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LIFT-UP feeds the hungry

Donna Gray

Back in the dark days of the oil shale bust, inflation and unemployment were spiraling upward. A group of clergy in Garfield County got together to do something about the folks who needed help.In 1982, the year oil shale went belly up, LIFT-UP was born. Life Interfaith Team on Unemployment and Poverty is still helping folks in need – and still looking for financial support.In the 21st century, LIFT-UP is as necessary as ever. The group operates food pantries in five communities in the county as well as Extended Table, which serves free hot meals to anyone who shows up at the Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs.According to LIFT-UP director Mike Powell, by the end of this year Extended Table will have served more than 9,000 meals.”In the first half of the year we seemed to be running at or below average. When June came it just skyrocketed,” he said. “If it keeps up this pace, we’ll average close to 1,000 meals a month. It’s just unbelievable.”This week Powell and his volunteers are delivering holiday baskets to thousands of needy people.”Last year we distributed over 3,000. I expect we’ll get close to that.”Christmas dinner will include vegetables, fruit, dessert, bread and meat. Powell explained that LIFT-UP no longer gives turkeys – there’s just no place to store that many. Now the basket includes a voucher for meat at a local City Market.Besides the holiday food baskets, LIFT-UP also sponsors Angel Trees in local grocery stores and banks, where a child’s name is written on an angel that hangs from the tree. People pick the angel off the tree with the child’s age and gender and buy them a Christmas present.Last year more than 4,000 kids got more than one present from the Angel Tree, Powell said.There’s also help for folks traveling through town who run out of gas, or someone who can’t afford to pay for a prescription, or who’ve had their utilities turned off for non-payment of a bill. LIFT-UP is there to help.Powell said there appear to be two groups who come to LIFT-UP for assistance. “The homeless are the most likely to be at Extended Table. The folks who come in to the office usually have jobs but not enough to get by. I call them the working poor or the underemployed … folks who can’t earn enough to live on,” he said.They are the people who in most cases have gotten derailed by calamity.Powell’s philosophy is, “If I help you today, can you help yourself tomorrow? We’re not here to support people indefinitely,” he said. These are people who have done pretty well for themselves, “but one single event has gotten them off track. We help them get back on track.”Help does not come cheap, however. This year, LIFT-UP has appealed to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent Holiday Fund for $1,000 to buy food for its pantries.Powell also praised the generosity of people who have supported LIFT-UP in the past.”We’re just a tool. It’s the community who is helping. That really speaks to the generosity of the area. This is a very, very generous valley we live in.”For information about LIFT-UP, call 945-2005.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.comPOST INDEPENDENT/CITIZEN TELEGRAM HOLIDAY FUNDThe Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Citizen Telegram are still accepting donations for their Holiday Fund. Donation checks should be payable to the Two Rivers Community Foundation with the check memo indicating “Glenwood Springs Post Independent Holiday Fund.” Donations are tax-deductible and can be delivered or sent to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, 2014 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601; or The Citizen Telegram, 132 E. Third St., Rifle, CO 81650.


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