New effort to be launched to help those in need
ASPEN – A group of women who have witnessed firsthand the struggles of the unemployed and working poor in Aspen are taking what could be a major step Saturday to provide relief.
The group has organized the Aspen Day of Giving, which will turn the basement of St. Mary Catholic Church into a market. Essential items from warm clothing for winter to toiletries will be provided free of charge to anyone in need from Aspen to Rifle.
“You don’t have to be in dire straits. If you just have a need, the arms are open,” said Allison Daily, one of the organizers.
The group has collected a mountain of materials to distribute. The items will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s. Organizers are uncertain if they will attract 50 people or 500, said Laurie Murray, a founder of the group. They have little doubt the need exists. It’s just a question of informing people about the opportunity.
“There’s a huge need in our valley for what we’re doing,” said Susan Harvey, another founder of the effort.
Harvey, Murray and Cathy Lenyo volunteer at the Aspen office of Lift-Up, the food pantry. They have witnessed the steady demand for food from people who haven’t bounced back from the recession or are laid off during the offseasons. The need also exists when a provider for a family gets ill.
“During the offseason, people are struggling,” Murray said. “They’re living paycheck to paycheck.”
Many seasonal workers with the Aspen Skiing Co. couldn’t collect unemployment benefits this year and experienced trouble finding other jobs, Murray said.
Lenyo said the people seeking food from the pantry don’t fit the usual profile of people in need simply because Aspen has such a strong demand for workers in the heart of winter and summer but a vastly underemployed or unemployed work force during offseasons.
“There’s tons of chefs that come to the pantry in the offseason,” Lenyo said.
Murray and Harvey also see the need during their work at Harvey’s consignment store, Susie’s. They see young mothers scrambling to get their children adequate coats and sweaters for the winter. They teamed with Monica Chichester of St. Mary Catholic Church to launch the idea of the Day of Giving. Daily, Lenyo and Vanessa Corona joined the organizing effort.
The most immediate need is for warm clothing. Susie’s and Heirlooms in Basalt as well as two consignment stores in Glenwood Springs donated warm clothing and other items. Numerous other businesses and individuals have donated everything from toiletries to gift cards to dental services, doctor’s exams and movie tickets. The clothing and toiletries will be available to all those walking through the door. Gift cards, movie tickets and dental and doctor visits will be raffled off.
Between 20 and 25 volunteers have signed up to help on Saturday.
“If the economy doesn’t turn around, this will probably become an annual event,” Murray said.
The organizers stressed that they will do their best to make sure those attending the Aspen Day of Giving feel welcome.
“We want it to be a good experience. We don’t want them to feel like they’re going into a Goodwill store,” Murray said. “We’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all in this together. There should be no shame.”
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.