Giving Thought: Gratitude for the generosity during this challenging year

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought
Tamara Tormohlen
Steve Mundinger courtesy photo

For many of us, it has been just over 40 weeks since our lives were “normal.” Forty weeks since we were able to work, shop, socialize, travel, go to school, recreate without worry and restrictions. And we still have several months to go before the pandemic is close to under control.

Like other organizations and agencies in the region, Aspen Community Foundation has been hyper-focused on helping the area’s most vulnerable residents weather this economic and health disaster caused by COVID-19. Keeping people housed and fed remain the top priority for the region’s unemployed and underemployed individuals and families. Social service nonprofits, government agencies, religious organizations, and others have been working without fail since March to provide humanitarian assistance for those in need.

The Roaring Fork Valley is often thought of as having boundless generosity, especially in a crisis. And certainly the outpouring of contributions and people wanting to help since COVID-19 landed in our region have been remarkable and a true testament to the “can do” attitude of our community.

Immediately after COVID-19 the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 was detected in Pitkin County, ACF launched the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund to channel needed resources for the immediate and longer-term impacts of the pandemic. This was soon followed by the creation of the 2020 Rescue Fund, established by Aspen philanthropists Bob Hurst, Melony Lewis, and Jerry Greenwald to support people and organizations struggling through the health and financial crisis of the coronavirus outbreak.

These two funds have provided a platform to engage hundreds of donors from across the valley and around the country. More than $7.4 million has been contributed by individual donors, foundations, businesses, and county and municipal governments.

So far, more than $5 million has been disbursed to 41 nonprofit organizations supplying rent and utility assistance, distributing food, providing health care and mental health services, supporting families with young children, and offering legal aid. An additional $600,000 was awarded to locally-owned businesses in Aspen, Snowmass Village, and Basalt to help them retain their nearly 500 employees. In all, more than 8,500 individuals and families have been helped with economic assistance and other services and, each week, an estimated 3,000 people show up for food at distribution sites from Aspen to Parachute.

This has been a serious and unprecedented crisis, and many small businesses, nonprofits that provide essential services, and children and families bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of the pandemic. It has required — and will continue to need — an extraordinary level of commitment, coordination, and generosity. As we look to 2021, ACF remains committed to garnering resources and facilitating efforts to strengthen humanitarian assistance throughout our three-county region.

We are hugely grateful to the more than 280 donors whose generosity has inspired the people providing vital social and human services in our region and to those nonprofits, schools, government agencies that are tirelessly providing aid. Together you have brought hope to thousands of people experiencing hardship and uncertainty. Thank you!

We at Aspen Community Foundation wish everyone good tidings and Merry Christmas. Stay safe and healthy.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.