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Nonprofit donations down, demand up; Aspen forum next

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The charity LIFT-UP has seen an “astronomical” increase in people looking for free food during tough economic times, said LIFT-UP Executive Director Mike Powell.

In January 2008, LIFT-UP gave out 877 bags of food, but this January it gave out 2,115. The Extended Table typically provides 600 to 800 people free meals each month. Now the figure is up to as much as 1,100, Powell said.

“We certainly are seeing a large increase in requests for food,” he said. “We’re OK for now, but I can’t keep this pace up for the entire year.”

Typically the organization sees people who have a job but can’t cope financially with an unexpected expense. Now it’s seeing more and more people who “are just completely out of work,” Powell said.

From western Garfield County are primarily those who’ve lost jobs due to energy industry cutbacks, and from the other end of the county, people who’ve lost construction jobs are the ones mostly looking for help, Powell said.

He spoke during an Aspen Community Foundation nonprofit forum Tuesday. A variety of nonprofits voiced concerns over the bad economy causing increased demand for services and chipping away at funding sources. They talked about possible solutions like trying to collaborate more with other nonprofits and organizations. The

foundation will hold a second forum Thursday in Aspen. It begins at 10 a.m.

in the Red Brick Center for the Arts conference room.

Stacie Durrett, operating manager for the local Salvation Army extension, said, “My business has tripled since last January.” The group helps people with things like rental and utility assistance. These days the Salvation Army extension uses up its budget by the fifth day of the month and then people “just keep coming and coming and coming,” Durrett said.

“I’m seeing a lot of middle class, white-collar men who are completely devastated by this,” she said, adding it’s not uncommon for four or five grown men to cry in her office on a daily basis.

Geneva Templeton, with Challenge Aspen, said like many nonprofits, the group is “dealing with a deep reduction in donations.”

Julie Olson, executive director of the Advocate Safehouse, said the organization is seeing an increase in requests for help with things like getting medications and housing, but less people may be staying in the safe house because they’re worried they won’t have a place to go afterward.

“We’re seeing people call. We’re not necessarily seeing people follow through,” she said.

A representative of the Friends of Rifle Animal Shelter said donations are down and the shelter has seen an increase in animals that have been surrendered because people can’t afford to keep them.

Debbie Wilde, YouthZone executive director, said YouthZone’s dealings with kids suggests there is more stress in families. She said YouthZone conducted five suicide screenings in the past seven days alone. There are currently 10 kids in juvenile detention and another 30 on electronic home monitoring in the area.

“Stress in families starts showing up in kids,” she said.

Cheryl Cain, with high country RSVP, said volunteers seem to have less time to offer because some have gone back to work or have taken up other obligations.

Despite others reportedly struggling with funding, the Aspen Community Foundation announced that it raised about $750,000 during its winter funding campaign, nearly twice the amount expected. The foundation seeks to promote philanthropy and distributes millions in grants to more than 300 nonprofits from Aspen to Parachute.


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