Food banks reach busiest time of year

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— On any given day at food banks in Routt County, some shelves are bare. On any given day those same shelves are stocked.

The ebb and flow of canned goods, toiletries and perishable items in and out of LIFT-UP's doors is nothing new.

But the flow is particularly strong this time of year.

"It has been really hectic," LIFT-UP interim executive director Kathy Conlon said. "We've had lots of donations, but the demand has been greater than the donations."

LIFT-UP operates food banks in Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek. Its ability to meet clients' needs depends to a large degree on the generosity of local businesses, organizations and residents.

Penny Lucas regularly sees new faces visit the food bank in Steamboat.

Lucas, LIFT-UP's community resource case manager, said the start of the ski season finds a younger demographic in need of help. Twenty-somethings come to Steamboat and have a hard time finding seasonal employment or cannot start their jobs as quickly as they expected.

Word of mouth usually brings them to the food bank, Lucas said.

Conlon said the state of the economy and uncertainties about the future have brought more people to LIFT-UP's doorstep this Christmas season.

Caseworker Jeanette Iacovetto assists 143 individuals and families from Oak Creek, Phippsburg, Yampa, Toponas and McCoy.

Many of the South Routt Food Bank clients are single parents and larger families with small children.

"It's a struggle," Iacovetto said. "It is always a struggle to keep everybody satisfied."

The food bank in Steamboat must stock the Oak Creek location because few donations come from South Routt.

Charlie and Clare Taylor of Oak Creek often pick up supplies for the South Routt Food Bank when they are in Steamboat to shop for items for their Oak Creek restaurant.

Volunteers from the food bank in Steamboat pile the Taylors' van high with boxes of cereal, juice, pasta and bread.

"We just want to help out," Clare Taylor said.

Lucas is hopeful South Routt organizations will consider holding food drives this winter to keep the food bank shelves stocked in Oak Creek.

In the meantime, Iacovetto runs to the local grocery store to replenish depleted items or waits for a new shipment from Steamboat.

"We keep struggling, and we keep our doors open," she said.

Several organizations in Routt County ensure the shelves stay stocked during the holidays.

"The community is just wonderful with their donations," Conlon said.

Steamboat's youngest residents have incentive to make Christmas a little brighter for those in need.

Children 18 and younger can participate in the Food for Fines program at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in December.

The program allows children and teenagers with late fees to pay their fines with non-perishable food items.

Youth services librarian Currie Meyer said the food drive, now in its third year, raised 600 items of food last December.

The Boy Scouts will help LIFT-UP stock up on its staple food items next Saturday. The scouts will collect donations outside Safeway from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and City Market from 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The annual event, which helps to replenish food banks during the Christmas season, provides shoppers on their way into the stores with a list of needed items for the food banks.

Shoppers can then place the items they purchased in a sleigh on their way out.

David Reed, Boy Scouts service project coordinator, said it's a convenient way for people to give.

"Certainly there's lots of need in the community," he said.

The Boy Scouts usually collect a few truckloads of donated items that immediately go to the food bank.

Local churches take turns collecting donations. Parishioners fill paper sacks with non-perishable food items.

Hunters donate their game to LIFT-UP. Their donations provide food banks with plenty of frozen meat for clients, Conlon said.

Local grocery stores are generous with perishable donations. Girard and Diane Parnell regularly pick up boxes of day-old bread, damaged items, dairy products and discontinued items and drop them off at the food bank in Steamboat.

The Parnells have volunteered for several years at LIFT-UP.

Volunteers, like donations, are always welcome, Lucas said.

The need is real, Girard Parnell said.

"Routt County has its share of it," he said.

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