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Aspen Skiing Co. employees head COVID-19 relief effort

Volunteers give food to community members in a drive-through food drive at Aspen Middle School on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

HOW TO DONATE

To contribute to the Caring for Community Fund, go to http://www.aspensnowmass.com and click on the link that says Donate to COVID-19 Relief. Select the size of donation and complete it online. Contributions up to $250,000 will be matched. Credits that were given to some ski passholders for the abbreviated 2019-20 season can be applied to the aid effort.

Aspen Skiing Co. employees are making a special push through their Caring for Community Fund to collect donations for COVID-19 relief in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Contributions made through July 15 will be matched by the Crown family, owners of Skico, through their Aspen Skiing Co. Family Fund at Aspen Community Foundation.

The goal is to raise at least $250,000 in community contributions, said Brenda O’Connor, executive director for Caring for Community.

“Each dollar is matched,” she said, referring to the Crown’s match. That would potentially raise $500,000.

The Caring for Community Fund was created in October 2016. A board of directors comprised of Skico employees oversees it.

All funds raised will go to nonprofit organizations addressing some aspect of COVID-19 relief. O’Connor said it is clear that some people in the region are still struggling even though the economy has reopened to a large degree after the stay-at-home order was lifted.

Some of the aid efforts undertaken by federal, state and local organizations have dried up. Meanwhile, some nonprofit organizations are struggling to meet demand because their funds are also “coming up short,” O’Connor said. “It’s pretty evident in the requests we’re getting.”

There are numerous signs in the region of the ongoing need and the rush to fill it. In a recent update about its efforts to feed hungry families and individuals, Lift-Up said it was providing emergency food bags to about 900 families per week at the height of the crisis in mid-April. During June, the number dropped to about 400 families fed per week from Carbondale to DeBeque, but that is still about four times the normal distribution number prior to the coronavirus.

“Demand seems to have leveled off at new numbers,” Angela Mills, Lift-Up executive director, said Wednesday. “However, we are anticipating needs going up as unemployment benefits go back to post COVID-19 allotment and rental assistance programs run out. Some clients went back to work for a short amount of time and are back to being unemployed or have gone back with not as many hours as before.”

Lift-Up has mobile distribution systems set up once per week in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle, Parachute and DeBeque.

Separate efforts are being made for weekly food distribution in Basalt and Aspen. At last word, about 325 families were picking up food distributed each Thursday at Basalt Middle School.

Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a Glenwood Springs-based organization founded by Latinos for Latinos this year, conducts regular surveys of its constituency.

“Rent support is still a need,” Alex Sanchez, a founder of the organization said Wednesday. “Our most recent survey suggests that only half have returned to work, with reduced hours.”

Voces Unidas is piloting a direct cash assistance program where community groups give direct aid to people to use as they best see fit. In addition, the organization is advocating for the state government to protect Latinos from evictions, he said.

Aspen Community Foundation performs a weekly COVID-19 Response Dashboard that estimates needs of residents from Aspen to Parachute and the relief being provided. The June 19 dashboard estimated a population of 88,000 and a workforce of 50,000 in the region.

An estimated 22,000 people lost employment income for at least some of the time since the coronavirus crisis started. That number didn’t include people who are undocumented.

Another estimated 4,000 undocumented residents of the region are considered at high risk of losing employment during the pandemic, according to the dashboard.

Although there are 26,000 people who have lost income or at high risk of losing their jobs, only 9,000 are receiving unemployment benefits, according to Aspen Community Foundation’s research of public data. So, 17,000 people are potentially without income support.

Meanwhile, about $8.4 million in assistance has been granted in the region through grants to nonprofits or directly to individuals, Aspen Community Foundation estimated. That includes government spending and philanthropic efforts.

Demand is expected to spike again if there is another economic shutdown because of growing COVID-19 cases.

The Caring for Community Fund is among the organizations that have awarded grants this year for COVID-19 relief efforts. The organization awarded $20,000 to Valley Settlement for its multi-pronged effort to aid families impacted by the coronavirus crisis; $10,000 to Catholic Charities, which helped families pay rent in May; $5,000 to Stepping Stone, which helped people with rent and utilities; and $8,000 to Aspen Family Connections to provide meat for an upper valley mobile food pantry.

It granted $3,500 to RESPONSE to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Cases have been on the rise since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Healthy All Together, a midvalley nonprofit organization, received $3,500 to help its program to provide COVID-19 testing for uninsured residents of the region.

O’Connor said the organization’s board will select new grant recipients after the latest push for contributions, but all efforts will be COVID-19 relief. To make an effort to the Caring for Community Fund, see the related infobox.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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