The Sopris Sun is conducting a series of interviews with folks you may not have seen in the paper before – a sort of introduction to your neighbors. This week we caught up with Debi Boyle, the outgoing pantry manager at the Carbondale LIFT-UP food distribution center.
Q: Where did you come from and how did you get here?
A: We came to the valley in 1987. We’d lived in Boulder for five years, and my husband had started a business in Denver. We loved Boulder, but my husband traveled all over the state and found this tiny town of Carbondale. He said the western side of the Rockies was incredible, and we moved here.
Q: What did you do before you became involved with
A: I was a property manager, cleaned homes, took care of people’s second homes, that kind of thing. I started volunteering with LIFT-UP in 2005, but within a couple of years was doing so much there that I had to let go of all that other stuff. LIFT-UP became all-consuming.
Q: Why was that?
A: By that time – ’08 and ’09 – was when the recession hit, and all of a sudden, we went from doing five families a week to 20 to 40 families a day. We had a volunteer standing at the door taking numbers, like it was Baskin Robbins.
Q: How did you become the pantry manager?
A: After becoming a volunteer I kind of took over duties that weren’t being done. Finally, I was doing so much that I was called the lead volunteer and then called the pantry manager, and then by about ’08 or ’09 it worked into a little of a paid position.
Q: How have things changed with the operation of the pantry since you have been here?
A: When I started, we were handing out a box or two to a family, and it was all nonperishable food. We had one tiny freezer, so they got a little bit of meat. Now we have a giant freezer and two refrigerators, and we have dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Q: So, this all changed?
A: Yes, in ’08 we started getting donations of frozen meat first from Carbondale City Market, and then we would pick up from Aspen and El Jebel City Market. In 2011, when Whole Foods came on board, that was the giant boost that we needed, because they wanted us to pick up every day.
Q: And that allowed operations to expand?
A: Yes, we got so many donations that we started calling it our food rescue program. We pick up five days a week from multiple markets, so not only do we have volunteers giving out food but many others getting food that would otherwise be thrown away.
Now, in addition to clients walking in, we take food to senior housing, Stepping Stones, local schools where the kids maybe didn’t get breakfast or lunch. I hate to think what would happen if LIFT-UP didn’t exist here.
Q: Do you still have as many clients as you did before?
A: It’s varied up and down since ’08-’09. We’re open three mornings a week and now average anywhere from five to twenty families a day. If it’s a slower day, we can get more food to seniors or other places.
Q: Has the demographic changed?
A: There used to be more Latinos and fewer Caucasians, but it’s shifted to maybe an even split. And young, old the age variance is incredible.
Q: And now you’re stepping back?
A: My parents both had health issues – my dad passed away last year, and my mom’s are ongoing – and I’ve spent a lot of time in back in Virginia. So, I just couldn’t keep running the office. The volunteers all covered for me, but by March I said, I just can’t do this the way I always had. Taking care of my mom was full-time.
Q: But you are going to continue to be involved with LIFT-UP?
A: Yeah, as long as I live here, I can’t imagine not.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to mention?
A: Well, we get 90 percent of our donations in November and December. We need people to be thinking about us more during the year – clean out your pantry, pick up extra stuff!