“Lift-Up is a treasure,” said Interim Executive Director John Dougherty in a recent interview. “It has been one of the most robust and rapid evolutions of an organization that has really been about hearing what the community needs, engaging with our partners and figuring out the best strategy to move forward.”
Dougherty would know. He’s made a career of assisting human service organizations with many types of transitions. Soon, Lift-Up will announce the name of their new executive director, once that person sorts things out with their current employer. Dougherty will remain onboard for a few more months, to ensure that things go smoothly.
The hiring of a new executive director comes with other good news. Lift-Up’s “pantry-of-choice” in Carbondale will reopen on Monday, Aug. 16. The reopening of locations in Glenwood Springs and Rifle will follow, later in September. This option allows food recipients to choose from items displayed on shelves instead of grabbing a pre-packed supply of goods. Each guest is given a point allocation to spend while “shopping” at the pantry. Foods with a greater nutritional value cost fewer points than items that are less nutritious.
“Our pantry clients are so excited to return to our pantry-of-choice,” said Carbondale Volunteer Pantry Manager Glee Doyle. “Many have missed the social interaction and comfort of seeing the familiar and caring faces of our volunteer pantry crew.”
Back in March of 2020, Lift-Up successfully pivoted operations to meet the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19. During the height of the crisis, the organization saw a 600 percent increase in local food insecurity. To guard against the virus, the organization shifted to mobile food distribution which, by popular demand, will remain an option throughout the valley.
Eighteen months into the pandemic experience, Lift-Up continues to adapt according to the needs of their communities. The organization has made a concerted effort to solicit feedback via partners and clients. This resulted in more late afternoon/early evening hours and the addition of Saturdays for food retrieval. Additionally, Lift-Up has added more culturally diverse food options while working toward accessible, equitable and sustainable food security.
“And it did, unfortunately, shine that spotlight on food insecurity…” said Director of Marketing and Development Debbie Patrick. “A lot of people are one paycheck away from being in trouble.”
Fortunately, Lift-Up saw that people in need of help were more comfortable with reaching out. A stigma around receiving assistance that may have previously existed was swept aside by a situation in which everyone saw clearly how things can turn overnight.
Such a successful transition was not without help. “Our community and our partnerships have really stepped up during the pandemic,” said Board President Anita Bineau. Lift-Up enjoys ample support from many governmental and non-governmental organizations in the area.
Another silver lining is the expansion of Lift-Up’s Farm to Food Pantry program, providing local ranchers and farmers with up front purchase commitments for fresh produce, dairy and meat to help persons in need with healthier and more diverse options.
To accommodate a greater commitment to fresh foods, Lift-Up’s Thrift Store in Parachute was retrofitted to expand the nonprofit’s warehouse and logistics capacity. Party to the effort, Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork fundraised for a forklift to improve efficiency at the site. Funding is still needed for shelves, more refrigeration and palettes. Lift-Up is also working on getting additional refrigerated vehicles.
“This community is so supportive and so committed to taking care of each other,” commented Dougherty.
The Extended Table program has also moved back inside with either grab-n-go or buffet service, five days a week in Glenwood Springs and two days a week in Rifle.
And Lift-Up continues to listen closely to the communities it serves to inform the organization’s direction. In addition to seeking board members, the board has opened their programs and services committee and fundraising committee to community members interested in lending their experience.
“There’s always a need for more support and volunteers in the work that Lift-Up does,” said Dougherty.
Learn more and find the August Food Distribution Calendar at www.liftup.org