It didn’t take long to establish deep roots. And her recent efforts to help transform downtown’s alleyways into thriving retail thoroughfares have helped her make a name for herself as an emerging community leader.
That type of leadership and community work of all sorts are important to Cavanaugh, who is a coordinator for The Resource Exchange, which connects people with disabilities to the services they need.
Where are you from, and how did you make your way to Colorado Springs?
I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. After graduating from West Virginia University I moved to Killeen, Texas and became a Juvenile Probation Officer. After several years of living in Texas I was ready for a change. I was excited to move to Colorado Springs as I had heard wonderful things about the region. A year after moving here I had the opportunity to continue my education. I enrolled at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs to pursue my second Bachelor Degree, this one in Communications. I have remained in Colorado Springs as I have made a life for myself here and built lasting relationships.
Tell us about your job at The Resource Exchange. What do you do, and how long have you worked there?
The Resource Exchange (TRE) is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping individuals in our community who have developmental disabilities. Our executive director, David Ervin, is a dedicated advocate who continues to find innovative ways for the organization to improve the lives of others. I began working at TRE in December of 2010 as a community coordinator. I ensure that those with developmental disabilities receive services they need to remain a part of our community. We work with multiple agencies in Colorado Springs that offer services such as work and residential programs. I have also had the opportunity to work on our flagship fundraising event “Building the Dream” for the past two years. This event promotes awareness about TRE and what we do to help others.
What do you like most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
I enjoy the interactions with my clients. Spending time with them as they participate in activities that they enjoy and seeing the smiles on their faces brings me so much joy. Watching someone achieve something that they have worked towards for years is very gratifying. Experiences such as seeing someone move into their own apartment for the first time, enroll in college or find a job are just a few of the life changing events I have been able to witness since I began my work as a Community Coordinator.
The biggest challenge that this industry faces is continued budget cuts within Medicaid. This is the system that is able to pay for these services that are important to so many people. When these are reduced, many of our clients are negatively affected.
Tell us about the Alleyscapes project. What can the city expect from the project?
I became involved with Alleyscapes as part of Leadership Pikes Peak’s Leadership NOW. The project hopes to revitalize Colorado Springs downtown. We want to make the alleyways a useable, and cultural, space that everyone can enjoy. We decided the best way to increase Alleyscapes awareness was to host our own event in one of the downtown alleys.
I assisted with fundraising so that we would have the necessary funds for the event. As a team we agreed that the best way to raise funds for a fun downtown event was to host a Pub Crawl. My main role was to coordinate the Pub Crawl and ensure that we could give people a reason to show up on a Tuesday night. I was able to accomplish this with many great people at Tony’s, Blondie’s, and Phantom Canyon. The Pub Crawl raised enough for our group to host an amazing event. Our main event took place on December 7th, in the alley behind the Re/Max located on Tejon, and was a huge success. Although it was freezing outside we had many people attend to appreciate art that was donated by organizations like Bemis, Spring Creek Juvenile Center, and Cottonwood.
I am happy to say that as a result of our efforts the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership have agreed to allot $500,000 in their budget towards revitalizing the alleys! The majority of us who were involved with Alleyscapes choose to continue with the group. We are now involved with Urban Intervention to work towards making the alleys cleaner and a safe pedestrian right away.
If you could change one thing about Colorado Springs, what would it be?
As a community we need to find a way to grow our local businesses. So many young professionals move to areas like Denver as they feel there are not enough opportunities in Colorado Springs. If we can commit to helping our community grow then we will only see positive results.