GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Organizers of the annual Christmas Day Angel Dinner are preparing for a possible 80 percent increase in the number of people they will be serving this year, due to an increase in the local homeless population during the past year.
“A lot of people came here looking for work back in the summer, and they didn’t quite make enough to leave, so they’re kind of stuck here,” said Nancy Turner, who took over organizing the free Christmas meal for the homeless last year, and also organized a holiday clothing drive.
In coordinating with Feed My Sheep, which operates the local homeless shelter and day center services, and with Lift-Up, which sponsors the Extended Table soup kitchen, Turner said she learned that about 80-90 percent of the area’s homeless are working.
“But the incomes are almost poverty level, if not less,” she said. “It’s just not enough for them to survive, so they’re living in tents up on the mountain. We’re just glad that we can do what we can to help them.”
The early cold snap this fall prompted Turner and her co-workers at Stewart Title on Grand Avenue to open an unused area of the office to start handing out coats and other winter clothing early.
Last year, the clothing was collected during the weeks leading up to the Christmas Day event, which were unseasonably warm compared to this year, and handed out to the people who came for dinner.
“With the cold weather coming so much earlier, we decided to build a little walk-in closet, and invited people to come in for a cup of coffee or tea while they looked around for what they needed,” Turner said.
Another particular need this year was for warm children’s clothing, she said, noting that principals and teachers from schools in Glenwood Springs and New Castle called looking for a place to send children and their families to find some appropriate clothes.
“We had kids coming in here with tennis shoes and no socks and no coats,” Turner said. “Most of our children’s things are gone now, but we do have quite a few coats and other clothing left.”
The clothing drive and daily distributions will continue at Stewart Title through Christmas Eve, and the remainder of the coats and other items will be handed out after the Christmas Day dinner at the First United Methodist Church.
Turner said there is still a need for men’s boots, both snow boots and heavy work boots, as well as snow pants and thermals.
The Angel Dinner served about 120 people last year, but Turner said she anticipates upwards of 200 next week.
The Couey family of Silt is providing all of the beef and pork for this year’s dinner, as well as making all the pumpkin pies, Turner said.
“We could still use some more breads and vegetable dishes, and we always need paper products,” she said. “We will also be handing out little gift bags and personal care kits.”
Turner coined the new name “Angel Dinner” last Christmas after taking over for the previous Christmas Day dinner organizer Angel Cusick.
The dinner will take place from 1-4 p.m. on Christmas Day, next Wednesday, at the First United Methodist Church, 824 Cooper Ave., Glenwood Springs.
For more information or to donate coats, clothing, food or other items, contact Nancy Turner at (970) 319-8073, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.