LiftUp saw increased need for housing assistance in 2017
January 5, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — LiftUp Routt County has weathered a financial blow to its utilities assistance program thanks to a couple of "angel" citizens who stepped forward to help out this winter.
"We usually get a grant from Energy Outreach Colorado but it was cut significantly for 2017-18, so we felt that going into winter immediately," said LiftUp Executive Director Sue Fegelein. "Luckily, we had some generous individual donors step up."
The donors made up for a $15,000 deficit in the utilities grant program.
LiftUp Routt County serves about a 10th of the county population with everything from food assistance, utility bills, health care, housing and transportation as well as providing an affordable thrift store and full-time food pantry. They also operate food pantries in the towns of Hayden and Oak Creek.
"In 2017, we had an increase in the need for housing assistance," Fegelein said. "Because of the high rates charged for rent now, even if we see the same amount of people, the money they need is increased.”
Adding to the high cost of living in Steamboat Springs this year has been the lack of snow, which has kept seasonal workers from collecting a regular paycheck.
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"Our job is to literally lift people up instead of giving a handout," Fegelein explained. "Most of our clients work two or three jobs and an emergency sends them over the edge, and we help them."
Fortunately, the Steamboat, Hayden and Oak Creek LiftUp facilities have a walk-in food section where people can pick up fresh food donated by individuals, companies and restaurants. No registration is required.
LiftUp also runs the state TEFAP food assistance program in Routt County as well as the federal food program — Senior Boxes — for seniors.
LiftUp also uses its own resources and donations from locals to help any Routt County resident with food assistance. This includes permanent residents, seasonal workers and transient populations. People need to register for this program so they can come in and “shop" for groceries using a point system based upon household size.
Despite a low unemployment rate, Fegelein saw an increase in the TEFAP state program and families who needed help.
But apparently the community has stepped up their game.
"The (Steamboat) middle school just did the biggest food drive we've every seen – 1,800 pounds," she said.
LiftUp recently had their biggest donation day ever with 450 boxes sorted out in one day — not a problem any more since LiftUp finished an expansion of its facilities in June.
In fact, the community has been so generous, the nonprofit is now closed on Thursdays just so the volunteers can sort through the donations.
Some of the high-end donations are going to a special section of the LiftUp Thrift Store in Steamboat called "Elevated Emporium" so the nonprofit can maximize its donations. A story on the new offering will be featured in an upcoming issue of Steamboat Today.
In the meantime, LiftUp's outreach to the community via local grocery stores is going well. Fresh produce comes into the "free" food pantry section through "prodo-drives" where customers can pay for produce while shopping for their own groceries.
There's also an Adopt a Shelf program where individuals or companies can stock a shelf for a month or longer. Also in the works is a greenhouse system where LiftUp hopes to grow some of its own fresh produce starting this spring.
While LiftUp leaders love the community food drives, they also like to remind folks that cash is king, and with cash,they're able to buy more food than the average person.
For details and volunteer opportunities go to http://www.liftuprc.org.