Six hundred baskets of food aren’t enough
Vail, CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado – Tsu Wolin-Brown wishes she could say the local need for food and other necessities has gone down, but it simply
Wolin-Brown, the executive director of the Vail Valley Salvation Army, has seen an average of 400 to 500 families per month come through her office for assistance this year. As she and about 300 volunteers helped pack 350 Thanksgiving food baskets Saturday in Avon, with another 250 baskets being packed downvalley at the Brush Creek Pavilion, she feared it wouldn’t be enough.
“More people will come in early this week,” she said.
The volunteers ranged from SOS Outreach members to local public-safety workers to families in need of the very assistance they volunteered to help provide. Everyone worked in an assembly-line kind of fashion, packing all of the traditional Thanksgiving-dinner staples such as turkey, yams, potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Wolin-Brown said the community understands the local need, and that’s why the turnout at this annual volunteer event is always huge.
“It’s really nice to offer people an opportunity to give to the community because people want to give,” Wolin-Brown said. “Everyone here is happy to be here, happy to help.”
Dan Smith, chairman of the Salvation Army board and mission coordinator for Vail Mountain Rescue, helps coordinate the holiday basket volunteers from local public-safety groups. Those folks – who include staff from local police departments, the Sheriff’s Office, the local ambulance districts, fire departments and the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Training center in Gypsum – deliver each and every food basket to the families who need them.
Smith remembers the days when the organization would pack just 50 Thanksgiving baskets. Now, at 600 total baskets, the volunteers are simply at their limit.
“It’s physically what we can do,” Smith said.
Smith knows this year’s total probably isn’t enough, either. He said of last year’s 350 Avon baskets packed, there were about 40 leftover baskets that were brought back to the Salvation Army available for walk-in pickups. This year, he expected about five leftover baskets, meaning all of the other baskets had already been spoken for.
“If you assume more (walk-ins) are coming to our office, this is a bigger year than last year,” Smith said.
The local economy just hasn’t picked up the way Wolin-Brown and Smith hoped it would have by now. Wolin-Brown said middle-class families that used to donate to the food pantry are now in need of help.
“We’re seeing a lot more middle-class people who have lost their jobs or who are under-employed,” Wolin-Brown said. “They’re humiliated, a lot of them. They’ll say, ‘I’m so embarrassed, but this year I need food to feed my girls.'”
That’s the kind of evidence Wolin-Brown sees of the local economy, which is why she’s not convinced it has gotten any better.
“There’s a huge need,” she said. “I still have a lot of people looking for work. We haven’t seen an improvement yet. I truly hope it’s going to be getting better soon – we all do.”