Oak Creek community comes to the aid of Aspen View Manor residents in their time of need
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — By the time Liz Mantano and several of her neighbors traveled to the grocery store in Steamboat Springs from Oak Creek on Friday, March 13, there wasn’t a parking space to be found, the aisles inside were packed with desperate shoppers, and the shelves and freezers were bare.
“A group of us decided we’ll make this trip in and that’ll be it. We’ll close ourselves up and stay out of harm’s way and do what we can do for ourselves,” said Mantano, one of 15 residents who live in the Aspen View Manor senior apartments in Oak Creek. “Shirley (Snyder) my neighbor, she’s 87, was in the wheelchair cart, and people just trampled us. They were just pushing us out of the way. It was insane, it was apocalyptic, and it was horrible.”
Friday’s trip to the store turned into a nightmare for the women as they struggled to hold their own in a store they said seemed to be filled with chaos. By the time the three women got back to Oak Creek, they were frightened by the experience and desperate.
“Word of it got around on Saturday, and by Sunday, at 7:30 a.m., people started calling and bringing us food,” Mantano said. “It was the most amazing display of compassion and love I’ve ever witnessed in all of my years.”
They received pounds of beef, lamb, chicken and game meat along with vegetables, farm fresh eggs, milk and other staples. They also received hard-to-get items like hand sanitizer, and one lady even stopped by with 15 rolls of toilet paper.
“All of us felt incredibly grateful and so very touched by their actions,” resident Katie Davidson said. “People responded in an extraordinary way. … I have no idea how many pounds of game, veggies, fruit cups, milk and eggs they brought. People brought whatever they thought we might need.”
Brad Church was one of the many who read about the Aspen Manor resident’s situation in a message posted on Facebook by Mantano’s daughter after she learned about her mom’s experience at the grocery store. She had tried to stop her mom from making the trip because of fears of exposure in the large crowds of people. But by the time she reached her mom on the phone, Mantano was already checking out with the few items she could find.
“I heard the stories of people going nuts, treating people poorly and hoarding stuff,” Church said. “I’ve always kind of been more the type of person that’s gonna go out and try to help, rather than hurt.”
Church’s family has a farm, and because of that, he had more than enough beef in his freezer to help out. On Sunday morning, he delivered 20 pounds of meat, along with some fruits and vegetables he had bought for his family at the store a few days earlier.
“Not having any food is not a good thing,” Church said. “To be worried about food is really sad, and in the country that we live — as rich as it is — it is sad. So as long as I can help, I will. That’s the kind of attitude I take into these kinds of situations.”
On this day, Church had plenty of company as members of the community responded in force. Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the incident sparked a community movement to make sure that those in need receive help in the wake of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s just been so drastic, from hearing about coronavirus to all of a sudden the mountain closing, people losing their jobs and schools closing,” Knoebel said. “It’s just nice that, as a community, we come together and help other people out especially when we’re in this time of need and when the grocery stores are empty.”
Knoebel encourages community members to contact her at Oak Creek Town Hall, so the town can address problems before they become a crisis.
And there’s no question the community’s response to Aspen View Manor was a great place to start.
“I tell you we cried all day Saturday in fear,” Mantano said. And then, “we cried all day Sunday and even yesterday in joy and happiness.”
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