Locals help locals with grant program | AspenTimes.com

Locals help locals with grant program

Abigail Eagye

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The local nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor awarded $385,000 in grants to 29 local health and human service agencies in 2006, thanks to donations both large and small.Neighbor to Neighbor encourages locals to contribute through automatic payroll deductions, which employers often match, and which the program then matches as well.”It’s a way to give and really make your dollars go far,” said Ashley Harder, the organization’s community outreach manager.In 2006, employee payroll deductions of as little as $1 per paycheck added up to $80,000 once some employers matched the donations. Neighbor to Neighbor then matched that number, and under the auspices of its parent organization, the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, the group was able to reach the total of $385,000.The largest individual donations were around $2,500, but Harder stressed that the program relies on everyone in the community to help locals in need.”Really the beauty of it is engaging everyday citizens,” she said.Grant recipients, scattered throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, serve youth, families, seniors, the homeless, cancer patients, people struggling with addictions and those in need of mental health care. Neighbor to Neighbor accepts grant applications the first Friday in June from local health and human services agencies seeking financial assistance.Among the agencies that received grants this year are The Buddy Program, The Right Door, Alpine Legal Services, the Aspen Youth Center, Kids First, Pitkin County Senior Services, Planned Parenthood, Roaring Fork Hospice and Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention.Major employers that support Neighbor to Neighbor, either through donations or matching employee payroll deductions, are Alpine Bank, Aspen Club, Vectra Bank, Reese Henry and Co., Aspen School District, Aspen Valley Hospital, Community Bank, The Gant, Pitkin County, the city of Aspen, The Aspen Times, The Aspen Meadows, The Little Nell and the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, as well as several nonprofit organizations that have received grants.”This is a remarkable testament to the program, as the people that are receiving the funds are also contributing to the campaign,” Harder stated in a press release.In addition to doling out grants, Harder said “Neighbor to Neighbor has been kind of a filter to get people connected.”For example, one local resident contacted the nonprofit after learning he had a brain tumor, and Neighbor to Neighbor helped him find the appropriate organization for help.Another person wanted to volunteer with a nonprofit instead of donating money, and Neighbor to Neighbor was able to help make that connection as well.Pitkin County started the Neighbor to Neighbor program in the early ’90s. In 1999, county officials approached AVMF about taking over administration of the program; AVMF has overseen Neighbor to Neighbor ever since.The $385,000 given out through Neighbor to Neighbor was part of a total of $1.6 million AVMF disbursed in 2006. The bulk of the remaining funds went to Aspen Valley Hospital, including the purchase of a new digital mammography unit and CT scanner. It also donated $10,000 to a community hospital in Bariloche, Argentina, as part of a sister city exchange program, and another $10,000 to The Pearlington Project, which helped valley residents “adopt” the town of Pearlington, Miss., after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com