PO Box1424 Erie, CO 80516-1424
August, 2011 Erie UpLink co-founders
Lisa Knudsen, Stephanie Short & Lexi Cire
at our first fundraiser Hair Cut-a-Thon
As three moms, we saw a need in our children's schools and in our neighborhoods for responsive help with temporary life needs including food and clothing. Erie is a community with a real heart to care for one another, we founded Erie UpLink as a "link" between those who have a need and those who desire to give.
September, 2018 Erie UpLink co-founders
Lexi Cire, Stephanie Short & Lisa Knudsen
Erie UpLink has remained committed to linking needs with resources by cultivating collaborative relationships and doing a few things with great care. Our main program, Tiger Packs food-filled backpacks, is truly "Erie kids feeding Erie kids" and is the vehicle for most of our services to Erie students and their families.
Erie UpLink's vision is a community of caring in Erie, Colorado where folks work together to fulfill the basic life needs of every Erie child and family.
Our MISSION is to connect Erie families with resources to fulfill their basic life needs.
Our DESIRE is to provide hope and to demonstrate care for one another.
Interested in learning more?
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
Interested in supporting Erie UpLink?
Erie UpLink is Blessed to be a Blessing
By Jan Sciaccia
The Consumer Report of Erie Vol. 1, Issue 7
Lexi Cire, Stephanie Short and Lisa Knudsen started Erie UpLink, a charitable (501c3) organization in 2011 as a link between needs in the Erie community and folks wanting to help. Their motto is “See a need, fill a need.” Their mission is to connect Erie families with resources to fulfill their basic life needs. Their desire is to provide hope and to demonstrate care for one another. The founders affirm that Erie is a very generous and compassionate community.
Erie UpLink has narrowed its focus as it’s grown. Erie UpLink serves children and families in Erie who are in need of temporary assistance, meeting basic life needs such as food and clothing. Much of their serving is based through the Tiger Packs program. They started with eleven food-filled backpacks at Erie Elementary and are now serving over 100 students each month through six Erie schools. Each fall Black Rock Elementary, Summit Bank and other groups collect new hats and gloves, which are distributed to every Tiger Packs recipient as well as to Erie school health offices. Erie Family Dentistry provides dental care packages. Christmas stockings are filled with toiletries, books, socks, and holiday treats and go home in December packs. School supplies, boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, boxed Valentines and other seasonal favorites are also distributed through the Tiger Packs.
Erie UpLink also partners with local schools to provide scholarship funds for fieldtrips and enrichment activities, special classroom supplies and snacks, a hot lunch account for students experiencing a temporary need outside of the free/reduced lunch program, and seasonal clothing (PE shoes, snow boots, winter coats, etc.). Lexi, Stephanie and Lisa think the key to their organization’s success is that they focus on doing a few things very well rather than lots of things. They ask for help and strive to be a good partner to the schools, groups and organizations serving Erie.
Erie UpLink is run solely by volunteers. The founders share responsibilities equally, though there are some areas of “specialization.” Stephanie Short does the banking and accounting, Lexi Cire lends her experience as a special education teacher at Erie Elementary to help the Board understand the needs of many of the families and students served, Lisa Knudsen maintains the website and does much of the electronic communication. All of the food, which equates to about $13,000 a year, is donated by local groups including Calvary Church, Black Rock and Red Hawk Elementaries and Rocky Mountain Christian Academy. The drives are run by volunteer groups, and the Tiger Packs are assembled and often filled by local student groups including Girl Scout Troops, 7th grade boys Calvary youth group, and several Erie High School student groups including Student Council, Select Choir, and Tiger Football Seniors.
Erie UpLink is also responsible for bringing Eagle Lake Camp to Erie for the first time. In the past the organization was responsible for sending kids to the camp near Woodland Park. This year they wanted to bring the camp to Erie so more kids could participate in the camp experience. See box at bottom of page for more information on this action-packed fun camp. The founders didn’t know how they would fund the Eagle Lake program, including twentyfive need-based scholarships, but the non-profit Board decided to step out in faith. At their next board meeting, a check arrived in the mail for the exact amount needed. The donation came from a family that had received five scholarships for their children to attend Eagle Lake Camp at the on-site program outside Woodland Park. The family had received a great financial blessing and they wanted to share it with Erie UpLink.
One special moment for Lisa was sitting down on the floor in the hallway at Erie Elementary with a young lady who needed tennis shoes for PE. As Lisa took the shoes out of the box, the girl’s eyes got huge. She tied them on her feet and jumped up so excited. Lisa shares, “I don’t think she’d ever had a brand new pair of shoes right out of the box before and she was just so happy and thankful. It brought tears to my eyes, does still just thinking about her.”
