The first time Robin Heide looked at the Oak Creek Mini-Storage building, she said she didn't think there would be any way LIFT-UP's South Routt Food Bank could move in to the space.
"At first it looked terrible. I was like, 'What? Are you kidding?'" Heide said.
Heide is the food bank manager for LIFT-UP, which helps Routt County families with food and other needs.
There was no heat or carpet in the mini-storage building.
It would be a perfect spot to stash a few boxes of clothes or furniture but did not seem ideal to run an organization for people to pick up food and come ask about other support.
LIFT-UP didn't have many options. The organization had been running out of Oak Creek's Old Town Hall with a $1 a year lease, but when the Town Board decided that the historic building should be leased to the local historical society, LIFT-UP had to find a new home.
The nonprofit organization considered spaces that would have cost $300 to $600 a year, which could have been too much to continue in the area, said David Freseman, executive director of LIFT-UP.
Then Scott Wedel, owner of the mini-storage building, presented another option. Wedel said the organization could have a $1 a year lease of space in the building, and LIFT-UP agreed to the offer about Aug. 1.
With help from volunteers and funds from the Darlene James estate bequest, the food bank is running well at the new site.
"It was just an old building, but now it's perfect," Heide said.
With the new space, LIFT-UP can offer food and other services to its South Routt clients.
Last year, about 534 people were helped at the LIFT-UP's South Routt center, Freseman said.
Those people received $16,000 worth of food, plus $4,000 worth of U.S. Department of Agriculture food commodities.
About $3,000 in emergency assistance and financial support also was provided.
Those funds help cover needs such as rent, utility, heating and doctor bills, as well as other needs.
Having a center in South Routt is important to many clients in the area, some of whom don't have a car or the gas money to make trips to Steamboat, Freseman said.
"The majority of them are working, but they're struggling to make ends meet," he said.
"And LIFT-UP, true to its name, helps lift them up over the crisis sometimes."
To get the storage space ready for the food bank, workers removed partitions, painted, installed carpet and a heater, made electrical changes and added a doorway.
Work started about a month ago, and with help from volunteers, including seven Soroco High School students from the National Honor Society who helped move everything from Old Town Hall to the new location, was mostly completed by Oct. 1.
The improvements cost about $1,500, which came from the Darlene James estate bequest. James was a LIFT-UP client who left her home and property to the organization earlier this year.
Many LIFT-UP clients do all they can to give back to the organization, Heide said. That's just another sign of the positive impact the organization can have on people.
Several clients continue to volunteer and spend time working with LIFT-UP even as they are dealing with terminal illnesses or other difficulties, she said.
Although the organization is focused on giving people food, it also gives them other less-tangible things, such as hope.
"Food is kind of a minor part even though that's what most people come here for," she said. "People know it as a food bank, but it's much more than that."
The food bank is open at its new 106 Moffat Ave. location from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays.