EDWARDS — People who work, or volunteer, for local nonprofit groups often labor out of the public eye. Thursday, many of those groups got some of the best kind of recognition — money to keep doing what they do.
Since 2000, Vail Valley Cares, a faith-based group that runs the Thrifty Shops in Eagle and Edwards, has given grants to other nonprofit groups throughout the valley. Lake Creek Baptist Church pastor Jerry Milsaps started the charity at the chapel of the church to provide donated clothing and other items to those in need. After outgrowing the chapel, Vail Valley Cares used a grant from the local Rotary Club to open the first Thrifty Shop. That grant has been put to good use.
During the years, the Edwards store has expanded from one to six adjoining retail spaces. That space is owned by the group, as is the land and building in Eagle. Vail Valley Cares also provides jobs for several local residents. Charity director Greg Osteen said those working at the shops understand that the operation is a business — but it’s also a ministry with a simple mission.
“We help organizations that do direct aid to people,” Osteen said. “These groups help people and families become self-sufficient.”
This year, Vail Valley Cares gave roughly $275,000 to 31 local nonprofit groups involved in everything from suicide prevention to horse rescue. Over breakfast brought to Trinity Baptist Church by the folks at Main St. Grill, those recipients got to talk a bit about how the Vail Valley Cares grants help the efforts of their groups.
Ben Dodds, director of Vail Valley Young Life, a youth ministry program, said this year’s grant will help Young Life hire some help to handle its rapid growth. In just a year, the number of local kids going to the national Young Life group’s summer camps has almost doubled. Dodds said the local group needs something more than just volunteer help up and down the valley.
Several grants went to other faith-based groups — all of which help the broader community.
The Eagle River Presbyterian Church in Avon every Wednesday hosts a “loaves and fishes” dinner — a free meal for anyone who wants to stop in. Gail Nash, one of the many volunteers that make the program work, said the Vail Valley Cares grant helps pay for items including soup bowls, napkins and other items. But, Nash said, the grant also helps the church keep a supply of extra food on hand, in case more people than expected show up for dinner.
Those dinners are about much more than fellowship.
“We’ve had people come in who have told us they wouldn’t have eaten that day without our dinner,” Nash said.
Health and safety groups also earned grants Thursday.
Jim Matlock, of the Bond/McCoy Volunteer Fire Department, said that small group depends entirely on donations for its work.
Other health and safety groups are based much closer to home, from the Bright Future Foundation — which helps victims of domestic abuse — to Speak Up Reach Out, the valley’s suicide prevention group.
Avon police officer Greg Daly, who helped start the group, said Speak Up Reach Out received its start-up funds with a Vail Valley Cares grant a few years ago. And in just the past year, the group’s programs have been presented to nearly 900 middle and high school students, as well as about 225 adults.
Most of the grant recipients gave mostly straightforward accounts of what their groups do, but a few brought some tears to the breakfast session.
Shana Devins and Alecz Adams talked about how Mountain Valley Horse Rescue and Destination Rescue bring horses together with troubled adolescents. Jeff Apps, chairman of the Vail Valley Cares Board of Directors, shared his experience with the two groups.
Apps acknowledged having a fairly deep-seated fear of horses — “they’re really big and they buck me off,” he said. With his own anxiety in mind, Apps once asked a Destination Rescue participant why she was so comfortable around the animals.
“Nobody’s mean to me here,” she replied.
Human services is about more than food and shelter — it has to include some comfort in troubled times, too.
And that sort of payoff, the kind that can’t be measured, is why Vail Valley Cares and its people do what they do.
“Today is what they work so hard for,” Osteen said. “And it’s a hard job.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.