Produce drive for Steamboat food bank sets collection record | SteamboatToday.com

Produce drive for Steamboat food bank sets collection record

Jon Kowalsky, Julie McFadden, Dianne Bertini and Eliana Bertini were part of the volunteer team that collected fresh produce and cash for the LiftUp food bank. More than 150 families in Routt County will receive enough food to cook an entire holiday meal thanks to the donations.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — LiftUp of Routt County food bank drove away with an entire truck full of turkeys and hams during its latest fresh produce drive, thanks to the holiday spirit and matching funds provided by a local real estate group.

“The fresh produce drive is one of the many programs LiftUp has to help people in our community,” said Jon Wade, broker/owner of The Steamboat Group, who was out at City Market last weekend collecting cash and food donations for the food bank. “The economy is good but living here is challenging for many people, so there are a lot of people working one to three jobs that are still having trouble making ends meet.”

LiftUp, a nonprofit tasked with helping community members reach self-sufficiency, will be distributing 125 food baskets to Steamboat Springs residents to cover their Christmas meals this holiday season. Oak Creek’s LiftUp will also hand out 28 baskets while the Hayden office will give out 20 baskets.

By the numbers

Produce drive for LiftUp, hosted by The Steamboat Group, on Dec. 15

• 3,155 pounds of food collected, which represented 37 percent more than the previous record

• Enough turkeys and hams were donated to fill the entire bed of a full-size pickup

• Eight organic turkeys were donated by volunteers who called into the drive at a cost of $340

• 120 families will receive a holiday meal thanks to the donations

• 4,000 or more pounds of food can be purchased with the cash donations

The fresh produce drive is the brainchild of dedicated volunteers Bridget and Paul Ferguson, who wanted to get fresh food onto people’s plates when possible. Every month they enlist volunteers to hit the local grocery store and collect donations.

“They (Fergusons) run the show. They’re amazing,” said Heidi Mendisco, LiftUp’s food bank manager. “I make up a list and Paul and Bridget meet up with volunteers and stand out there all day.”

“We’re not just filling bellies, we’re filling them with healthy, nutritious food,” Mendisco added.

The fresh produce is offered free to families who otherwise have to use a point system to buy food that sits on the food bank shelves.

Last weekend’s food drive broke previous records with 3,155 pounds of food collected. Volunteers, including five local kids, also collected $1,387.44 in cash. LiftUp received another $625 online and a $250 check from Wisconsin. To top it off, The Steamboat Group matched another $2,000.

“We saw a wonderful cross section of Steamboat donate generously, from longtime ranching families … to people who mentioned that LiftUp had helped them when they needed it,” Wade said.

There’s still time for any seasonal workers or families to pick up food and produce and maybe even a Christmas food basket if needed. But Steamboat’s food bank closes after Friday for the holidays.

In the meantime, The Steamboat Group is still collecting donations from anyone who wants to contribute money with the added benefit of a tax-deductible receipt if the contributions are made through the business’ account at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation at https://yvcf.org/TSG/. 

Donations will be accepted until Dec. 31.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.


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