Routt County gears up for holiday giving
Operation Good Shepherd, a fund that provides food donations and other assistance for those in need, has recently pivoted from its normal mission to pay December’s rent for several families in Craig, Milner and Steamboat Springs.
The Christmas Rent Relief Program comes from a partnership between Holy Name Catholic Church and Integrated Community and Northwest Colorado Health and recently worked with local nonprofits to identify residents who could benefit from the program.
Residents did not apply for help, so having their month’s rent or mortgage paid was a surprise to those who received it.
“The idea was that if they could pay December rent, that would alleviate resources for people to have a more enjoyable Christmas season,” said Tina Delaney, who helped organize the program. “It was a way for us to give a gift without people having to ask for money.”
Delaney said the group didn’t ask the families to apply because they know seeking assistance can be uncomfortable sometimes.
“There are all of these different circumstances, so I just felt like it was a way for caseworkers to advocate on behalf of their clients, without the client having to convince us why they needed the money,” Delaney said.
In addition to rental assistance, Holy Name will also serve free breakfast from 7-8:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, which Delaney said is intended to help residents facing extra challenges as winter sets in.
“I just want it to be a way for people that maybe are sleeping in their cars or in a tent — winter is coming and it’s pretty chilly in the morning — so they can come have coffee and fruit,” Delaney said. “We want to be receptive to people and where they’re at and what they do and don’t need.”
A pervasive issue
Holy Name Catholic Church Rev. Ernest Beyer said the group chose to focus on rental assistance because affordable housing is one of the largest issues facing Routt County residents.
“Our experience lately is people aren’t as much food poor as they are land poor or housing poor,” Beyer said. “Rental assistance seems to be what most people are struggling with.”
Lacey Manzanares, Routt County United Way operations manager, also sees the need.
“Financial stability is really important in our community, especially with the housing issue,” Manzanares said. “Being able to give someone a little bit for rent can give them some more money to pay for gas, or a Christmas gift for their kids, or food.”
The season for giving
For Maggie Taylor, associate pastor at Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, the holiday season represents much more than fun and celebration; it’s a time to be generous and contribute.
“We have people in our community who are experiencing a multitude of insecurity,” Taylor said. “This is the season of advent.”
To honor the season of advent, Heart of Steamboat is encouraging its members to give gifts of their time, resources and talent, in addition to donating grocery store gift cards and food items. Beginning Monday, Heart of Steamboat is encouraging anyone who’s interested to volunteer either with the church or at LiftUp of Routt County.
“It makes us a stronger family to give and to share with those who do so much for us,” Taylor said.
LiftUp of Routt County accepts clients and donations all year, but Amanda Bradder, LiftUp food bank manager, said the nonprofit sees more people in need during the holiday season than any other time of year. She emphasized that LiftUp serves all Routt County residents, regardless of their need or financial status.
“Our core values involve dignity,” Bradder said. “We want to make sure these folks have the same experience as anybody else.”
A community that helps
Because of Routt County’s affluent status, Taylor said that people in need can struggle even more than those in larger communities, especially without access to the same resources.
“To be able to live in this place, oftentimes those people who earn less, it just isn’t enough to make ends meet because of the high cost of living,” Taylor explained. “The people that are being supported through these programs come in all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and to be able to give is a privilege in itself.”
And there’s strength in Routt County, too. Taylor and Bradder both said that because of the community’s wealth, people here are often willing to donate and give generously.
“We’re just so fortunate that there is an automatic thought here in Steamboat, that folks think of other people more regularly,” Bradder said. “We are very fortunate to have a more affluent community.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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