Canopy resident Angelique Bratz paused next to a group of frozen people facing frigid temperatures in the Rifle Metro Pool parking lot, Wednesday morning. With her two young children at the back, like a clock, volunteers began providing enough food to support her family during the holidays.
Potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, cinnamon rolls, french onion, gravy mixture, a pound of butter, ham, recipes for dishes like french fries, cheddar crackers and corn hulled in her front seat.
It was just after 10:20 a.m., and so far Bratz had about 30 people getting one of the many free holiday meal kits offered through community volunteering. This included a variety of gun parks, recreation workers, police officers, and local bankers, among others.
During the fall, people can submit nominations to the city as to who they think would benefit from receiving a meal package at Christmas time.
Bratz, a former fast food employee who was injured on the job in 2019, was one of the candidates.
“I got a phone call last week, and someone recommended me to a basket, and I started crying in the middle of a Walmart,” Bratz said. “It’s definitely a huge blessing.”
While recovering from surgery, Bratz said she contracted COVID-19 twice and was unable to return to work.
“It was one thing after another,” she said. Our family literally can’t come back from medical problems. Furthermore, the mental health of this valley was in disarray.”
Just minutes before Bratz showed up, Amber Chuma, a disabled single mom from New Castle, stopped in the parking lot to receive her meal kit.
“This will definitely help,” she said. “Just me and my daughter.”
This year has seen an increase in nominations and family selections, said Austin Rextrow, Director of Gun Parks, Amusement and Recreational Parks, who plays an instrumental role in facilitating this second annual meal group opportunity.
In 2020, Rifle received 120 nominations and made 60 meal combinations. In 2021, the city accepted 160 nominations and submitted 80 meal packages.
“Food is needed in our community, and there is a group of people here who are not being served,” Rickstro said as he organized groceries for the next recipient in the parking lot. “We make sure they have enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each set has $75 worth of food in it. We pack it all.”
The vast majority of costs were covered by local Garfield County businesses, while every department in Venice assisted with food collection and packaging, Rextrow said.
Alpine Bank Rifle Branch Vice President Larry Stewart, who wore a winter hat while organizing groups, appreciated participating in charitable events like this.
“I think that’s just what we do. We are a huge supporter of society,” he said. “We are more than just a bank.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.