Hearts for Hand Ups: Community fund raises money to support Snowmass locals in need
Through the month of February, an array of colorful paper hearts will decorate the Alpine Bank lobby as part of the Snowmass Village Community Outreach Fund’s annual “Open Your Heart” campaign.
Many locals will see the hearts as dollar amounts and tributes to loved ones put toward the community outreach fund’s mission of helping village residents and employees in need.
But for those locals who have been and are currently involved with the fund’s work, they see those hearts as things like rent assistance, medical bills, plane tickets and even family Christmas gifts.
“You just don’t know what goes on in people’s lives and how they might be hurting,” said Marion Garrett, co-chair of the Snowmass Community Outreach Fund board of directors. “We do our best to help with whatever comes up for people.”
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According to Garrett and Betsy Burns Sima, who is co-chair of the fund’s board of directors, the Snowmass Village Community Outreach Fund has been giving locals a hand up since 1991.
First, the nonprofit primarily raised money through an annual ski race competition, then a golf tournament and now the Open Your Heart campaign with Alpine Bank, its main fundraiser of the year. The nonprofit has no overhead costs and gives 100% of the money it raises to the community, Sima and Garrett explained.
Both women said they have been volunteering with the fund, which is completely volunteer-based, for at least 10 years and see it as an extremely rewarding opportunity to help people in need in an anonymous, direct sort of way.
Over the past four years alone, the fund has helped more than 35 residents and given thousands of dollars in assistance, often by paying a bill directly and not coming into contact with the hand-up recipient, according to Tyler Newton, community fund board member.
“We’re able to take a person’s problem and just make it go away,” Newton said. “It really is the closest thing to playing Santa Claus or being in a Hallmark (channel) special.”
For Newton, the Snowmass Village Community Outreach Fund is one of the coolest things he’s had the opportunity to be a part of.
Newton said he feels the village doesn’t have problems or struggles much different from its surrounding communities, but that it does have significant ebbs and flows and a “boom and bust” like cycle. He said helping someone during a rough patch or difficult time of year through buying his or her groceries or a tank of gas is extremely rewarding, but an act he wishes wasn’t necessary.
“I wish we never had to do this, but it’s good to know that we’re really helping people and making a difference,” Newton said. “And we do really love helping people.”
Newton first learned of the community outreach fund while working at Alpine Bank in part through Carol Dresser, vice president of the Alpine Bank in Snowmass.
For roughly 15 years, Dresser said Alpine Bank has matched the donations the Snowmass Village Community Outreach Fund receives up to $1,500, and is proud to partner with such a localized nonprofit.
“There is no real social services agency in Snowmass Village, its locals helping locals,” Dresser said. “This is the essence of what Alpine Bank does, we want to help take care of people who take care of us.”
For the rest of the month, Dresser said Alpine Bank visitors can purchase a paper heart, which will be hung in the lobby inscribed with names of people or pets the donators wish to honor, and can learn more about the Snowmass Village Community Outreach Fund on Thursdays and Fridays when volunteers will be present to assist bank staff.
“Sometimes people think a $5 or $10 donation isn’t much, but it all adds up to a pretty significant contribution to the community,” Dresser said. “There are so few things that are strictly Snowmass, but this is one of the ways we can really help folks within the village.”
As the fund continues its mission to help Snowmass locals, Garrett, Sima and Newton said they hope to expand its fundraising efforts and do even more to support residents in need.
“A lot of people don’t want to ask for help. … Snowmass is a pretty tight-knit community, so when someone goes through something, people really bond together to help each other,” Sima said. “We’re just thrilled to be able to help.”
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