AVON, Colorado - Vail Valley Cares board member Jeff Apps waved a fistful of envelopes to a smiling crowd, and said, "This is what a quarter million dollars looks like."Thursday's grant luncheon saw the organization give away $250,000 to 28 local direct-aid organizations. They've handed out $2.2 million since they started doing this in 2000, the last two years topping $250,000.Recipients gathered at Eagle River Presbyterian Church and even got lunch."If you are in this room you must be doing something amazing," said Jeff Apps, a Vail Valley Cares board member.The Thrifty Shop business model is not complicated. People donate all sorts of things and they sell it.Besides bikes and clothes, they'll find stuff like a Story & Clark baby grand piano. It now occupies the space where the steer horn chair used to be.Part of it is the times in which we live, said Laurie Mullen, a Vail Valley Cares board member."People are realizing that they don't need so much, so they donate it. They're also looking for different ways to buy things. If their kids need bikes, for example, they might swing by the Thrifty Shop for a look."When they started doing this, the Edwards store had barely expanded to its second bay. The Eagle Store had two dedicated parking spaces, mostly because it didn't need any more than that."Our staff believes in the Vail Valley Cares ministry," said Greg Osteen of Vail Valley Cares.Tires and talentThe uses for the grant money are as varied as the people who received them. None will waste a dime.Brita Horn is chief of the Rock Creek fire department. They're eight volunteers who cover 245 square miles in the northwest part of Eagle County around Bond and McCoy.Rock Creek handles about 60 calls a year. Last year it rained all the time so it was mostly river rescues. This year it didn't and it was wildfires, Horn said.Their trucks are donated, and they'll use their grant money to buy tires, Horn said.The Bright Futures Foundation runs the local safehouse and is trying to eliminate domestic violence.The Eagle Valley Family Assistance Fund uses the money for a revolving loan fund. The money is supposed to be paid back when people are back on their feet, but their clients can't always do that."About half the money that goes out doesn't come back," said John Galvin with the Family Assistance Fund.The Vail Valley Cares grant is a large part of their funding, he saidThe Eagle River Presbyterian Church's Loaves and Fishes Caf provided more than 1,000 free meals last year. They do it every Wednesday night.Mountain Valley Horse Rescue will use the money for both people and animals."This helps us complete the circle of giving," said Shana Devins. "People help take care of abused and neglected horses, helping them heal. The therapeutic benefits of horses with humans are well documented. Now the horses will help people who've been abused and injured."The Vail Valley Charitable Fund helps people trying to deal with medical emergencies and its applications are due by the end of each month. On Thursday they heard from a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis and a young man with kidney cancer.Erica Ross helps run the vail Valley Medical Center's Eagle Care Clinic. Last year they saw more than 2,500 patients and provided many of those with medications that helped heal them or kept them healthy.Vail Valley Cares has been at this since 1994 when the local Rotary Club helped them get started in their Edwards location. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.