With valley’s help, LIFT-UP serves up Thanksgiving | AspenTimes.com

With valley’s help, LIFT-UP serves up Thanksgiving

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Twelve hundred area families have signed up for help from LIFT-UP to put a Thanksgiving meal on their tables next week.

Mike Powell, executive director of the Garfield County-based organization, wrote a check this week for $7,410 worth of meat vouchers, good at City Market stores, to be distributed Monday along with bags full of fixin’s for the holiday feast.

He anticipates writing an even bigger check next month to cover Christmas meals for needy families, but that money isn’t in LIFT-UP’s bank account ” yet.

“The reality is, we will have more people signing up for Christmas than Thanksgiving,” he said.

Last year, the agency distributed more than 3,000 holiday meals, made possible by contributions of money and food. The tally has gone up by some 500 families in each of the last couple of years, but Powell isn’t sure what to expect this holiday season.

The agency spent $21,000 on holiday meals in 2002 ” funds donated by area residents who stepped up to help their neighbors. They’ll have the opportunity to do so again this year. LIFT-UP’s fund-raising campaign begins this week with a request for contributions being mailed to nearly 30,000 residents in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.

“The sky is not falling here ” I don’t want to give that impression,” said Powell, who took the reins of the organization last January. “But, yeah, we could use some help.

“We are a faith-based organization. We’ll get it done one way or another,” he added. “This valley’s extremely generous.”

LIFT-UP has offices in Rifle, Parachute, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen, and is active in Silt, as well. The organization operates community food pantries that assist needy families year-round. Some of the pantries are well stocked; the shelves in some others are pretty bare, according to Powell.

In 2002, the agency handed out more than 14,000 bags of groceries over the course of the year.

LIFT-UP volunteers also run the Extended Table Soup Kitchen in Glenwood Springs, which served 7,305 dinners last year. An average of 30 to 50 people a night, Monday through Friday, seek out the hot meal at the First United Methodist Church.

The organization is also gearing up for its annual Angel Tree program, which provides Christmas gifts to area children. People are encouraged to select an angel from trees placed at churches and other locations and buy a gift that’s appropriate for the child listed on the angel, then return it to the tree. The youngster’s age, size and gender are written on the angel.

Last year, nearly 4,000 children participated, but close to half of the angels were left on the trees. LIFT-UP covered the cost of gifts for the unclaimed angels. Shortly after Christmas, a donor came in and contributed enough money to more than cover what LIFT-UP spent on the program, according to Powell.

This year, all the children in one family will be included on a single angel; Powell hopes friends and co-workers get together to cover the needs of larger families.

“It’s not really LIFT-UP that’s helping people, it’s the residents ” the people who live here who help,” he said. “LIFT-UP is just the tool that makes that happen.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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