Community Connections: LIFT-UP is expanding to meet needs |

Community Connections: LIFT-UP is expanding to meet needs

Laura Schmidt/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Visitors to LIFT-UP's Donation Center often remark on the towering pile of donations waiting to be sorted for sale in the Thrift Store.

"It's like Mount Everest!"

"How will you ever go through all of those bags?"

"Is the pile always this big?"

While the pile of donations sometimes reaches mountainous proportions, it's also a great reminder of the community's generosity to LIFT-UP. Clothing, household items, sporting goods, linens…donations flow through LIFT-UP's doors in an endless stream.

And contributions to the Food Bank are just as plentiful. Each donation LIFT-UP can sell in the Thrift Store or distribute in one of its food banks has a positive impact on the life of a Routt County resident in need.

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LIFT-UP is expanding. By the end of 2015, the organization will have a new, bigger Food Bank, and the Thrift Store will be almost doubled in size. The store expansion will generate additional revenue that will increase LIFT-UP's sustainability. It will also provide more funding to support growth in LIFT-UP's food bank, emergency assistance and self-sufficiency programs.

LIFT-UP is dedicated to meeting the basic human needs of people facing difficult times in their lives. In 2014, the organization assisted 2,216 individuals with food, emergency housing requests, utility bills and medical assistance. LIFT-UP consistently provides food and emergency assistance to 10 percent of Routt County's residents each year.

While remaining committed to providing charitable assistance to those in need, LIFT-UP has begun to place a greater emphasis on helping clients achieve economic self-sufficiency. To that end, the organization invests time and money each year in the Routt to Work program, which helps impoverished Routt County residents take critical steps towards financial stability.

In 2014, LIFT-UP initiated the Hope for the Future Scholarship, aimed at helping low-income, non-traditional students attain education and job training that will allow them to find better-paying jobs. And soon LIFT-UP will launch the Learning Lab, where job-seekers can learn the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

The Thrift Store is key to the success of LIFT-UPs client assistance programs. A powerful revenue generator for LIFT-UP, the store netted close to $190,000 in profit in 2014. All of that profit was used to help fund LIFT-UP's food bank, emergency assistance and self-sufficiency programs.

By nearly doubling the square footage in the Thrift Store, LIFT-UP is anticipating a net revenue increase of 10 to 25 percent. The expansion will create a better shopping experience for Thrift Store customers, and it will provide more opportunities to support the health and well-being of LIFT-UP's Food Bank clients.

Expansion highlights

After the Thrift Store expansion, shoppers will enjoy:

• Almost twice as much floor space in the store and 30 to 40 percent more inventory on the racks and shelves

• Two modern cash registers to help customers quickly make purchases

• Three widened dressing rooms and two new family-sized dressing rooms, all with lights and mirrors

As a result of the Food Bank expansion, LIFT-UP clients will benefit from:

• The addition of a commercial-grade walk-in refrigerator and freezer, which will increase LIFT-UP's storage capacity for fresh produce, proteins and dairy products by 30 percent

• A private office for client meetings

• A larger Steamboat Food Bank with more inventory on the shelves

• Commercial-grade sinks that will allow LIFT-UP to wash and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables for the Rocket Pack, LIFT-UP's healthy food program for low-income children.

While there are a lot of new and exciting things happening at LIFT-UP, one thing remains constant — LIFT-UP's commitment to providing charitable assistance to those in need, while promoting personal growth and self-sufficiency. As LIFT-UP grows so will the health and well-being of low-income Routt County residents.

Laura Schmidt is executive director of LIFT-UP of Routt County.