Helping hand helped Rifle woman learn how to give back |

Helping hand helped Rifle woman learn how to give back

John Stroud Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Distraught and unable to land a job when she got out of prison in December 2007 after serving a one-year sentence for a methamphetamine conviction, Cheryl Fisher of Rifle could have easily slipped back into a life of addiction.

She’d been clean for more than a year and had worked hard to rehabilitate herself while in prison. Once out, though, she needed help obtaining some basic necessities of life for herself and her young daughter, now 12, with whom she was reunited.

Beyond a few things to help her get by, though, she needed a friend.

Fisher found her “voice of encouragement and support” in Stacie Durrett, the operations manager for the Glenwood Springs unit of the Salvation Army for the past two years.

“I came to see Stacie, and she didn’t just give me the household items that I needed, she gave me courage and the strength to go on,” said Fisher, who just celebrated 31 months of being clean and sober.

“No matter how depressed I was, I knew I could come talk to Stacie,” she said. “She has been my rock through this entire process.”

Now, Fisher is on a mission to give back – and to encourage others in the community to give – to the Salvation Army, LIFT-UP and the other charitable organizations that have helped her get by.

“To me, it’s a hand up, not a hand out,” she said.

Especially with demand for charitable services up so much this year due to the economic downturn, Fisher is calling on anyone who can to give during this time of severe need.

“There is a dire need for our community to pull together, especially now,” Fisher said. “My plea to the community is to consider donating what you can to support the good work that these people do.”

Durrett said the local Salvation Army’s emergency assistance program has already served more than 1,200 people this year. That’s as many as the agency served in all of 2008, she said.

Salvation Army offers such things as rental assistance to keep people in their homes, as well as financial help with utilities and medical expenses and any other bills that need to be paid.

“In the past we helped people who were living from paycheck to paycheck and just got behind on their bills,” Durrett said. “Since the beginning of December [2008] when people started getting laid off, we’re seeing people who have never had to ask for help before.”

The LIFT-UP food pantry, located in the Catholic Charities building on Grand Avenue with Salvation Army and the Feed My Sheep day shelter, has also experienced a marked increase in need for its services this year, director Mike Powell said.

“Giving is actually up,” Powell said, noting that LIFT-UP recently had a successful mail campaign soliciting for donations. “We live in a very generous community.”

Still, “It’s not up as much as is the demand for services,” he said. LIFT-UP recently began operating a food pantry in Aspen, in addition to its locations in Garfield County.

Feed My Sheep, which operates the day shelter for homeless people and a wintertime shelter using a local motel, also has a steady flow of donations. But the need is that much greater this year, said Katie Lerch, case manager for the organization.

“The same people are being faithful,” she said. “We have been impressed that even if people are less able to give, they’re still doing what they can.”

For Fisher’s part, she has become a vocal champion for supporting these organizations. And she said she’s become a better person through her own experience.

This past weekend she was at the God Rally in Rifle and met a family that was living in their car and didn’t have anything to eat. So she gave them the sandwiches she had made for herself and her daughter. On Monday, she was back to help with cleanup after the event. There were some leftover food items, and one of the volunteers asked if Fisher wanted to take them home.

“It was one of those things where I saw how giving comes back,” she said. “Through that courage and strength that I’ve gained, I have the ability to give again to other people.”

This Friday, the Colorado Mountain College Gateway program is presenting a yard sale and bake sale fundraiser for Salvation Army, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle. To donate items, contact Melanie Langley in Glenwood Springs, 987-2521; Shannon Funnell in New Castle, 404-1360; Jennifer Killgo in Silt, 366-1711; Angela Herrington in Rifle, 978-5986; or Kitty Kofoed in Parachute, (307) 971-2951.

For more information about Salvation Army, call 945-6976; LIFT-UP, 945-2005 or 625-4496; and Feed My Sheep, 928-8340.

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