LIFT-UP numbers are on decline

Officials say if trends continue, South Routt office's future may be re-evaluated

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The future of LIFT-UP's Food Bank office in Oak Creek is in jeopardy because of a lack of use, officials with the nonprofit said.

Erika Righter is the LIFT-UP Food Bank and case manager and works at the Steamboat office, the Oak Creek office and occasionally the Hayden office. She said there has been a severe decline in the number of people who have been coming to LIFT-UP in Oak Creek.

Neither Righter, nor David Freseman, the executive director of LIFT-UP, is sure why the numbers of attendance are so low. "It has just been really quiet here, and that is unsettling," she said.

The Oak Creek LIFT-UP opened its doors to the South Routt community in fall 2000. For the past five years, LIFT-UP has been providing Oak Creek and South Routt community members with a food bank, USDA commodity distribution, bill assistance, fuel, mentoring, medical help and other programs and services.

"In the past, we have been very busy, and over the last few years, we have served about 150 different South Routt families," Freseman said.

But that number has decreased significantly.

"We don't really know why people aren't coming in. It's possible that people in Oak Creek are doing better at this time of the year," she said.

In the past month, Righter has only logged four people into the Oak Creek LIFT-UP. She said that in a typical month, that particular location usually logs from 25 to 40 people or families.

The LIFT-UP office in Oak Creek provides the same services as the Steamboat office.

Righter has talked to people in the Oak Creek community and knows that the need exists for the services and food that LIFT-UP distributes.

Righter thinks that one of the factors that might be contributing to the low attendance is that some people have a hard time asking for help, even when they need it.

"I think people are embarrassed to come in sometimes and admit that they're having a hard time making ends meet," she said.

Righter said the services LIFT-UP provides are not just for poor people or transients like a lot of people think.

"You know, these people are your co-workers, your friends and your employees," she said.

Righter said that many people want to live in the Yampa Valley and that at times, bills or other emergencies arise and people find themselves in need of at least a little assistance.

"We can help someone pay rent or pay a bill or try to stay out of debt," she said.

At this point, Righter and Freseman do not know what is in store for Oak Creek LIFT-UP, but they said at some point, they will have to evaluate the cost efficiency of keeping the office open.

"My hope is that it will remain a strong entity n Oak Creek and that we can get a more permanent space," Freseman said.

Right now, Righter spends five hours a week in Oak Creek.

Righter knows that what people need can fluctuate from time to time, but she hopes that people are aware that LIFT-UP is always there.

The Oak Creek LIFT-UP is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, and from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays.

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