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When the cards are stacked against you, open Tom’s Door

Sections: News Published

By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

Need has no season, but Tom’s Door keeps track anyway.

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For 15 years, the nonprofit has been mostly recognizable to the public through the cards it sells to raise money for folks facing emergencies. Available at dozens of local stores, they feature local scenes from around 65 area photographers appropriate to the time of year.

Right now, the call is out for fall images, but when The Sun caught up with Founder Rosie McSwain and Secretary Diane Darling, the spring collection was just debuting.

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But back to the cause.

“It supports people in financial need by providing emergency funds from Rifle to Aspen,” Darling explained. “We give to people who are really falling upon hard times — though never directly to the person who’s requesting it.”

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Instead, Tom’s Door works with partners — Reach out Colorado, River Center,  Catholic Charities, and Family Resource Center — to step in and pay someone’s rent or help with a medical bill.

The approach has its roots in Minneapolis, Minn., where Catholic Priest Arnie Webber used to hand out help from what became known as “Arnie’s Door”.

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“People would call for assistance and he would take the check to the front door,” McSwain explained. “He was such a role model.”

When she moved from Minnesota to the Valley, she brought the idea with her. The idea for how to fund it, came to her after she shot four rolls of film on an anniversary trip to Marble.

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“I looked at those photos, and it just hit me that I could make cards,” she recalled. “It’s amazing how things just pop into your brain. I give all the credit to the Spirit.”

“Right at the beginning, it seemed to work,” she added. “We were getting donations and the cards were fun to make.”

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Indeed, it seemed to grow organically. Bob Boylen brought his expertise to the team through a casual encounter at a copy story. The fledgling charity got its name from three more priests who supported the cause — Tom Bradke, Tom Dentisi and Tom McCormick.

“We had three Toms, and they were like the headliners,” McSwain said. “They loved the mission, they loved that we were out there doing good works.”

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There’s certainly never been any shortage of need.

“It’s amazing in this affluent Valley, how many people need help,” McSwain observed. “It just seems like if we can help people maintain a pretty normal way of living with a bit of assistance… it gives them hope. They just are renewed when someone has enough faith in them to help them with their rent or pay that utility bill.”

Compared to other forms of assistance, Tom’s Door offers a significant lack of red tape, and McSwain isn’t really worried about getting fleeced as a result.

“In all these years, I could count on one hand the times we’ve been taken advantage of,” she said. “It is an act of humility to call our number and reach out for help.”

All they ask is that folks pay it forward. And they have plenty of opportunities to do so, one challenging situation notwithstanding.

“The asking population is not one demographic,” Darling noted. “It could be your neighbor.”

There’s always more to do, and Tom’s Door takes help in many different ways, from contributing photos for cards to direct donations — which actually represents most of the organization’s funding. They also need volunteers for more-or-less-monthly card packing events and other projects.

For assistance or to get involved, call 704-5082.

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