Five minutes with LiftUp of Routt County Executive Director Sue Fegelein |

Five minutes with LiftUp of Routt County Executive Director Sue Fegelein

Sue Fegelein inside the LiftUp of Routt County Food Bank in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Sue Fegelein is the executive director at LiftUp Routt County, a nonprofit that has been busier than ever in recent years meeting its mission “providing resources and assistance to meet basic human needs and strengthen self-sufficiency.”

How would you describe your role at LiftUp?

I have been with LiftUp 5.5 years. I’m the executive director, which means I am the liaison between the board and the staff and I do the grant writing. And I have other directors and the manager, who are my direct reports. I step in wherever needed when we are lacking staff in any department, which over the past year, has been quite a bit. 

I do a lot of collaboration with other community partners and meet regularly with them. So, for example, we’re on the human resource coalition with the other human service nonprofits and organizations in town. So, we work closely with them. There’s a lot of collaboration in Routt County. It’s a pretty fantastic community to work in.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

I think the biggest challenge of the recent past has been the shortened supply of food, and the cost of food, which hits all of our food bank services, including our Rocket Pack program, which is our healthy snacks for children. So, the costs have gone up and the supply has gone down. And that leaves our food bank manager juggling and constantly looking to make sure we have what we need to get those snack bags filled every week. And the number of kids applying is 36% higher right now than it was the same week last year. 

It sounds like you have a lot of compassion for the community. Does that take its toll over time?

I think a lot of people face compassion fatigue. It’s a term I’ve heard a lot, and certainly you can reach a stress level after coming through COVID. You know, there was a lot of burnout among employees in similar fields locally and we try and be very flexible with scheduling and ensure people are taking their paid time off and taking the holidays off. And we want to make sure that our staff members are doing well. And we’re always letting them know what programs are available locally, whether it’s mental health programs or budgeting classes or scholarships or whatever is available locally to help combat that and provide some wellness.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Definitely serving our community. It’s important to me that people’s basic needs are being met, and it’s unfortunate that people face that anywhere. They can be struggling just to keep the roof over their head or have enough food to eat, or the fact that they’re not sure where their next meal is gonna come from, or they’re having their kids eat instead of eating. I mean, this is all going on locally. And being able to know that I’m helping to serve folks through LiftUp is important to me. 

What is your vision for the future of LiftUp?

LiftUp is growing. I’d like to see us be able to continue to grow to serve the need, while at the same time working with community partners to bring down the need locally. That would be fantastic.

What else do you think the community should know about your organization?

We’ve been trying hard to remind people we are more than just a thrift store, more than just a donation center and more than just a food bank. We can offer emergency financial assistance as well with housing and medical costs and utilities and other costs. We have a scholarship program. It’s just so important to let community members know.

This was originally published in the 2022 Best of the Boat magazine.

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