Grand County people, organizations reach out to those in need |

Grand County people, organizations reach out to those in need

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS – Opportunities to help neighbors in need are abundant this time of year, with toy, food, and winter coat drives in full throttle throughout the county.

The Grand County Sheriff’s Department held a food and fund drive that raised nearly $2,000 and 2.5 tons of food for the Mountain Family Center in Hot Sulphur Springs, and the Girl Scout Troop in Granby raised more than $400 and 500 pounds of food.

Stewart Title held its annual toy drive, which will provide toys to families this holiday season. Correspondingly, police departments throughout the county are conducting robust toy drives, Grand Lake’s Delicious Dishes is scheduled for Dec. 14 at the Daven Haven in Grand Lake to benefit the Mountain Family Center, the Granby Medical Center Specialty Clinic is collecting canned goods during its Cookies with Santa on Dec. 11, and chambers, civic clubs, churches and countless other benefactors are further demonstrating goodwill toward their fellow neighbors.

The need in the county is legitimate, gauged if nothing else by the number of families and individuals seeking help through the Mountain Family Center.

‘Downright frightening’

The Mountain Family Center is on track to serve the same number of families it did in 2009 at the organization’s two food banks of Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs, according to Mountain Family Center Executive Director Jill Korkowski.

While almost 3 tons of food was shelved the week before Thanksgiving, she said, the Center found that the week after Thanksgiving the food bank shelves were again sparse, lacking pantry staples such as flour, sugar, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, macaroni and cheese and other boxed dinners, according to Mountain Family Executive Director Jill Korkowski.

The food bank helped 3,430 individuals in 2009 – a year Korkowski characterized as “downright frightening” – and may serve as many by the end of 2010, she said.

The Mountain Family Center works closely with Food Bank of the Rockies, which supplies greatly discounted groceries to the Center. The Center is also part of the Grocery Rescue Program with City Market in Granby, which supplies meat and bread.

“However, the greatest support we receive is through ongoing donations of food and funds donated locally,” Korkowski said.

“There are a lot of new families along with ones who were in trouble last year too,” she added.

Some families the agency served worked with Colorado Workforce resources to find work out of the county.

“It’s hard to watch good hard working people have to pick up and leave,” Korkowski said. “But then again, they’re lucky they have that option too.”

Tis the season

As in years past, many Grand County families will find assistance this holiday season through the Mountain Family Center Christmas Project.

For at least 25 years, the Mountain Family Center has collected Christmas gifts or arranged a Christmas dinner for families that especially struggle through the holidays. Families that apply provide basic information about their children, such as age, sex, sizes and Christmas wishes. These families are matched with sponsors, who help fulfill the needs without knowing identities of families.

“The Mountain Family Center believes this is the purist form of charity,” Korkowski said.

Last year, the Mountain Family Center had 84 families enrolled in the holiday program. This year, 65 families applied, but the Mountain Family Center is still in need of as many as 15 sponsors. Sponsors spend at least $10 per child and provide a food basket for a meal on a Christmas table.

The Mountain Family Center also helps with rent assistance. To date, as many as 59 Grand County families have received assistance, with another eight applications waiting in the wings.

And more families are applying for utilities assistance, according to Korkowski. Last year, 35 households received up to one month of help with a utility bill, and this year 50 households have applied. Those who apply are encouraged to sign up for the federally funded state-supervised, county-administered LEAP system designed to assist with winter heating costs. The LEAP Program eligibility period runs from November 1 through April 30.

According to Korkowski, the Mountain Family Center works with families to create a plan for long-term self reliance that includes referring households to other resources in the community, such as public nursing, the Rural Health Network, and Social Services.

And no Grand County family should go without warm winter wear. The Mountain Family Center maintains a Coat Closet in the basement of the office, which provides free or reduced priced winter clothing to families in need.

“As the economy changes and more local Grand County families are adversely affected, the Mountain Family Center appreciates the time, energy and generosity of all of those who provide support,” Korkowski said.

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