Eagle County nonprofits get a boost
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Two years after the local economy caught up with the national recession, one local nonprofit organization is still giving out money – and lots of it – to help the local community. Vail Valley Cares staff and board members gathered Thursday afternoon for what they call the best day of the year – the day they get to pass out checks totaling more than $231,000 to local nonprofit organizations that give directly back to the Vail Valley. Vail Valley Cares, which runs two Thrifty Shops in the county in Edwards and Eagle, sells donated goods to raise money every year. Laurie Mullen, a Vail Valley Cares board member, said when the economy crashed two years ago it left board members wondering whether donations would keep coming.”Donations have stayed strong in the last one and a half years,” Mullen said. The best part about the organization is that it takes goods it doesn’t have to pay for and turns it into $230,000 for the community, she said.”It’s our biggest day of the year because it fulfills our mission of what we do,” said Greg Osteen, executive director of Vail Valley Cares. Vail Valley Cares received more than $400,000 in grant requests this year. The organization holds a formal grant process where applicants ask for specific amounts and describe how the money would be used. Osteen said Vail Valley Cares primarily helps organizations that give direct aid to local people, not organizations that give to other organizations. Osteen said he loves hearing about what each organization does as the executive directors pick up their checks each year and talk about the work they do. Sheri Mintz, executive director of the Bright Future Foundation, which helps local families in need of counseling, education or safety from domestic violence, loved seeing all of the organizations in one room together after overcoming some difficult times.”It’s been such a (financially) challenging year for all of us,” Mintz said. “Together, we wrap around all these families who need our support.”The money given out Thursday will help organizations like the Eagle River Youth Coalition bring a special suicide and depression prevention program into local schools, said Executive Director Cristina Gair. The Vail Valley Cares money will also help locals get zero-interest loans through the Eagle Valley Family Assistance Fund, helping families deal with everything from medical costs to housing needs, said the Assistance Fund’s president, John Galvin. The money helps local people “put their financial lives back together,” Galvin said. It’s hearing the descriptions from each and every one of the organizations each year that keeps Osteen smiling, as well as all of the Thrifty Shop employees, he said. “That’s why we bring our staff (to the annual event),” Osteen said. “It’s not a glamorous job (they have), so we want them to see what we do.”And everyone in the room contributed in some way. When Vail Valley Cares Board President Jeff Apps asked those in the room wearing something from the Thrifty Shop to stand up, more than half of them did – there were about 75 people at the event. “This is this best thing we can do all year,” Apps said. Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.