Business is booming at Carbondale food pantry
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Business is booming at a food pantry in Carbondale as the recession claims jobs in the Roaring Fork Valley.
LIFT-UP, a nonprofit organization providing humanitarian aid in Garfield County, fills grocery orders for 20 or more families three times a week these days. Numbers swelled to 28 families on Monday and 40 on Wednesday last week. By 11:30 a.m. Friday, 20 families had been assisted at the pantry behind the Methodist Church, located at 385 S. 2nd St.
Before the recession, fewer than 10 families typically sought help from LIFT-UP’s Carbondale pantry on the three days per week it was open, according to Mike Powell, the organization’s executive director.
The growing need isn’t isolated to Carbondale. In January 2008, the organization gave 877 bags of groceries throughout Garfield County. This past January, it gave out 1,000 in Rifle alone, Powell said. LIFT-UP operates in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and throughout western Garfield County towns.
Requests for food were up 37 percent between July and October 2008, compared to the first half of the year, Powell said. The organization has been too busy dispensing food to crunch updated numbers on demand.
“We’re off to a big start. That’s all I can tell you,” Powell said.
The Carbondale pantry first felt the rush in November when employment sagged in the hotel and construction industries, according to Jody Wilson, a volunteer and member of LIFT-UP’s board of directors. Not as many women were employed cleaning hotels in Aspen and not as many men were needed as laborers for construction firms, she said. They found themselves out of work and in need of help in feeding their families.
“We’ve seen lots and lots of new people,” Wilson said, adding families in need from the Basalt area aren’t turned away.
About 90 percent of the people seeking help are Latinos, a ratio that existed before and after the recession, according to Wilson. Powell said there is a greater mix of Latinos and Anglos seeking assistance in western Garfield County. He said many people seem to be holding on in hopes that the economy improves and they start working again.
Wilson, and volunteers Lisa Reed of Silt and Marjorie Deluca of Carbondale, assisted a steady stream of Latino men at the Carbondale pantry Friday morning. Many of the clients could only speak Spanish. They filled out paperwork to show how large their families were and to track their visits. No recipient must pass a “need” test to qualify for groceries, but clients are limited to four visits to the pantry per calendar year.
The three volunteers filled bags and boxes with canned fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, pasta and meat. Wilson said enough is provided to feed the recipients’ families for three days.
Deluca, who started volunteering last summer, said the work is rewarding.
“There’s nothing like giving food to people who are hungry,” she said.
LIFT-UP could use additional help in the Roaring Fork Valley. There is a desperate need for volunteers to staff the Carbondale pantry, which is open 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Interested people can call the pantry during those hours at 963-1778, or call Wilson on her cell phone at 319-9017.
The organization also needs donations to keep its shelves stocked. They take canned foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods and frozen meat. It can be delivered to Carbondale during regular pantry hours.
Wilson said large donations from City Market and food drives organized by community groups are a big help. LIFT-UP prefers food but also accepts cash contributions, which is used to buy food. It has two Thrift Stores in Rifle and Parachute, which generated about $150,000 last year to buy groceries.
Despite the spike in demand that is expected to continue this year, Powell said LIFT-UP will meet the need.
“We’re in pretty good position to weather this year,” he said. “We have never had to close down because of no food.”