In 1988, George H.W. Bush likened America’s clubs and volunteer organizations to “a thousand points of light.” The Roaring Fork Valley continues to benefit from the activities of such organizations, as well as many 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that exist in the immediate area. In combination, they strengthen and enrich our lives. But how are they doing under the stress of the current pandemic?
I have chosen to take a look at just a handful of local non-profit operations to see how they have responded to the impact that COVID-19 has had on their programs, and it is clear that creativity, flexibility and ingenuity have contributed to their continuing success in a huge way.
Former Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz took the reigns as permanent Director of Habitat for Humanity – Roaring Fork in March, 2020, and she has wasted no time in continuing the organization’s mission, despite the obvious challenges presented by COVID-19.
Within a short time of Schwartz’s becoming the permanent director of the organization she was forced to close Habitat for Humanity – Roaring Fork’s ReStore for a period of six weeks and redesign all operations — all of this in the midst of Habitat’s ongoing Basalt Vista project which, when completed, will provide affordable housing for both qualifying Pitkin County employees and Roaring Fork School District teachers and their families. Go to habitatroaringfork.org/basalt-vista for more information. Then, on April 2, with the Basalt Vista project half-completed, Pitkin County halted all construction in response to the pandemic, though it has since resumed.
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore, located on Highway 82 between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, has now reopened and follows all required state and local safety precautions. The ReStore offers pick-up and delivery services — visit facebook.com/ReStoreRoaringFork for more information.
The Way of Compassion Dharma Center is located in The Third Street Center in Carbondale. Aaron Taylor, the Director, remarked that “Upheavals are an opportunity for growth,” and goes on to offer that it helps to be “nimble and flexible.” Granted, seeing the current pandemic as an opportunity for growth may be a challenging prospect for most, but ticket sales for the Way of Compassion’s virtual, online-only film festival have been strong, with tickets selling from New York to California. The Way of Compassion’s virtual Third Annual Film Festival will be available for viewing online Aug. 7, 8 and 9. See compassionff2020.eventive.org for tickets and information.
Way of Compassion also offers bicycle tune-ups and repairs, and Taylor reports that their bicycle maintenance and repair business has been very successful. Appointments are booked well into the month of August. Way of Compassion recommends a donation of $10 an hour for tune-ups or repairs, plus the cost of parts. Donations of bicycles are welcome, and donors will receive donation receipts for bicycles or parts.
The Mid Valley Church congregation held their services at the Third Street Center until the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Lead Pastor Lance Norton, who many know as the original proprietor of the Blue Spruce Coffee shop in Carbondale’s Third Street Center, reports that his congregation’s move to virtual services online has been very successful. He says that church service attendance is consistent and that members have adapted well to the change. Visit midvalley.church for more information.
Valley Settlement began their operations in the Roaring Fork Valley as a project of the Manaus Fund. Valley Settlement’s original mission was a response to the challenge of identifying and addressing the needs of the fast-growing, low-wage immigrant community in the Valley. Programs were designed and implemented to answer those needs, and today, the organization serves hundreds of families with services focused on health, education and personal development. While Valley Settlement’s core mission remains unchanged, the current pandemic has necessitated certain adjustments in Valley Settlement’s operations.
An April, 2020 assessment of client needs during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, in part, the following: 87 percent of client households reported having lost work, and 50% of client households reported concerns about food security
Valley Settlement’s “Little Bus” mobile preschools are a rare sight these days, as classes are being conducted online due to COVID-19 concerns. Likewise, other programs at Valley Settlement are also operating online. These include “Learning With Love,” “Family Friends and Neighbors,” “Lifelong Learning”, and the ALMA programs. The Parent Mentor Program, which provides Spanish-speaking mentors in local classrooms for Latino students, has temporarily suspended operations due to the school closures necessitated by the COVID-19 virus.
Last, but not least, Lift-Up continues to offer support services via seven food pantries located between Aspen and Parachute. Their Carbondale food pantry is located at 520 S. Third St. in Carbondale’s Third Street Center. Although the pantry doors are closed due to the current pandemic, Lift-Up has scheduled drive-through (or walk-up) free food distribution dates for individuals or families experiencing food insecurity.
In Carbondale, pre-packed emergency food bags may be picked up in the Third Street Center parking lot on the following dates and times: 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 3, 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 10, 5 to 7 pm. Aug. 17, and 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 24 — all at no cost. Debbie Patrick, Lift-Up’s Marketing and Development Director, reports that the organization distributes 400 emergency food bags between Carbondale and Parachute on a weekly basis and noted that there has been an upsurge in need during the past week. Debbie also said that Lift-Up needs more volunteers. Contact Lift-Up at 456-2804 or email Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help out.
Author’s note: If this small sampling of our community experience indicates anything, it may be that, given the right reason or motivation, we might all be able to adapt to virtual interaction with friends, family, educators, and members of our community. I, for one, had a wonderful online birthday party this year. There were no hugs, but the six of us laughed and had a genuinely good time “together.”