Eagle County charities hard at work to meet a lot of need | VailDaily.com

Eagle County charities hard at work to meet a lot of need

Needs include food, rent and housing assistance

Our valley has a number of people who need help with everything, from emergency shelter to rent and utility payments to food. That need will probably continue in 2022.

At the Vail Valley Salvation Army, director Tsu Wolin-Brown said collections were “way down” at the nonprofit’s red kettles. People didn’t want to ring bells standing outside, she said, adding she believes these days fewer people are carrying cash.

Despite the loss of in-person donations, Wolin-Brown said the nonprofit’s “virtual kettle” collections did OK.

The December donations are a big part of the Salvation Army’s fundraising every year. And there’s a lot of need.

Wolin-Brown said nearly 300 local families participated in the annual Adopt a Family program, which lets churches, clubs and individuals fill a Christmas holiday wish, or need, list for local families.

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In addition, the nonprofit also fills holiday food baskets for local families. Filling those baskets requires volunteer help, along with donations of cash and food.

Wolin-Brown said she expects a number of individuals and families will need help in the new year due to COVID-19 or because they haven’t worked while resort-related businesses have waited to start winter operations.

The Eagle Valley Community Foundation runs The Community Market, which offers free food for those in need and has one location: on Lindbergh Drive in Gypsum.

A new location

The foundation is in the process of moving the Edwards location to the Northstar Center on the southwest side of the Interstate 70 interchange.

The need for food across Eagle County has grown over the past couple of years, and local nonprofit groups are working hard to keep up.
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Eagle Valley Community Foundation Executive Director Melina Valsecia said the new location should be running this month.

Valsecia said the foundation and market received a lot of support in 2021. The group has seen a steady amount of donations come in. Though donations might be a little smaller than in the past, people “still believe in our mission,” Valsecia said.

Use at The Community Market skyrocketed with the pandemic. Valsecia said before COVID-19, the market would serve about 1,800 people per week. During the pandemic’s peak, that number went to about 3,800 people per week. At the moment, about 2,700 people came in for food during Christmas week.

People who come in include adults with and without children, older residents and people who need help feeding extended families.

Costs are rising

With food and transportation costs increasing, along with growing need, Valsecia said it’s difficult to meet the current demand. The foundation works with the Food Bank of Rockies and local producers to keep the shelves stocked. A number of people who buy animals at the annual 4-H Junior Livestock Auction at the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo often donate those animals to the market.

Even with donations, Valsecia said it costs between $7,000 and $10,000 every week to keep the market operating.

Volunteers have put in more time to put food in people’s pantries, Valsecia said. Volunteer hours in 2021 doubled from 2020.

The Food Bank of the Rockies is a great partner, Valsecia said, and the market rescues food waste from grocery stores.

The new year is bringing new plans for the local charities. The Community Market’s new location in Edwards will have more capacity for storage, especially for fresh food, Valsecia said.

Wolin-Brown said the Salvation Army is looking to expand its horticultural therapy program and will add a new garden and greenhouse in the new year. In about five years or so, the Salvation Army will need a different home. Nothing’s been decided yet, Wolin-Brown said.

“There’s a lot of stuff we’re looking at,” she added.

By the numbers

300: Approximate number of families in the Salvation Army’s Adopt A Family program

500: Approximate number of families signed up for Salvation Army Christmas food basket

2,700: Approximate number of people who used Our Community Market during Christmas week

3,800: Approximate number of people who used the market during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic

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