Valley’s needy find help at Tom’s Door |

Valley’s needy find help at Tom’s Door

A growing number of people in the Roaring Fork Valley are giving thanks to a Catholic relief program called Tom’s Door this year.

The program, in its third year, is designed to help people cope with financial emergencies with a minimum amount of red tape.

Tom’s Door has helped people fill their car with a tank of gas. It’s helped pay travel expenses for Latinos who needed to go back to Mexico for family emergencies. It’s helped mothers buy formula when money ran short after a separation or divorce.

“We’ve raised $36,000 in three years and we’ve helped over 80 families and individuals,” said Rosie McSwain, a member of St. Vincent Catholic Church in Basalt. “The vision was to help people that fell between the cracks.”

There are no shortage of those folks in recent years, particularly due to the sluggish economy. McSwain said those who do the valley’s menial labor have been hit hardest.

She and her husband, Frank, introduced the relief program to the Roaring Fork Valley. They brought the concept from Minnetonka, Minn., where they were members of the Holy Name of Jesus parish. Father Arnie Webster started a similar relief program there years ago called Arnie’s Door. The idea is you open your door by offering aid. That, in turn, may open a door for the needy.

When the McSwains moved to Basalt three years ago, Rosie said she wanted to help in some special way. Arnie’s Door stuck with her. She explained it to the three priests serving Carbondale and Basalt and took it upon herself to do a significant part of the organization, said one of the priests, Father Tom McCormick.

Since the midvalley parishes are also served by Father Tom Bradtke and Father Tom Dentici, it was natural to call the program Tom’s Door, McSwain explained.

The program relies on contributions from valley residents and on the sale of note cards and Christmas cards put together by women in the parishes and sold throughout the valley. The cards use photographs taken by locals. McSwain isn’t bashful about asking people to help.

People in need are steered to Tom’s Door either by the Catholic Charities office in Glenwood Springs or through word of mouth. McSwain said a surprising number of people seek out the priests at St. Vincent and St. Mary’s of the Crown in Carbondale for assistance.

Both Catholic Charities, which coordinates relief by the church throughout the Western Slope, and the local priests do some screening to make sure the people asking for help really need it. But there’s also a degree of trust.

“If we get taken advantage of, that’s going to happen,” said McSwain.

A person doesn’t have to be Catholic to receive aid from Tom’s Door. “It comes from faith, not to faith,” said Father McCormick.

There are a couple of ways to help the program during this holiday season, and year-round. Financial donations can be sent to Tom’s Door, 0395 White Hill Rd., Carbondale, CO 81623. Note cards can be purchased in a number of places, including Explore Books in Aspen, Express Yourself in Basalt, Susan’s Flowers in Basalt, St. Mary’s churches in Carbondale and Rifle, and St. Vincent in Basalt.

McSwain said she’s expecting twice the number of requests for help this season, due to the increasing popularity of the program and increasing needs. Doing something to meet that need is fulfilling for her.

“It’s a labor of love but it’s something you can sink your teeth into and see the results,” she said.

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