Sometimes, an old mentor once advised me, it’s best to get out of the way and simply let your sources tell your story.
So I’m taking that advice here. It’s so tempting to spend the next 750 words or so criticizing the members of City Council who voted to stop funding the $256,000 budgeted for Colorado Springs Utilities’ Community Focus Fund that benefited many area nonprofits. Funny, but it’s hard to think of those “stop funding” folks ever being involved with nonprofits, while those who wanted to continue funding (Jan Martin, Merv Bennett, Jill Gaebler and Val Snider) have helped or even worked for nonprofits in substantial ways.
But enough of that. Instead of preaching more, I asked Susan Presti, the community relations manager for Utilities, to provide some examples of how that fund has made a difference — but obviously won’t anymore. Following are excerpts from her response, drawn from grant recipients’ reports:
Care and Share, $5,000: The grant was used to purchase food and supplies for its Send Hunger Packing Program, which provides weekend meals for children at risk of hunger throughout the school year and helps ensure that school lunch is not the last meal of the day. We distributed 9,668 backpacks full of food to children struggling with hunger in El Paso County alone. Because each backpack contains enough food for the participating child and up to three additional family members, we approximate that 1,852 people benefited from this program.
CU Aging Center, $3,000: Funds were used to provide mental health services to our community’s most vulnerable, underserved seniors and caregivers at little or no cost to them. We provided programs onsite and at Peak Vista Community Health Centers, Rocky Mountain PACE, and Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care. Focus Fund helped us reach more than 2,400 seniors (exceeding the measurement of 2,000 stated in our grant request) with more than 9,000 hours of services. We also provided in-home consultations for Peak Vista’s senior diabetic patients. A new partnership with Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care extended our reach in the community as well.
Disability Services, $4,000: CFF funds provided rides for clients with disabilities requiring wheelchair and mechanical lift assistance for transit to medical, work/volunteering, grocery and personal shopping and other appointments. All riders are ADA-certified, approximately 75 percent live at or well below the federal poverty level and over 65 percent require lift assistance into a vehicle. This level of service is unique; drivers support not only the elderly but all people with disabilities. Funds are also used as a local match for areas not served by City Transit and the other helps Amblicab procure new vehicles that reduce maintenance costs and therefore the cost per ride.
Partners in Housing, $4,500: The grant partially funded replacement of four patio doors at our Partners Crossing property (six townhomes) with Energy Efficient Low-E Premium Vinyl Jeld-Wen Doors (U-Factor 0.33). This money funded 63 percent of the cost, leveraging a $2,566 investment from PIH. Your grant is helping families save on utility bills, leaving more money to support essentials like food, clothing, school supplies, transportation and child care. This investment will benefit at least 170 homeless adults and children over 15 years.
This year, in a role similar to municipally owned entities in other cities, the Utilities fund helped 86 nonprofits.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute, $1,000: RMFI completed fire restoration work on 12 acres of land upstream of homes and urban infrastructure in the Peregrine area. Work focused on minimizing erosion potential in burned soils and revegetating barren hillslopes to reduce the risk of flooding and debris flows downstream. The work protected downstream neighborhoods by reducing the amount of sediment movement and subsequent deposition originating from the burn scar. The work also minimized hazards within the open space property.
SET of Colorado Springs, $3,000: Funds were used to provide direct healthcare services to the uninsured and underinsured. Acute care was also provided. Most of the patients seen at the family clinic have chronic diseases that need to be controlled through medications and educating the patients on self-management.
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These are just a few stories, in the nonprofits’ own words. This year, in a role similar to municipally owned entities in other cities, the Utilities fund helped 86 nonprofits with grants from $250 to $7,500, averaging about $2,975.
Next year it’s gone, for all 86 nonprofits, thanks to our own version of “How the Grinches Stole Christmas.”