Erie UpLink would like readers to know how very appreciative they are for the encouragement and financial support they receive from the Erie community. They encourage those interested to visit their website at erieuplink.org regularly for ways to help, to donate via PayPal and for upcoming event information. Erie UpLink’s address is PO Box 1424, Erie CO 80516-1424.
Erie Uplink feeds students during spring break
5-year-old nonprofit supports Erie's 'poverty pocket'
By Whitney Bryen Staff Writer
POSTED: 03/29/2016 11:26:59 PM MDT
From left: Luis Olivas, 16; Travis Cochran, 17;
and Sarah Fritche, 17, help stuff backpacks with
food in the basement of Erie resident
Lisa Knudsen on Tuesday night
(Jonathan Castner / For the Camera)
As St. Vrain Valley School District revs up for spring break, an Erie nonprofit is preparing to feed more than 100 student who will be without free and reduced school lunches during the break next week.
About 25 students from Erie and Niwot High Schools stuffed microwaveable macaroni and cheese, granola bars, oatmeal, ramen noodles and beef jerky into orange and black backpacks Tuesday night for the 5-year-old nonprofit Erie UpLink.
The backpacks, called Tiger Packs, will be sent home with 105 students at six Erie schools later this week in preparation for spring break, which begins Monday for SVVSD.
"Most of these kids are going to be home alone or staying with Grandma or Grandpa, while Mom and Dad are at work," said Lexi Cire, one of the founders of Erie Uplink. "These packs provide a meal for them when pantries might be empty."
Tiger Packs — the nonprofit's flagship project — were the inspiration behind the organization launched in February 2011 by Erie moms Stephanie Short, Lisa Knudsen and Cire.
When Cire's son, Zane, was in fifth grade at Erie Elementary School he began asking for more and more food every day. Eventually, Zane admitted that he was sharing his lunch with friends whose lunch funds had run out before the end of the month, leaving them without meals.
After Cire filled in Short and Knudsen, the team decided to take action, and Erie UpLink was born with the group's first 11 Tiger Packs.
"The most important thing about Tiger Packs is that it's Erie kids feeding Erie kids," Knudsen said.
Now, the nonprofit is supplying Tiger Packs throughout the school year to 105 kids at Red Hawk Elementary School, Erie Elementary School, Black Rock Elementary School, Aspen Ridge Prep School, Erie Middle School and Erie High School. Donations are brought in through food drives held throughout the school year.
The packs are repacked by volunteers and sent home with students about once a month to help provide food for weekends and school holidays when meals may otherwise be missed.
"When you think of Erie, the median income is fairly high and we're mostly middle-to-upper class," Cire said. "But there's this poverty pocket in Old Town, right in the center of town that has a lot of trailer parks, where rent is expensive, and there aren't a ton of jobs. Those kids are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and we want to help them do that."
Carrie Mitchell, an English teacher at Erie High, organized about a dozen students from the school's Teens with Wings charity group to help pack bags for their peers this week.
Mitchell said the community service provides an outlet for the volunteers to learn to be selfless while meeting the needs of area teens.
"It's a lot different in high school. There's such a pride factor," Mitchell said. "We have to work hard to ID the kids who have a need but then try not to acknowledge their tough times. You just have to be really sneaky at the high school level."
Erie UpLink has also partnered with other area nonprofits such as A Woman's Work and Collegiate Crossing to assist local moms, provide college guidance to high schoolers, offer camps for low-income students and supply basic needs for families in a bind.
One of Cire's favorite stories is about a newly divorced Erie dad whom the nonprofit helped with clothes, haircuts and camp fees for his three children.
About a year later, the man wrote a letter to the organization thanking them for the help and sent a check that sent 25 students to a camp last summer.
"Everything we do goes back to the community feeding the community," Knudsen said.
Whitney Bryen: 303-473-1113, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/soonerreporter
Article in VoyageDenver Magazine
Inspiring Stories Series- Longmont
February 25, 2020 Edition
Meet Lisa Knudsen, Stephanie Short and Lexi Cire
of Erie UpLink
Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Knudsen, Stephanie Short and Lexi Cire.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Erie UpLink co-founders and co-directors Lisa Knudsen, Stephanie Short & Lexi Cire. Founded in 2011: Erie UpLink’s vision is a community of caring in Erie, Colorado, where folks work together to fulfill the basic life needs of every Erie child and family. Our MISSION is to connect Erie families with resources to fulfill their basic life needs. Our DESIRE is to provide hope and to demonstrate care for one another.
