News from Arboles: Food pantry grows, thrift store progressing

Photo courtesy Susan Gibson
The TARA Food Pantry now has two shopping carts to make taking food to cars easier.

By Susan Gibson
PREVIEW Columnist

It has been busy in Arboles these past few months. 

First off: The TARA Community Center was lucky to be honored by Archuleta County this year with the installation of an official ballot box and security system, just in time for the recent election. It was accessed by many residents of the area, providing a much more convenient way to cast a ballot than travel to Pagosa Springs for voting purposes. 

TARA Food Pantry 

The TARA Food Pantry has grown by leaps and bounds, partnering with a lot of organizations, from local growers to supportive outreach organizations in Pagosa Springs, Ignacio and Durango. 

Susan Halkin, the Food Pantry director, is happy to announce, as well, the addition of Cheri Melichar as a full-time partner to help with all the work of planning, organizing, food pickups, distribution and pantry day servicing. 

There is now a refrigerator and freezer to accommodate all the meats and fresh vegetables, plus two grocery carts so folks can just load up their carts and wheel on out to their cars. In addition, kitchen appliances like this miele coffee machine are now available there.

The pantry just sponsored a drawing for practical food baskets with soup pots, soups, bowls, hot pads, blenders, toasters, etc. The drawing was held on Oct. 31 and the winners who took home those goodies were Ursula Davis, Eva Johnson, Robert Trujillo and Yvonne Lucero.

Happy Thanksgiving from the pantry was supplied by a sign-up for Thanksgiving Turkey food boxes that were distributed on Monday, Nov. 23.

Pantry days are the same as the TARA Library days — 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. More and more people are hearing about the pantry as word spreads, and we have welcomed a lot of new people in the last few weeks, whether new residents of Arboles and surrounding area or folks who had just not realized that food support is so very near and convenient.

TARA Library

The library, too, has continued to grow and has been a wonderful place for people to browse as they wait for their turn in the pantry. 

Susan Gibson, the library director, said that the library now has over 250 DVDs, 15 different author collections, including a huge selection of Nora Roberts. There are mystery/thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, romance, westerns, general fiction, five shelves of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, animal and pet books, self-help books, how-to books, cookbooks, craft books, gardening books and the list goes on. The library functions as a Little Lending Library with no library cards or due dates. Just browse, take, and return when you can.

There is also a Kid’s Corner accessible on pantry/library days, with eight shelves of books for toddlers, children and teens, plus two tables of jigsaw puzzles and games. Kids can play on the playground outside and then come on in for snacks and games in their section of the library.

Coffee, hot cocoa, apple cider and cookies and baked goodies brought in by patrons and supplied by the food pantry are available every pantry/library day, as well. 

COVID restrictions still apply at this time. All must wear masks. Only one person at a time can go through the pantry and the area of the library has a limit of three, the food areas with limits of three and the kid’s area with a limit of three.

TARA Community Thrift Store

Per Gibson, facilitator for the thrift store creation, “So close, after so many months of monetary donations that took off when our original grant stopped. We now only owe about $500 or so to Matthew Tippin, the renovator, and will pay him off, in full, by the end of December. Sandy Gladfelter did all the work to get us a $2,000 grant back at the beginning of the year to get this whole idea started, and we are still waiting for word from another grant source found and applied for by Gladfelter to fully complete the project. In the works now are efforts to get enough gravel to surround the building and cobble rock to rock the bottom of the building. Meanwhile, we have acquired shelving, bookshelves, peg boards, shoe racks and four clothing racks. Looking more like a store every day.”

A year of donations has resulted in 10 times more inventory than the store can hold. We will definitely be swapping inventory out every month once we are in business. Have recently been greatly helped by access to a large storage area available through March of 2021, arranged by Elaine Nalani Nobriga, plus the offer of a smaller space for all future needs, furnished by Debbie Wilmms. We truly want to have our grand opening before Christmas, but it will open when it is ready and not before. 

A table full of beautiful Christmas decorations has been set up in the lower level so that food pantry and library patrons can access for free, with any small donation to the building fund warmly welcomed. 

A huge garage sale on the weekend of Nov. 20 offered all the overstock from the thrift store (both to whittle down the inventory and to earn some more money toward paying off the building fund), and also showcased crafts and furniture from local craftspeople in the Allison, Tiffany and Arboles area.

TARA upper level

Most upper-level activities and rentals have been canceled during 2020 due to COVID, though line dancing is still being held weekly with a small group of dedicated dancers. A family gathering outside in the open pavilion area was also held earlier this year. 

The normal weekly indoor senior lunch days not available all year. TARA, in cooperation with the Ignacio Senior Center, recently offered drive-thru pickups of senior lunches. The response was good, so it will probably continue throughout the duration of COVID restrictions. 

TARA’s popular annual Christmas in Arboles and Cookie Bakeoff nights will not be held this year because of the COVID restrictions. 

Historical Society

New displays showing photos, newsclips and articles about the history of the area continue to go up in the TARA lower level and there are many plans to expand the scope and display of historical photos, “oral stories” and historical articles and books. 

The Historical Society Task Force meets on the third Saturday of each month in the upper level of the TARA Center. Task Force committee members work to find locals with stories of the history of the area and articles and collections that examine the lost settlements of Navajo Dam and the evolution to today’s Arboles/Allison/Tiffany communities. 

The society is actively researching information on the Old Allison Catholic Church and is hoping to find grant sources and funding for renovation. They are currently working with the Tiffany Catholic Church members to write a grant for renovation and construction. The Tiffany church is on the Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list and also on the La Plata County Register of Historic Places.