Discovering Steamboat: A hand up, not a handout
September 7, 2013
Steamboat Springs — I'm not one to turn down a free lunch, so when David Freseman invited me to attend a "LIFT-UP 101 Luncheon," I gladly accepted, and by doing so, I was introduced to a worthy, well-managed organization that makes a difference in the lives of needy and hurting families throughout Routt County.
The lunch involved David, who serves as LIFT-UP of Routt County's executive director, three board members and two community members. LIFT-UP lunches are held monthly, involve a diverse mix of individuals and are designed to casually inform area residents about LIFT-UP's mission and its important work in the community.
These lunches are intimate and allow for a great exchange of information and ideas. Guests freely ask questions, and LIFT-UP leaders very transparently provide the answers. I've been involved with a number of community groups, but I have never seen this approach to reaching out to the community — the format of the gathering was very informal and much more effective than a larger community meeting. As an invited guest, I felt welcomed by David and members of his board, and I was comfortable asking questions about all aspects of the LIFT-UP organization, which were answered in detail.
I came away from the lunch with a desire to support LIFT-UP's mission of "providing charitable assistance to meet basic needs, while promoting personal growth and self-sufficiency." I also love the group's motto: "Help for the Present … Hope for the Future."
The LIFT-UP model is a strong one with services aimed at lifting people up, as the name implies, rather than giving handouts.
"Most of our clients are working and some are working more than one job," David said.
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The organization is run like a business with budgets and detailed profit and loss statements, which David openly shares with his LIFT-UP lunch guests and any interested community members.
LIFT-UP operates a self-supporting community thrift shop at its main office in Steamboat. The store generated revenue of $306,525 in 2012 and provides a large portion of LIFT-UP's funding. In addition, the organization is supported by individual donations, contributions from local businesses and organizations and state and local grants. A small percentage of LIFT-UP's annual revenue of about $560,000 comes from federal funding sources — the majority of support is local.
The organization also coordinates food pantries and service centers in Oak Creek and Hayden and has programs in place to provide low-income families and individuals with clothing, lodging, fuel, transportation and utility assistance. These services are run by nine paid staff members, five full time and four part time, and more than 100 volunteers who readily give of their time and resources to assist the less fortunate. In 2012, those volunteers contributed 9,638 hours in support of LIFT-UP.
Last year, LIFT-UP served 2,512 different individuals through its programs, providing a long list of in-kind food and clothing assistance as well as emergency assistance funding valued at $387,000.
The organization's most recent push resulted in the launch of a summer lunch program and a school backpack program that serves all Routt County elementary schools. The group currently is working to increase client access to fresh produce through collaboration with LiveWell Northwest Colorado.
David describes LIFT-UP as a "shining example of how things should work when community helps community." He also notes that LIFT-UP has thrived because of its spiritual-based philosophy and conservative financial management.
"We essentially run a business," David said. "We have a reputation for doing important work and doing it effectively and efficiently."
After 13 years with LIFT-UP, David is stepping down from his role as executive director and moving out of the area. North Carolina's gain will be Steamboat Springs' loss. A retirement reception will be held in David's honor from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at Sweetwater Grill on Yampa Street. I encourage community members as well as those who've received help from LIFT-UP over the years to come out in force to wish David well and thank him for his service to Routt County.
I think David plans to have one more LIFT-UP lunch before he retires, so if you'd like to learn more about this wonderful organization, call him at 970-871-9327 or visit LIFT-UP's website at http://www.liftupofrouttcounty.org.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221 or email lschlichtman@SteamboatToday.com