LiftUp of Routt County ready for Rocket Pack summer programs to take flight | SteamboatToday.com

LiftUp of Routt County ready for Rocket Pack summer programs to take flight

In just over a week, children across Routt County will be out of class and enjoying summer break in the Yampa Valley.

Most of those children will have reason to celebrate, but for a few, this is a dangerous time of the year, according to Sue Fegelein, executive director of LiftUp of Routt County.

"It can be a dangerous time for those kids who are dependent on the free, or reduced-cost school lunch programs," she said. "Our goal is to make sure they have good nutritious options through the summer. I don't want to see any kids going hungry."

To help those children, LiftUp is now enrolling children for its Rocket Pack summer lunch programs in Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

Parents can visit the LiftUp locations in Steamboat Springs or Oak Creek or go online at liftuprc.org/rocket-pack/ to find an application. Children can be accepted to the program at anytime, but Fegelein is encouraging people to register as soon as possible because summer programs will begin on June 12.

The Rocket Pack program was created to provide a healthy and nutritious snack pack that is handed out to school-aged children through the winter and is continued in the summer through local clubs and camps.

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The Rocket Pack also offers a summer lunch program that allows parents to stop by the food bank and get the items needed to pack their children's lunches. Those items can be picked up once a week and include everything needed to pack a child’s daily lunch.

Rocket Pack supplies 150 snack packs a week through the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Colorado in Steamboat, 20 snack packs through the Soroco School District and another dozen as part of a collaborative effort with the Northwest Colorado Center of Independence. Totally Kids currently offers a lunch program in Hayden.

The Rocket Pack program, including the summer lunch program, is funded through revenue generated by LiftUp’s thrift store and a generous grant from the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation's Youth Advocacy Project for Routt County.

The programs also get funding from other general grants from Routt County United Way and the Routt County Human Resources Department. In addition, a group of women from the United Methodist Church volunteer to pack the snacks year-round, which Fegelein saves the program about $72,000 annually.

The budget to run the Rocket Pack program this year was $45,000, but Fegelein said she is currently trying to raise an additional $5,000 to cover the expenses of adding three more schools in South Routt and Hayden that were not in the budget.

"We had three schools on a wait list from last year," Fegelein said. "This year, we just decided to bring them onboard and then find the money. I couldn't tell them, again, that they were going to have to wait."

She said the Rocket Pack programs have exploded the past two years. During its busiest week last year, the program provided 386 students with a snack. That number was shattered in March when the program set a new mark, providing 548 snack packs during a single week. Next year, LiftUp is expecting that number to hit 600.

Jeff Modesitt, LiftUp community support manager, said demand for snack packs and lunches varies widely over the course of the year, with numbers dropping slightly in the summer.

Modesitt said federal cutbacks should not impact these programs. 

"But it's always a concern for us in terms of community support," Modesitt explained. "It doesn't matter what little state and federal money we use, we are always impacted by government cuts. The private funding sources that we use are all impacted by the environment for charitable giving. If there are cuts at the state and federal level, the agencies that are out there looking for money must find other sources, and things can get pretty thin, very quickly."

Fegelein said if there were cuts to the school's free or reduced-cost lunch programs, the demand on programs like Rocket Pack could increase overnight. 

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966