LiftUp of Routt County bracing for increased needs as businesses shut down, workers displaced due to COVID-19 concerns
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — LiftUp of Routt County Executive Director Sue Fegelein and her staff spent the weekend planning the best course of action to meet the needs of the local community as the COVID-19 outbreak affects schools, businesses and individuals.
“There is a new population of people out of work on the mountain, the schools are closed, and so whether it’s perceived or real, I think there’s going to be an increased need immediately,” Fegelein said. “Businesses are closing, and people are not sure where their paychecks are going to come from, and this is what we do — provide assistance in the case of emergency. So, we are planning like we are going to have a lot of people coming in.”
So, when the doors at the LiftUp food bank in Steamboat Springs opened on Monday, March 17, Fegelein was expecting a large crowd, and she had new procedures in place to limit exposure to COVID-19.
Fegelein said those coming to the food bank will no longer be able to shop for items. Instead, LiftUp employees and volunteers will be passing boxes of food through a window at the front of the store. The boxes will already be filled with enough food to feed an individual or a family for a week.
“Normally, we have people shop, but in the interest of safety, we’re just going to be prepping and handing out boxes of food depending on family size,” Fegelein said. “Then if they’re going to need financial assistance, we’ll have them go to the other window and work a safe distance from the case managers to get organized and get everything taken care of.”
Fegelein said the employee or volunteer at the window will ask for identification, ask if the person is a resident of Routt County or if they are a current client. They will also keep a checklist of those people getting food assistance.
The boxes are prepared according to each family’s size, and recipients are limited to one box each week. Fegelein encouraged individuals and families to call 970-875-3441 for more information. People who think they may have been exposed or who are feeling sick can also call for a pick-up time or should call to arrange to have a healthy person pick up their food.
Food Bank of the Rockies will continue to fill the shelves at the local food bank, and Fegelein said the organization will provide as much food as possible.
At this time, Fegelein said LiftUp is working hard to meet the needs of Routt County, but she said financial support may be the key to sustaining those needs.
“Monetary donations are really important right now, and people can do that through our website, on Facebook, and we have a Colorado Gives page,” Fegelein said. “We can usually purchase about four times the amount of food someone could at say, City Market.”
To donate to LiftUp of Routt County, visit iftuprc.org/ways-to-give/#donate. Donations can also be mailed to 2125 Curve Court, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. Donations are tax deductible.
She also expects other needs to arise.
“We’re anticipating a huge increase in housing need, which is our biggest fund,” Fegelein said. “We help with a month of rent or mortgage assistance. … For a lot of people who are suddenly out of work, it’s going to be an emergency situation. So, the financial donations will play a part in helping us there.”
On Monday, the LiftUp Thrift Store was closed for two weeks to help protect employees and the community from the spread of COVID-19. Fegelein said the organization will lose $24,000 that the thrift would have generated during the time of the closure. Proceeds from the thrift store help fund LiftUp and help the nonprofit provide financial services and food to the community.
LiftUp also has temporarily stopped donation drop-offs for the thrift store. Fegelein said sorting through donations could expose employees and volunteers who have the handle the bags to the virus, and much of her staff has taken on other, more immediate tasks.
“We want to maintain a level of calm, lead confidently and ask everybody for patience because it is changing — not just day to day but hour by hour,” Fegelein said. “We are going to do everything we can to serve everyone in need.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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