Rifle Parks and Recreation Department fills void of canceled activities with holiday philanthropy

Rifle Parks and Recreation employees Kearstin Pierce and Austin Rickstrew put together a meal kit basket at the Rifle Parks office.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A long, event-filled list of recreational leagues and classes usually fills the Rifle Parks and Recreation Department’s winter calendar.

This includes the Sunlight Winter Sports Bus. This amenity offers season passes to local youth snowboarders and skiers for just $35, busing the kids each weekend to rip up Sunlight Mountain.

The program usually runs from early December to spring break.

“Sadly, we had to cancel that,” said parks and recreation program manager Austin Rickstrew. COVID-19 concerns, of course, caused the department to scrap this year’s usual winter activities itinerary.

Some would argue, however, such a bleak anomaly is actually a blessing in disguise. With the open time, the municipal department has now focused their attention on providing holiday meals for the needy.

“Everyone’s struggling right now,” Rickstrew said. “We’re just trying to give a little holiday cheer at this time while still being as active as we can.”

Called “Holiday Feast,” people have until Dec. 16 to submit entries to the department, pitching their reasons why they or people they know should receive a meal kit this holiday season. The kit, stocked with turkey baskets, all the ingredients to prepare green bean casserole, pie, potatoes, bread, corn, Brussels sprouts and fresh carrots, poses quite the hearty feast. It should feed 5-7 people.

An example of a meal kit basket being put together by the Rifle Parks and Recreation Department.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“It’s basically whatever we can buy for $75, we’ll fit in that meal kit,” Rickstrew said.

There are simple options to pursue for people interested in submitting nominations. They can either scan the QR code found on the Holiday Feast fliers or visit the parks and recreation Facebook page. From there, they’ll need to take a survey, which asks for names, addresses, places of residence and why the surveyee feels the nomination is valid.

“It makes me feel good,” Rickstrew said. “But as much as I want to take credit for it, it was not my idea.”

This is the inaugural year of the Holiday Feast, Rickstrew said. Earlier this fall, the city held their first Halloween-house-decorating contest, which churned a success. From that, the parks and recreation department decided to hold another house-decorating contest – this time for the winter holiday season.

Rickstrew said parks and rec administrative assistant Kearstin Pierce came up with the idea of providing meals as prizes for the Christmas House Decorating Contest. Winners also have a chance to win up to $250 if they place first in one of the three judging categories.

Meanwhile, after the annual Hometown Holiday fireworks display was canceled, Western Garfield Chamber of Commerce CEO and Director Tanya Perea Doose, Alpine Bank and the city’s Greater Rifle Improvement Team (GRIT) reached out to help contribute to the Holiday Feast.

“Tanya thought that was a great idea, the bank thought that was a great idea,” Rickstrew said. “Alpine Bank said, ‘Make it 20 meals and we’ll sponsor it fully.'”

In addition to the Holiday Feast and the Christmas House Decorating Contest, the parks and recreation department is currently holding a canned food drive until Dec. 18. People can donate cans of food at the parks and recreation office.

“I am just so impressed with them down there, in terms of our parks and recs department,” said city public information officer Kathryn Potosky. “This is that time of year when they would be doing all these sporting events and different activities – none of which they can do. So they have just become ultra philanthropic.”

Rickstrew said once the nominations are accepted and approved, the parks and recreation department plans to load up the meal kits onto city buses and personally deliver them to people’s doorsteps.

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