RIFLE — Some children leave school for the weekend, looking forward to spending some time with their family and friends before returning to school on Monday.
Other children leave school simply looking forward to coming back on Monday morning because that will be the next time they get to eat again.
It’s difficult to fathom that kind of hunger taking place right in your own neighborhood but, thankfully, there are groups in the area that diligently work to try and help make things better.
In Rifle, the ROC center (Reach-Out Colorado Inc.) will celebrate its second anniversary of serving the communities of Rifle and Parachute in May. The center was started by David Bottroff of New Castle, who has been a pastor at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Rifle for the past 15 years.
“We are a referral resource service that directs people in need to resources that can help them,” Bottroff said. “I met Lee Price at The River Center in New Castle and I told him we need something like that in Rifle.”
Price showed Bottroff the ropes and now The River Center serves the New Castle and Silt communities and the ROC handles Rifle and Parachute.
According to Bottroff, the ROC was formed because despite the existing charitable organizations, there are still unmet needs in the community and oftentimes people don’t know where to go for help or what is available to them.
Along with The River Center, the ROC works with a variety of agencies including Catholic Charities, Early Childhood Network, Feed My Sheep, Garfield County Human Services, LIFT-UP, Rifle Community Services, Rifle Works, The Salvation Army and Tom’s Door.
“We’re finding that the further downvalley you go, the greater the needs are,” Bottroff said. “There are people that are underemployed and unemployed. Some people are living in a house or apartment, but are just one crisis away from living on the street.”
Some have to make a choice whether to feed their child or pay the electric bill. Eventually, the electricity is usually shut off.
“We refer people to organizations and see what they can do for them and then I find what resources I can,” Bottroff said. We have an emergency fund, but we’ve only been around for two years, so it isn’t very big.”
Emergency assistance for things like an energy bill or a month’s rent are typically one-shot fixes.
If we pay your electric bill or rent this month, what’s going to happen next month? “Bottroff said. “You’ve got to have a plan.”
Along with emergency assistance, a big part of what the ROC does is provide school children on the free or discounted lunch programs with food to take home on the weekends through the “Totes of Hope” program.
“This is food that is provided each week for the child to take home for the weekend,” Bottroff said. “It’s an 8- to 10-pound bag of non-perishable food items such as a can of chili, green beans, chicken in a can, crackers, applesauce and granola bars,” Bottroff said. “The purpose is to supplement the weekend menu. The teachers tell us they have kids that don’t eat over the weekend.”
The food is delivered to the ROC warehouse off Airport Road once a month from the Food Bank of the Rockies. The warehouse space was donated to the ROC by Murdock Electric of Rifle.
“We get five pallets of food,” Bottroff said. “We sort it and bring it to the three elementary schools, the junior high and the HeadStart pre-school and give it to the counselors, who then distribute it to the students.”
The program is able to produce 350 “totes” for the kids. An average of 320 kids per month are served.
Bottroff said residents in Rifle are still feeling the effect of the recession, as the area was one of the last to be hit and will likely be one of the last to recover.
“Things are picking up now on the Front Range, but it will be a couple of years before it comes here,” he said. “This is going to be with us for a while.”
The Food Bank of the Rockies provides adequate amounts of food to run the program, but financial donations are always welcomed on a one-time basis or an ongoing commitment several times of year.
“What I really need is more volunteers — we couldn’t do it without our volunteers to help deliver these things to the schools. And someone to be an emergency services leader,” Bottroff said. “Ideally, it would be an individual that was retired as a social services counselor who understands how this works and would be willing to put in 10-15 hours a week. Or we can train someone who has a compassionate heart and good common sense.”
The person would handle emergency phone calls, interview clients and refer them to resources that are available and to determine if the ROC can help them.
With adequate help and resources, the ROC is also able put on its Angel Tree program, provide senior assistance and help the Latino community with ESL, community and leadership integration.
If you would like to help or know of someone who could benefit from the ROC’s referral services, call Bottroff at (970) 309-0384; email to theRoc@sopris.net or to learn more, visit www.Reach-Out-Colorado.org.