Dozens of homeless or otherwise down-on-their-luck individuals were treated to free Christmas Day breakfasts and lunches in Longmont’s Roosevelt Park on Friday during a holiday event organized and hosted by Longmont Helping Hands.
Also available to people who showed up for the morning and early afternoon holiday meal opportunities were blankets, coats, boots, gloves and clothing items — as well as water and snacks and the companionship of Longmont Helping Hands volunteers and fellow beneficiaries of that organization’s ongoing efforts to help “people in need,” according to Longmont Helping Hands founder Melissa Bartley Brim.
Among those attending the outdoor event was a woman who only wanted to give her first name, Lisa, who said she has a job but that she and her husband, Bear — a Navy veteran she said was disabled by a bullet wound that’s made it hard for him to work — have been living in a tent “in a camping spot” in the area.
“The rents in this town are not affordable,” said Lisa, who said she’s lived in the Longmont area for about six years.
She said she and her husband have received food, clothing and other assistance from Longmont Helping Hands and that “I try to come out and help Melissa as much as I can” because “she’s helped us out.”
Events like Friday’s Christmas meals and the donations of clothing and other personal items illustrate that “there’s somebody out there who cares,” Lisa said.
Providing about 50 free breakfasts from a food truck stationed at Roosevelt Park’s Longs Peak Avenue parking lot on Friday was Biscuits@Mike, whose owner, Mike Simuns, said he participated partly out of gratitude for how people helped his business after he started it up six months ago.
“I felt obligated to come out and do something,” Simuns said. “It was time for us to give something back.”
Distributing pre-packaged Christmas lunches outside the entrance to Roosevelt Park’s St. Vrain Memorial Building was the Niwot Tavern, although a representative of that business declined to be interviewed. Brim said Niwot Tavern had said it planned to have as many as 100 free meals available for the occasion.
Niwot Tavern traditionally has served complimentary Christmas day dinners to those in need.
Brim said Longmont Helping Hands, which she and here late husband, Carl Brim, helped start in December 2017, is not a formally organized nonprofit agency but now has almost 4,000 members on its unofficial rolls.
“I work with a lot of nonprofits” and churches to assist people who come to Longmont Helping Hands’ attention, Brim said. “I work with a hundred different organizations.”
She said, “Our group is non-judgmental” about the people it learns may benefit from Longmont Helping Hands’ assistance, which even extends to laundry services and a clothes pantry.
Dave Torstrut, a homeless person who showed up for one of Friday’s Christmas luncheon offerings, said Brim has been helping him get out of personal difficulties that he said have included living in a tent in Longmont’s Lanyon Park.
Tonstrut said that at one point, his hands were raw after three weeks of chopping wood to feed a fire to stay warm.
Brim said homelessness in the area — as well as the threat of becoming homeless — has grown this year during the COVID-19 pandemic in which “many people have lost their jobs.”
She emphasized, however, that when it comes to assisting the Longmont area’s needy, “We’re not going to let COVID stop us.”
Brim said of her own role in those efforts: “I love people. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing what we do.”
That’s included proceeding to hold Friday’s event, which comes just weeks after Carl Brim died on Sept. 28 at the age of 50. Melissa and Carl Brim had been married for 25 years.
“There was so much good in my husband as he truly loved God and was a man of faith,” Melissa Brim wrote in Carl Brim’s obituary. “He was by my side as we started an organization called ‘Longmont Helping Hands’ helping others who need a hand up.”
She said members of their family held their own pre-Christmas gathering last Sunday, partly so she’d be able to be available for the Roosevelt Park event on Christmas Day.