Basalt nonprofit expands its mission to provide relief to families in need
A group created seven years ago to help children in the Roaring Fork Valley focus and learn has expanded its mission to provide financial aid to families struggling to survive during the pandemic crisis.
Basalt-based nonprofit FocusedKids has provided $500 to 468 families from Aspen to Rifle as of Thursday.
“Most of these families don’t have other safety nets,” said Kathy Hegberg, founder and executive director.
The funds are provided with no strings attached, but the intent is to help with rent, mortgage, food, utility payments and other debt.
FocusedKids gets referrals from other nonprofit organizations such as Valley Settlement, Family Resource Center, Early Childhood Network and English in Action. Frontline workers with those organizations check in with people they have worked with, supply information on available resources and vet them for the aid from FocusedKids.
The targeted families must have a heads of household who work in the Roaring Fork Valley, though they can live elsewhere. They also must have kids who live in the valley. In addition, the families must have breadwinners who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus epidemic.
Legal status is not one of the criteria. In many cases, recipients aren’t eligible for unemployment payments and other government aid.
Hegberg said she is getting 20 to 30 referrals per day. She has spent $234,000 on the relief effort so far and has $40,000 remaining. Another $10,000 in contributions is pledged, but she will burn through the funds shortly.
Meanwhile, it’s unknown how long the need will remain. While some construction workers have been able to stay at work or will be returning to work, unemployment will remain high for the foreseeable future as retail shops, restaurants, hotels and other businesses remain closed or only partially open.
“I don’t know when those people will go back to work,” she said.
Pitkin County reported Thursday that 1,700 workers have filed for unemployment and the rate is expected to climb. The rate jumped to 15% from 3% pre-pandemic.
FocusedKids is debating if it should offer another round of funds to the families it has already helped, Hegberg said.
The nonprofit organization is an example of numerous groups in the valley that have rushed to fill the relief void during the health crisis and the economic hardships it wrought.
“All of us are spending (the funding) as quickly as we get it,” Hegberg said. “Millions (of dollars) is what’s going to be required.”
The Basalt Area Gives program, which was created last year, mounted an awareness campaign this month to help steer contributions to FocusedKids. It is suggesting to its list of past donors that they can also make contributions to the Aspen Community Foundation earmarked for the “Basalt area.” The funds will then be distributed to the local nonprofits in the Basalt and midvalley area that are most in need of a financial boost, according to Jim Light, a midvalley resident who helped organize Basalt Area Gives.
Light said he and others with Basalt Area Gives were impressed by the work of FocusedKids.
“It is serving the people that I would describe as between the cracks,” he said.
Basalt Area Gives was formed last year when people were receiving refunds from the town of Basalt for property tax overcharges. The group urged people to plow the refunds back into midvalley nonprofit efforts. It raised $320,000 and has a donor base that it contacted on April 15 to urge contributing to the Aspen Community Funds and FocusedKids.
“We’re not fundraising per se. We’re trying to create awareness,” Light said.
Hegberg said many of the families who FocusedKids is already working with on educational improvement are also families who need aid. When the economy ground to a halt in mid-March, many of those families had members who lost their jobs and they were left with little more than the food in their refrigerators, she said.
“These have often been crucial grants, sometimes meaning three meals a day versus one, and covering rent costs to avoid eviction,” Hegberg said.
To find more about FocusedKids, which is a 501(c)3, or make a donation, go to http://www.focusedkids.org or send a check to FocusedKids, 140 River Oaks Ln, Basalt, CO 81621.