Worthy of the region’s applause

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Almost every weekend of the year — and more than a few weeknights along the way — hundreds of area residents at a time flock to fundraising events for local nonprofits.

Everyone knows the drill: There’s a reception, a meal, a program and/or special theme, and attendees have various opportunities to open their checkbooks or pull out their wallets to help in keeping our charitable causes afloat.

Go to enough of these events, as many do, and it becomes obvious how much the businesses of Colorado Springs contribute to nonprofit agencies — whether in the form of up-front cash or in-kind sponsorships, springing for a table, silent-auction items or other means of support.

Likewise, many individuals and families have their favorite organizations, yet that doesn’t stop them from helping others as well. We wish there were a way to measure our area’s philanthropy against other cities of comparable size, because we believe Colorado Springs would rank at the top.

But on a recent Friday night at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, the format was reversed. This time, nobody in the crowd was asked to raise paddles or dig into their pockets to make pledges. In fact, nobody had to pay a cent for the dinner of London broil steak or Asiago-crusted chicken.

Instead, after dessert, the hosts brought up groups from the audience and gave them checks. Not just token gifts, but donations ranging from $5,000 to $85,000. And though the company handing out those grants wasn’t looking for headlines, in this case some public recognition is certainly deserved.

We’re talking about Wal-Mart and its annual Community Celebration, with the company’s regional market managers, Gary Peacock and Ron McCall, giving more than $360,000 to nonprofits across El Paso County and the surrounding area.

The donations come in several forms. At the grassroots level, all of Wal-Mart’s nine area stores identify several nonprofits in their neighborhoods. Those organizations are given $5,000 each, which can make a big difference for a smaller nonprofit struggling to make ends meet. On this night, those $5,000 recipients covered a broad span of 18 groups, such as the Dale House Project, Kids on Bikes, Greccio Housing, Life Without Lupus, Teens With Promise, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Teller County Search and Rescue, Big Brothers Big Sisters and more.

Also on that “neighborhood” level, Wal-Mart gives thousands of dollars directly to teachers for classroom supplies not covered by school districts, and basic school needs to families of 3,000 area kids. Then there were grants through Wal-Mart’s state program, starting at $25,000 each and going up from there. They went to the likes of Mission Medical Clinic, Silver Key, Ecumenical Social Services, Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, Urban Peak and Junior Achievement.

Care and Share CEO Lynne Telford also told the group how, as soon as the Waldo Canyon fire erupted last summer, Peacock and Wal-Mart were the first to call, offering their help. That led to nearly 200,000 bottles of water for the firefighters. And by year’s end, Wal-Mart had given Care and Share a whopping 1.65 million pounds of food and other donations.

Think about all that, and you should join the applause for Wal-Mart. It’s hard to name any other business entity that helps the community and nonprofits in so many ways.