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Call to service

In December, President-elect Barack Obama called on Americans to organize and participate in a National Day of Service, scheduled for Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration.Like thousands of others across the country, Falcon resident and U.S. Army veteran Phil Pepalis registered his event, a food drive for the High Plains Helping Hands Food Pantry, at the Presidential Inaugural Committee Web site. He received approval within a few days.”This is the time to reach out and come together,” Pepalis said. “I want to do something local. There’s a lot of need here. The folks at Helping Hands are doing everything they can, and thank God for what they do.”Pepalis does not see the National Day of Service as a one-time event. “I intend to have a continuing relationship with the pantry,” he said.Pepalis also is working with Falcon retail businesses to set up bins so their customers can make donations of nonperishable food items.Ron Poelstra, co-owner with his wife Donna of Taste of Life, confirmed they will have a donation bin at their store in the Meridian Market View Mall, across the parking lot from Wal-Mart.Donations also can be dropped off at the pantry at 14755 Highway 24, between Judge Orr Road and Elbert Road.Currently, the pantry is low on canned fruit, breakfast cereal, soup, and macaroni and cheese, said Jean Woolsey, pantry director. Because so many clients have diabetes, no- and low-sugar foods are preferred, she said.Five-dollar gift cards for local stores, such as Wal-Mart and Safeway, make a great donation as well, Woolsey said.She said from 320 to 500 families visit the pantry each month; in December, nearly 700 families visited the pantry. At the same time, donations in the pantry’s bin at Wal-Mart during Thanksgiving were disappointingly low, Woolsey added.The pantry is open Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.Pepalis also is taking nonperishable food donations at his house at 10990 Squawbush Loop off Rex Road on Sunday, Jan. 18, from noon to 4 p.m. He is willing to pick up large donations. To contact Pepalis, call 719-930-4904.Helping people with foreclosure problemsBlack Forest resident Joe Morgan is concerned about homeowners faced with foreclosure.”People get in financial trouble, go to scam artists and get in worse trouble,” Morgan said.Mortgage default counseling has become a growth industry, he said. “They charge a fee, about $1,000, to give advice that can be found online for free.”Morgan thinks some of that advice is wrong, such as walking away from a home.”People who owe more on a house than the house is currently worth should not walk away,” he said. “They’re going pay a penalty for walking away; and, in Colorado, banks can pursue them for the difference between the mortgage amount and the amount the house ultimately sells for.”Morgan is working with a lawyer to prepare free information about homeowners’ rights and responsibilities in Colorado, and he will hold seminars once or twice a month to distribute the information.The first seminar is Monday, Jan. 19, from 10 a.m. to noon at the East Library, meeting room 2, 5550 North Union in Colorado Springs. R.S.V.P. by calling Morgan at 719-495-4335.Crawford HouseRetired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tony Wolusky lives in Colorado Springs and is the new commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7829 in Monument.Wolusky chose Crawford House as his service day event.”It’s a 15-bed shelter that gets homeless vets off the streets and into jobs and homes. They need canned goods, toiletries, winter gloves and pocket calendars,” Wolusky said.Donations can be dropped off at Crawford House, 415 South Weber Street in Colorado Springs, or call Wolusky at 719-481-4419 to arrange a donation.New Hope CenterHeidi Matteus, mother of four, is partnering with New Hope Center, the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter in downtown Colorado Springs.In the past, Matteus has dropped off toys for Christmas; however, this year, she toured the center to find out more about it.During the tour, Matteus overheard a shelter resident talking on the phone. “He sounded upset, saying, ‘I’m a good father. I’m trying to take care of my children.’ Hearing the agony in his voice was very sad,” she said.”The center is underfunded, understaffed and having to make cuts. Two women, Diane and Deirdre, run the center, each working 12-hour shifts. You can truly see that they put their hearts into it. They need blankets, and their mattresses are very thin.”For the National Day of Service, Matteus and the volunteers she recruits will complete a project that has been delayed by staffing cuts: They will strip, wash, wax and buff the center’s tile floors, using cleaning products donated by The Home Depot.Volunteers will meet Saturday, Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. at New Hope Center – 709 South Sierra Madre St. in Colorado Springs.”I know there is so much more the center needs that we can do,” Matteus said. “I’m hoping this will be the start of an on-going relationship between the volunteers and the center. They’re so grateful for us doing this, and I’m so grateful for the women who run the center.”To R.S.V.P online for Matteus’ event or any other National Day of Service event or to find other events, go to the Presidential Inaugural Web site, and enter your zip code.At least 12 service events will be held within 25 miles of Falcon.

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