LIFT-UP still making a difference in the community 25 years later |

LIFT-UP still making a difference in the community 25 years later

Heidi RiceGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kara K. Pearson Post Independent

RIFLE – Mike Powell believes that God has been very good to him. In return, he helps others through his work as executive director of LIFT-UP of Garfield County.An acronym for Life Interfaith Team on Unemployment and Poverty, LIFT-UP celebrated its 25th anniversary in September and serves thousands of families each year from Parachute to Carbondale.”LIFT-UP started in 1982, just a little bit before the (oil shale) bust,” Powell said. “Folks were struggling and local church leaders got together and formed it.”

Powell has been with LIFT-UP for the past five years. He had previously worked for YouthZone and was a volunteer for LIFT-UP, helping with fundraising events, taking kids to church and assisting with the Extended Table soup kitchen.”When the executive director’s job opened up (at LIFT-UP), I applied for it,” he said. “I didn’t get it the first time around, but the second time I applied, I did.”Originally from Arkansas, Powell started out as a pilot in the Army – serving the country as everyone in his family has, including a grandson who is now serving north of Baghdad.”I come from a family that all serves our country,” he said proudly. “We have a great country and we all take our turn.”It was while he was in the Army that Powell was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 32. He remained in the Army, but when the cancer showed up a second time, he was forced to leave and undergo some intensive treatment.”The third time, the cancer showed up in my lungs,” Powell said. “I was 35. They gave me a 20 to 30 percent chance to survive for five years.”

That was 16 years ago.In 1998, he was sitting at home in Arkansas when someone called and asked him if he would come to Garfield County and be a youth minister. It sounded like a good idea, so he moved with his wife, Geneva, and his family to Rifle, where they are members of the Church of Christ.Powell said he finds his work at LIFT-UP is very rewarding.”Helping somebody you know cannot pay you back in any shape, form or fashion is a pretty good feeling,” he said.In 2004, the Holiday Fund was started by three local newspapers and the Two Rivers Community Foundation. The Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Citizen Telegram in Rifle and the Valley Journal in Carbondale joined with the foundation to help raise money that is distributed to a number of nonprofit and other organizations throughout the Garfield County.LIFT-UP has been a recipient in the past and has again submitted an application for this year.

“We use it to buy food because we go through a large amount of food,” Powell said. “Besides providing food all through the year – not just the holidays – we also give out $10 vouchers and provide services, including the Extended Table and the holiday baskets.”Powell said one of the neatest things he’s seen LIFT-UP do was help a woman who needed to have a home in order to get her children back.”A house came up and someone contacted LIFT-UP and we did a collaborated effort with Social Services and other agencies,” he said. “We all pitched in – LIFT-UP did the electrical – and she got the house and her kids back. It’s always cool when you’re able to do things like that – it’s exciting.”Helping others is a way of life for Powell, as he feels he has been helped himself.”God has been very good to me,” he said earnestly. “I don’t have any complaints.”Those wishing to make donations to the Holiday Fund may do so at the Post Independent, 2014 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601; the Citizen Telegram, 133 W. Third St., Rifle, CO 81650; or the Valley Journal, 467 Main St., Carbondale, CO 81623.

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