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Hungry residents give thanks for food baskets

Alycin Bektesh
Aspen Public Radio

Disadvantaged residents receive a free holiday food basket and share their stories with reporter Alycin Bektesh.

On a sunny morning a couple of days before Thanksgiving, Lynda Palevsky and two volunteers are standing among shelves and shelves of canned food and dry goods, at the LIFT-UP Food Pantry in Aspen.

“What we are doing here today is that we allow people to sign up for a Thanksgiving box of food, and we have nineteen families that have signed up,” said Palevsky.

One man who came in for his box was homeless through the summer. He is now staying on a couch in a trailer downvalley with three other guys; he goes to the Pitkin County Health and Human Services building every day willing to work but says of the 60 people who show up, only about 5 are offered a gig.

He spoke of the support system people in his situation have had to build to deal with hardship in the valley. He heard about the LIFT-UP food pantry from a man he says is worse off than he is, currently sleeping on the frozen ground each night.

Lynda Palevsky says in the seven years since she helped start the Aspen LIFT-UP she has seen every type of situation walk through the door - including people with multiple jobs and housing in the valley.

“They have to make a choice between rent and food, so they pay rent,” she said.

The Aspen location serves between three and four-hundred clients a year, down almost sixty percent from its opening year in 2009. In that time Palevsky says she has watched clients turn into donors once they have gotten on their feet. Everyone spoke about not taking advantage of the charity they were receiving

Adam is a single father, new to the valley. He values his 12-year-old son’s education and wanted to make sure they were in the Aspen School District. That means much higher housing costs, and for now, a Thanksgiving meal coming from a LIFT-UP box. Along with their meal though, father and son will spend the holiday volunteering with their church, and working to gather warm clothes for those without housing.

“Having benefited from this, I’m trying to instill in him kind of the give-back thing,” he said, “so we are going to do that on Thanksgiving day too.”

There is a disconnect between the town’s wealthy inhabitants and those who turn to LIFT-UP for food assistance -  one time, a donation of escargot was dropped off at the pantry, and visitors discarded clothes become winter wear for those in poverty.

But, as one visitor said, “this is a good community,” and as the baskets are handed out, so are the thanks-yous from the grateful recipients.

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