone made a $2,500 donation and asked that it be used to help families specifically in New Castle.

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“That covered almost the entire Thanksgiving food distribution,” Arthur said. “It’s great how things work out like that.”

The food distributions at Thanksgiving and again just before the Christmas holiday are a remarkable display of community generosity and holiday goodwill, Powell said.

“I’m always touched and amazed by the generosity of this community,” he said. “People will hold food drives and fundraisers that we don’t even know about until they show up with a pick-up truck filled with food or a check for Lift Up.”

The downturn in the economy over the past year has resulted in a more than tripling of requests for assistance at Lift Up’s six area food pantries through the first ten months of 2009 compared to last year, Powell said.

Lift Up has served an average of 1,942 families per month this year, compared to 632 families per month in 2008.

“More than 22,000 bags of groceries have been given out to local people in need this year,” he said.

And, attendance at The Extended Table has served as many as 1,375 meals in a single month, averaging 1,255 meals per month.

So far this year, 11,320 meals have been served, up from 8,777 meals by this time last year (through October), another 30 percent increase.

Powell said the community has responded to the greater need with increased donations of food and in-kind items. Through the end of October, $686,457 worth of food and other in-kind items had been donated to Lift Up, compared to $260,504 of in-kind donations last year.

Carbondale has seen the biggest jump in services this year, about seven times greater than in 2008, serving 7,385 families/individuals through October, compared to 933 in 2008.

“We had a lot more two and three person families register for Thanksgiving food this year, whereas last year there were more larger families of eight or ten or more,” said Debi Boyle, who coordinated the food distribution on Monday at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.

“We’ve served a lot more families at the food pantry all year, and many of them just can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner, so it’s great that we can help,” she said. “The community has been so generous.”

jstroud@postindependent.com