Eagle County’s MIRA bus staffers help people help each other | VailDaily.com

Eagle County’s MIRA bus staffers help people help each other

Tough times beget great people

Yazmin Almanza with Vail Health tests a patient for COVID-19 on April 3 at the Dotsero Mobile Home Park in Dotsero. As Colorado — as well as the nation — has seen an increased spread of COVID-19, there has been a renewed push for testing supplies and lab capacity.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com
Call for COVID-19 tests
  • The MIRA bus staff is doing free COVID-19 tests for low income people. Call 970-777-2800. A bilingual staff does the initial interview.

Melina Valsecia smiles as her phone rings again … and again and again … 45 times last weekend.

Valsecia, Liduvina Porres and Fatima Becerra staff the MIRA bus, a 40-foot RV that brings community resources to neighborhoods that need it. The “R” in RV is a misnomer. They love what they do, but it’s not recreational.

Most days you’ll find the MIRA bus in one of the Vail Valley’s many low-income neighborhoods, handing out information and school lunches to anyone who needs one, and providing free COVID-19 tests and myriad other things.

Yazmin Almanza with Vail Health prepares a COVID-19 test during a free screening Friday in Dotsero. The bus will next be in the Aspens Mobile Home Park Monday in Avon.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

MIRA stands for Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance, but it’s more than an acronym. It’s a rolling clearinghouse for local services in basic health education and screenings, application support for public assistance programs, food resources, workforce development, early-childhood education coordination and physical activity programming.

“We are a community resource. We were busy even before COVID-19,” Valsecia said.

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Vail Health, Eagle Valley Community Foundation and Eagle County government provide most of the funding. Valsecia, Porres and Becerra go to neighborhoods and provide information. Most of their callers these days need information about financial and food assistance.

They do not ask for information about legal status or much of anything else. They just ask what you need and answer questions.

A sign tells people how to set an appointment for a COVID-19 test Friday in Dotsero.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Luncheon is served

Earlier this week, they were in the Eagle River mobile home park in Edwards with Neighborhood Navigators, a bilingual program mostly comprised of neighborhood moms.

They’re lending a hand with Eagle County Schools’ free and reduced lunch program. When the school district closed buildings to help combat the spread of COVID-19, one of the first logistical hurdles was reaching people in the free and reduced lunch program. The distribution program started at Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools and expanded to a half dozen distribution sites from Dotsero to Red Cliff.

The MIRA bus is making its rounds around the valley administering free COVID-19 tests with appointments.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

More than 900 lunches are handed out every day. Unlike the in-school program, you don’t have to qualify for one of these lunches. Just go to the site, tell them how many you need, and they hand them to you. They’re also delivering for some people who cannot get out.

“People are thankful. Some come every day, taking lunches for other families,” Valsecia said.

Tough times, good people

We care about each other most of the time, but sometimes it takes real trouble to bring it out of us.

“There are a lot of people who want to volunteer. It’s a matter of coordinating everything and everyone,” Valsecia said.

Yazmin Almanza with Vail Health tests a patient for COVID-19 Friday at the Dotsero Mobile Home Park in Dotsero.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Along with driving the bus and working in neighborhoods, Valsecia is a health education specialist and earned her master’s degree in public health education.

The MIRA bus started rolling July 1, 2018. Three days later they were in the Roaring Fork Valley to work emergency relief during the Lake Christine fire.

It may seem incredible, but the MIRA bus crew is meeting with agencies and assistance organizations to see what else they can do.

Tests are safety stored after being conducted during the free COVID-19 testing Friday in Dotsero.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

“It depends on capacity and safety. We are following the CDC guidelines,” Valsecia said.

People are not coming in groups, but they’re coming. The MIRA bus staff will be there to greet them, long after the COVID crash is over.

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