New LIFT-UP director hopes he’s here to stay
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – LIFT-UP has a new director – and he’s planning on sticking around.”I hope this is the last job I ever apply for,” said Mike Powell with an optimistic chuckle. “Of course, who knows what the future holds, but it is my desire to be here for a long time.”Powell, 46, of Rifle is the newly appointed director for the 21-year-old nonprofit organization that provides food and essential services to the homeless, unemployed and working poor.When former longtime director Steve Carcaterra took a job with the U.S. Forest Service last summer, LIFT-UP’s board of directors hired former Garfield County deputy coroner Perry Bell to the post. But after two months, Bell resigned, leaving LIFT-UP without leadership, right before the organization’s busy holiday season. LIFT-UP assistant director Janelle Weidler took the helm between Bell’s resignation last fall and Powell’s appointment on Jan. 20. Since then, Powell has been settling into LIFT-UP’s main office in Glenwood Springs, and getting familiar with the organization’s outreach offices in Carbondale, New Castle, Rifle and Parachute. Powell is already somewhat familiar with LIFT-UP. His wife, Geneva Powell, was LIFT-UP’s office manager before becoming executive director of Garfield County Housing Authority.Powell is also familiar with social service work. He was a juvenile justice case manager for YouthZone, and both he and Geneva spent years working with teen church groups. Powell’s religious background mirrors LIFT-UP’s basic philosophy. LIFT-UP is an acronym for Life Inter-Faith Team against Unemployment and Poverty, although the organization isn’t tied to any particular religion. “I’m not a minister by trade, but I did attend a preacher school when I had some serious health problems some years ago,” he said. “At LIFT-UP, we never question people about their religious beliefs who come to us for help. It doesn’t come up.”Before his work at LIFT-UP and YouthZone, Powell was the youth minister for three years at the Rifle Church of Christ – work quite different from his former life in the military. Powell and his family moved to Rifle from Arkansas, where Powell managed an airport. Before that, he flew helicopters and planes as a captain in the U.S. Army, receiving his bachelor’s degree and master’s in public administration in the meantime. That background in organizational management is coming in handy as Powell faces the challenges of running a large social service group. The new director oversees five offices, five food pantries, two thrift shops and a soup kitchen, which served more than 7,000 meals last year. Powell thinks one of the most important issues LIFT-UP faces is its Rifle office and thrift shop. LIFT-UP leases the space from Garfield County, but must give up the building when the lease expires in 2005. “Garfield County has treated us like gold,” he said, “and they’ve given us fair warning so we can look for another spot.”Besides LIFT-UP’s main office near Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, all the other offices are located on church-owned properties.”I’m hoping to have the land donated,” Powell said of a future Rifle site. “Then we could possibly put a couple used modulars on the site.”Until then, Powell has a full schedule – and a deep appreciation of LIFT-UP’s volunteers.”I’m probably most amazed to see an actual dollar amount affixed to our volunteer labor,” he said. “Last year, our volunteers donated more than half a million dollars to this organization. That’s what keeps LIFT-UP so strong.” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgWhat LIFT-UP does-Operates a five-day-a-week soup kitchen.-Distributes food.-Administers vouchers for gasoline, clothing and household items.-Provides short-term shelter. Contact: 945-2005, http://www.liftup.org
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