Higher energy prices are just one of the factors likely to make this year’s Christmas spending a little tighter for the average El Paso County resident.
For the county’s low-income families, it’ll be tighter still.
That’s why Bart Givens and the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency are partnering with the Rock Bottom Foundation to coordinate the Miracle on Tejon Street.
The Miracle on Tejon Street will serve a complete Christmas Day meal at Old Chicago to 450 of El Paso County’s low income families.
Givens is the executive director of the PPCAA, which helps low-income families with basic needs and attaining self sufficiency.
He took time recently to tell CSBJ about himself and his organization.
Organization: Pikes Peak Community Action Agency
Position: Executive Director
Hometown: Born and raised on a farm on the edge of the sandhills in Stuart, Neb.
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: 11 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Creighton University; master’s degree in education/rehabilitation counseling, Michigan State University
A few words about your company: The genesis of community action agencies was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Pikes Peak Community Action Agency is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1965 with a mission to increase the capacity of low-income families and individuals to be self sufficient. The agency fights poverty in El Paso County through three programs: Family Stabilization, Transitions to Independence and Save Up to Step Out. Program services are offered through the Norvell Simpson Center, the Billie Spielman Center, the Walt Fortman Center and the Eastern El Paso County Center.
Recent accomplishments: In collaboration with other nonprofit agencies, most notably Partners In Housing and the Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust, we established the Save Up to Step Out Program. This is an asset building program that matches the savings of low-income families to acquire three appreciating assets: a first home, a post-secondary education and microenterprise start-ups and/or expansions. In four years, 25 individuals have graduated from the program, acquiring assets valued at more than $1 million, helping them become more economically stable.
Biggest career break: Serving for three years as a papal volunteer for Latin America in a home for juvenile delinquent boys in Santiago, Chile. This incredible experience has profoundly influenced my career decisions.
The toughest part of your job: Having to say “no” to families requesting assistance because of a lack of resources or because they don’t qualify for services.
Someone you admire: My mother. She was the most compassionate person I have ever known and had unconditional love for every life she touched.
About your family: I was fortunate to grow up in a very loving family with one brother and two sisters. I have been married to my wife, Jeanette, for 20 years.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: Work on policy issues for the reduction of hunger and poverty in the United States and Latin America.
How your business will change in the next decade: More diversified funding with less dependence on government support. Nonprofits will need to consolidate and benefit from economies of scale.
What book are you currently reading? “Bridges Out of Poverty” by Phillip DeVol and Ruby K. Payne, and “The Impossible Will Take a Little While” by Paul Rogat Loeb.
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? Less partisanship and more acceptance of diverse views on issues impacting our community and state. The recent local coalition on Referenda C and D is a good example of what can be accomplished when partisan politics are set aside for the greater good of the community.