As three moms, we saw a need in our children’s schools and in our neighborhoods for responsive help with temporary life needs including food and clothing. Erie is a community with a real heart to care for one another, we founded Erie UpLink as a “link” between those who have a need and those who desire to give.
Erie UpLink has remained committed to linking needs with resources by cultivating collaborative relationships and doing a few things with great care. Our main program, Tiger Packs food-filled backpacks, is truly “Erie folks feeding Erie folks” and is the vehicle for most of our services to Erie students and their families.
We started with 11 Tiger Packs and worked out of our basements. About two years ago, we outgrew Lisa’s basement (supplies were spilling over into Lexi’s basement as well) so we rented a 650 square foot space in Erie Village. This has enabled us to utilize larger volunteer groups like the Erie High School CR5 Choir and First National Bank’s Community Team, as well as to store food and items collected by our community partners any time of year.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The community in Erie has been on board with our mission from day 1, folks in our town are compassionate and generous and desire to make sure kids have the food they need to learn and be healthy. So collecting food for our Tiger Packs has been a smooth road. We are unique in that all of our food and the supplemental seasonal items like hats and gloves, Christmas stockings and personal care items are donated by Erie organizations and individuals.
We do not receive grants or food bank food. We also have an abundance of willing and enthusiastic volunteers who help with everything from hosting food drives to packing Tiger Packs to organizing activities Monday through Thursday in June and July for our Summer Lunch in the Park. Our Erie schools and the St Vrain Valley School District have been exceptional partners and have helped us shape our programs to meet the needs of area students and families.
We have had to be very purposeful in staying true to our mission. There are a lot of needs and we struggle to say no, especially to families we know are hurting. We have amazing partners, so we link families with the right resources as often as we can. We serve only our 7 Erie schools, so we have had to say no to needs from nearby communities. We would love to help other schools or communities start their own food assistance or summer lunch programs, and are working right now with Niwot High School to start a student pantry like the one we have at Erie High School.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Erie UpLink – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit in our tenth year serving the Erie community. Our main program is Tiger Packs- food-filled backpacks sent home with students from 7 Erie schools with non-perishable, kid-friendly food items to supplement children’s healthy diets over the long weekend or holiday break. Students take the food-filled backpack home on the last day of school before a long break and return the empty backpack when they go back to school. Families request Tiger Packs based upon their financial need for food assistance.
We treasure our relationships within the greater community. All of our feeder schools have joined in paying close attention to the needs of students and families. We partner with other organizations- Erie Churches, Crayons-to-Calculators, the two food banks in Erie, Collegiate Crossings, A Woman’s Work, Town of Erie, Erie Community Library, St Vrain School District, EHS Ed Foundation, Optimist, and A Precious Child- to help families meet a variety of needs. Things that set us apart are connection and relationship. We are able to connect folks in the community (NJHS, Banks, Youth Groups, Family Groups, Scouts, Church Groups) with opportunities to serve. Also, we are 3 Erie moms who have volunteered our time for ten years to love on our hometown.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Erie UpLink has evolved over the years. We started with just 11 Tiger Packs in 2011. At that time, we were small enough to help families with other life essentials. One year, in partnership with Calvary Bible Church of Erie, we empowered folks to “Love Your Neighbor” by performing small projects for neighbors in need. As our town and community needs have grown, we have had to narrow our focus – our resources can only stretch so far. Tiger Packs is now our main program and the vehicle through which we distribute not just food resources, but other helpful items such as stockings at Christmas, new hats, gloves and socks, toiletries and school supplies.
We partner with Collegiate Crossings to help a few of the families we have worked most closely with over the years to rise out of poverty through education- we scholarship students to work for four years with Collegiate Crossings for post-secondary planning. We had our first two students graduate from Erie High School in 2019. Both are finding success in college. We have more students graduating in the next couple of years. This will be our third summer partnering with St Vrain Valley School District, the Town of Erie and area organizations to serve Lunch in the Park, a free hot lunch provided for children 18 and under at Coal Miners Park.
We are pulled in many directions, but year after year we keep our focus on doing a few things well and with great love, sticking closely to our mission of connecting Erie folks to serve one another. Volunteers will continue to be a huge part of our future, as will our partnerships with our Erie schools. Now that we’ve outgrown our basements and are paying rent, we have to focus more on fundraising. We are always evolving with the needs of the families we serve.