LiftUp meets increased demand for services in times of uncertainty
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — New hours, new procedures and an increased demand for service have given LiftUp of Routt County Executive Director Sue Fegelein a front row seat to view the impact of COVID-19 on the community.
“When it first started, the immediate impact was fear and uncertainty and immediate rise in the need of basic necessities,” Fegelein said. “At first, the need that people were expressing was for food and that really ramped up right away. Then as it started to shift and sink in what was happening with jobs and the uncertainty with jobs, we had employers sending people here, and we saw the increase in the need for assistance with housing just skyrocket.”
Between March 16 and July 10, LiftUp distributed food to 2,779 individuals in 1,452 households. The nonprofit also provided $164,315 in utility, health care and housing assistance. So far in 2020, LiftUp has spent triple its annual budget on housing assistance, which Fegelein said would not have been possible without generous donations from Deer Park Management and an anonymous donor.
She said LiftUp has been able to meet the increased demand in service despite the fact that the thrift store, which funds most of the nonprofit’s programs, was closed from March 16 to June 15.
The store was budgeted to bring in $54,792 in March and collected $25,538 before it was forced to close its doors. It remained closed in April and May when the store lost a projected $107,512 in revenue. In June, the thrift store reopened with reduced hours, bringing in just $20,514 of the budgeted $57,667 for the month.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Fegelein said. “I’ve learned that you need to have a pandemic plan, which was not a thing prior to this happening.”
- Open 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Senior/at-risk shopping hour is from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday.
- Hand sanitizer, wipes and gloves are available to shoppers.
- Reusable bags are not allowed, but LiftUp has bags available if shoppers need them.
- Bins for tried-on items are located in the fitting rooms, and items will be held for three days before returning to the racks.
- Returns are not accepted at this time.
- Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Both hard and soft goods are being accepted
- The Thrift Store is closed on Fridays to minimize vehicles and the number of people onsite.
- All donations are quarantined for a minimum of five days before processing through the Donation Center and moved to the Thrift Store.
- All food banks are open regular operating hours for walk-up or drive-up food assistance. No clients/shoppers are allowed in the food banks.
- Staff and volunteers bring food boxes out and load them into cars for individuals, families and seniors.
- Steamboat food bank hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
- Hayden food bank hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
- Oak Creek: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday; 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday; and 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday.
She also has learned to embrace change and be extremely flexible. And she has a new appreciation for her staff and the idea of keeping them and the public safe during this pandemic.
“We have been super fortunate between grantors, donors and people on the food side donating food as well as getting a PPP loan for staffing,” Fegelein said.
“General operating (funds) is the hardest funding to come across to make sure that we can pay the staff to physically be here and to have increased staff presence because of COVID,” she explained. “Those are the hardest dollars to find, but we have been really lucky because we’ve gotten a few bigger grants since COVID from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and one from Denver.”
Fegelein and many other nonprofits are expecting to see another spike in demand when the added $600-a-week unemployment benefit, provided by the CARES Act, comes to an end this week.
“Everybody is expecting a jump in August because the $600 a week is going away,” Fegelein said.
For more information, visit LiftUp’s website at liftuprc.org.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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