North Routt Community Charter School fifth-grader Grace Mark sorts through food at the LIFT-UP of Routt County Food Bank on Monday morning. The elementary school students volunteered their time to help the food bank stock recently donated food items.

Photo by John F. Russell

North Routt Community Charter School fifth-grader Grace Mark sorts through food at the LIFT-UP of Routt County Food Bank on Monday morning. The elementary school students volunteered their time to help the food bank stock recently donated food items.

Students help out at local food bank

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Nine-year-old Jackie Brown drops off a box filled with peanut butter and jelly at the LIFT-UP of Routt County Food Bank on Monday afternoon. Instead of presents, Jackie asked her friends to bring food donations for her 9th birthday party.

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Grace King, a fifth-grader at the North Routt Community Charter School, sorts through a pile of donated food at LIFT-UP of Routt County. The students helped organize the food bank.

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For Jackie Brown's 9th birthday, the only thing she asked her friends to bring to her birthday party was jars of peanut butter and jelly. On Monday, Jackie donated the box of goods to the LIFT-UP food bank. The food bank has been hit with an unusually high demand this year and is seeking any donations available.

Jackie said she asked for the food donations in lieu of gifts because she knows she does not have the same needs as other community members.

"I'm a very lucky girl, and I get to go on vacations a lot. I know some people are hungry, and I want to help them," she said.

The group of fifth- and sixth-graders looked like a colony of ants. Scurrying about with their individual tasks, the students from the North Routt Community Charter School were organizing a table piled with food at the LIFT-UP Food Bank on Monday, dividing the items and placing them on their respective shelves.

Students from the charter school, led by teachers Carissa Unrein and Missy Beirne, brought the students to the school as part of a community service project. The group spent an hour organizing piles of food from food drives organized by Girl Scouts and the Buddhist community of Steamboat Springs.

"As much as it looks like, it will be out of here before Christmas with the high demand we've had," said Food Bank and Case Manager Pam Graham.

Fifth-graders Zava Zupan and Garret McCullav were in charge of putting toilet paper from the back room onto the main shelves.

Garret said the school has done a number of other activities and that he thinks continuing philanthropic work is important for the community.

"Some of the seniors, because of the economy, don't have a lot of money to go get food," he said. "Some families are just wanting a meal for Christmas."

Graham said the food bank averages about 500 bags of food a month, but the center gave out 530 bags in just the first two weeks of December.

"It's only by the grace of this community do we still have our doors open," she said.

Graham said the economy and an unusually long break between the end of summer and the beginning of the winter tourist season have contributed to the increased need.

Individuals are limited to two plastic shopping bags of food apiece, with a maximum of 10 bags per family per visit. Patrons can choose anything to put in the bags, with maximum limits on popular items such as cereal and canned tuna.

Graham said the donations also have increased drastically this year to meet the demand.

"If I have to go through a crisis like this, I'm glad I'm here in Steamboat," she said. "This community really takes care of its own."

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