Giving Thought: Celebrate the giving season | AspenTimes.com

Giving Thought: Celebrate the giving season

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought

This is the giving time of year. And while our generosity is rightly focused on family and friends around the holidays, it's also appropriate to consider the broader community, where many other people need help. December may be the "most wonderful time of the year" for many of us, but short days and cold weather amount to huge risks for those in need. Some individuals and families may wonder where they're going to sleep tonight or obtain their next meal.

Our region is a world-renowned tourist destination, but it's also home to huge disparities of income, education and health. For this final column of 2017, I am highlighting nonprofit organizations that provide essential services to those in need, encouraging you to donate to the charity of your choice.

Catholic Charities of the Western Slope is a leader in providing charitable relief for individuals and families in the Aspen to Parachute region. Catholic Charities promotes self-reliance by providing supportive, safety-net services for vulnerable individuals and families. The agency's main offices are in Denver with a regional office in Glenwood Springs, which tailors its services to meet the needs of the local community. Catholic Charities operates three main programs on the Western Slope: Emergency Assistance, helping those in an emergency financial crisis who are at risk of becoming homeless; Family Transitional Housing, helping families with housing placements, rental assistance, and case management; and Community Integration Services, helping immigrants to access community services and attain workplace equity. Catholic Charities works collaboratively with governmental and nonprofit organizations to provide well-integrated services.

Lift-Up, based in Rifle, specializes in meeting the food and nutrition needs of our low-income population. Lift-Up runs seven food pantries and two soup kitchens between Aspen and Parachute. Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday food baskets are distributed to more than 1,500 needy families. In addition, Lift-Up's Extended Table Soup Kitchens provide free, warm meals year-round five nights a week in Glenwood Springs and two nights a week in Rifle. In partnership with LiveWell Garfield County and the Re-2 school district, Lift-Up runs a mobile lunch program for children in Rifle, New Castle and Silt on Fridays when school is not in session, incorporating fresh produce into its offerings through collaborations with local gardeners, farms and farmers markets.

The Aspen Homeless Shelter provides overnight housing during the four coldest months of the year — December through March — but also runs a year-round "day center" with laundry, clothing and hot showers, as well as a hot meal every afternoon/evening for anyone who needs it. In addition to these basic services, the shelter helps clients find work. On an average day, roughly 20 people will come through the door. These clients run the gamut from individuals who fit the definition of "chronically homeless" to professionals who have lost jobs or fallen on hard times for health or economic reasons. Homelessness isn't as prevalent in the Rocky Mountains as in America's big cities, but it's certainly here.

The Salvation Army, visible throughout the region, provides emergency assistance to people in the Roaring Fork Valley. Services include funding for housing, utilities and prescription medication, transportation vouchers, and coats and blankets in the winter. Look for the red kettle and hardy volunteers at City Markets (and other retail locations) through Dec. 24h.

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These nonprofit organizations and many others in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties exist to help cover the gaps that our governmental human and social service agencies cannot fill. For nearly all nonprofits, the holiday season is vitally important for fundraising. But for those organizations involved directly in people's basic needs — food, shelter, health care — this also is the front end of winter.

Since 1980, Aspen Community Foundation has supported and collaborated with hundreds of local charities on an array of issues. During this season of gratitude and abundance, please consider a donation to one or more of the nonprofit organizations in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys that serve the less fortunate, or to ACF's Emergency Assistance Fund, which supports many providers of essential services. Colorado's Western Slope is a remarkable region, but it's not immune from the same social maladies — poverty, hunger and their associated health problems — that ail communities across our nation.

Warm wishes for the holiday season.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.