Vail Valley job losses, uncertainty drive growing number of calls for help |

Vail Valley job losses, uncertainty drive growing number of calls for help

Food pantries seeing a spike in visits; volunteers are delivering food to those under quarantine

Donations, and volunteers, are always welcome at the Vail Valley Salvation Army's food pantry.
How to find help

Businesses across the Vail Valley are shutting down, and it’s uncertain when, or if, many will reopen. But help is available. Many are already using those resources.

At the Avon headquarters of Vail Valley Salvation Army, director Tsu Wolin-Brown said the nonprofit group is “seeing a spike” in need, particularly at the food pantry.

“People are definitely trying to stock up,” Wolin-Brown said.

Longtime Salvation Army board member Dan Smith said the pantry is currently seeing between 35 and 50 people per day visit the food pantry.

At the moment, the pantry is starting to see a decline in its inventory of non-perishable food. That will change in the coming days, as two semi tractor-trailer truckloads are coming. That will be three semis for March, Smith said.

The Salvation Army pantry right now is well stocked with fresh food, thanks to donations from restaurants that have closed down. Those donations are actually more than the limited refrigerator and freezer space at the panty can handle. Restaurants are being asked to use their own coolers until there’s room in the Avon pantry.

Wolin-Brown said she’s asked for some food to be shipped to Leadville, where many Vail Valley workers live.

Layoffs at local businesses have added to need just before the traditionally slow time after local ski mountains close.

‘People are struggling’

“People are struggling all over,” Wolin-Brown said. “There are people who just barely subsist all year.”

Volunteers have come forward to help the nonprofit get aid to those in need. That includes food deliveries to those under mandatory quarantines issued by the Eagle County Public Health Department.

Smith said Friday the Salvation Army is feeding 26 homebound people via drop-offs at locations from East Vail to Edwards and beyond. A volunteer delivers a week’s worth of food to a front door, rings the bell and backs away. There’s enough food for everyone in a unit, since a quarantine applies to everyone in a home, not just the person who’s infected.

Smith said other people currently isolating at home are using stores’ online shopping and pickup systems. Smith said City Market’s system, in particular, seems to be “very efficient.”

Members of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration have been among the volunteers working in the pantry and making deliveries.

The church’s lead pastor, Rev. Brooks Keith, said “We’re doing what we always do” in troubled times.

Catholic Charities also provides assistance to those in need. Marian McDonough runs the Avon office of the Denver-based nonprofit. McDonough said that nonprofit is “doing OK” so far.

That nonprofit hasn’t seen a big jump in cases in the past week or so, McDonough said. But, she added, she expects to hear from more people as the due date approaches for April’s rent.

“For sure there’s anxiety,” McDonough said. “People are wondering how long this is going to go on.” Many people have the resources to hang on for a month, or six weeks. But many believe they’ll be in trouble if the current crisis lasts much longer.

Helpers are communicating

McDonough said nonprofit and government assistance groups are in close communication with each other, to try to get people the help they need.

It’s hard to tell how long the business closures caused by the COVID-19 virus outbreak will last. When the break does come, some businesses may not be able to re-open.

There are Yellowbelly restaurants in Vail, Boulder and Arvada.

Yellowbelly partner Michael Frieberg said the company made its last scheduled payroll. Beyond that, and without some help from landlords and lenders, the future is uncertain Friedberg said.

“We’re the dictionary definition of a small business in a mountain community,” he said.

During the lull, the challenge for many will be to stay busy, Smith said. That’s particularly true of youngsters who are currently out of school.

“People really need to keep the kids at home and engaged,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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