Lake County Community Fund ‘on top of it all’
When the coronavirus crushed Colorado’s resort economy, the LCCF and others rallied in hours to provide relief
The only thing faster than the hardship coronavirus wrought to the local economy was the Lake County Community Fund pulling together people and help.
Seventy percent of Lake County’s workforce commutes to Eagle and Summit counties for resort industry jobs, according to data compiled by the Lake County Community Fund. When Gov. Jared Polis pulled the plug on the ski season in response to the pandemic in March, thousands of Lake County workers lost jobs and income. Many did not know how they’d pay their bills.
Hours after the lifts stopped turning, the LCCF, together with the Lake County government and Lake County nonprofit agencies, had an Unmet Needs Committee up and running. People came in droves. The committee screened applicants to determine if they were eligible for federal or state aid, and if they faced having their power turned off or their rent unpaid in late winter, in a county 10,000 feet above sea level where winter would not loosen its grip for another two months.
“It gives you hope that people came together that quickly. It’s remarkable, the spirit and the trust. There wasn’t any jockeying for position. It was simply, “Get on the ground and get the job done,’” said John McMurtry, the executive director of the Lake County Community Fund.
In the months since, the Unmet Needs Committee has distributed more than $320,000 to 1,355 people in 351 Lake County households. The Lake County Community Fund calculates that 44% of those asking for help who lost jobs or saw their hours slashed work in Eagle County, while 34% work in Lake County and 22% in Summit County.
Coronavirus and climax
Leadville has reinvented itself as an historic center and outdoor mecca. It reinvented itself when silver crashed in 1893, and again when the Climax molybdenum mine shut down in 1982, just before the EPA declared the area a Superfund site.
The Climax mine will close for good in 2038, says Leadville mayor and Lake County native Greg Labbe.
“The Lake County Community Fund is one of the ways Lake County will prepare for that,” Labbe said. “Climax is very generous, but we need to stand on our own.”
The Lake County Community Fund is part of that, as is the Lake County Economic Development Corporation. Ski industry legend McMurtry runs the LCCF and Marla Akridge heads the economic development corporation.
“We’re lucky to have people of their caliber,” Labbe said.
The LCCF asked all kinds of organizations to help, Labbe said. Some help came from neighboring resorts. John Cumming, Powdr founder and chairman, got in his plane and flew to Colorado to meet with them. Copper Mountain now gives the LCCF a $50,000 per year four-year matching grant through Powdr, its parent company. Half goes to Lake County nonprofits and half to build the fund’s endowment.
The Vail Valley Foundation kicked in $76,000. Summit County’s Summit Foundation donated $20,000.
“Our [VVF Community Fund] steering committee realized that Eagle County has a powerful economic engine
, and we are pulling employees from all over, including Lake County,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation. “The Lake County Community Fund and John McMurtry do outstanding work for the residents of Lake County who have been affected by COVID-19, who may have lost their jobs, or who have been suffering through this pandemic. We are grateful for their work and their partnership to help take care of everyone who is a part of our community.”
COVID-19 counts as a crisis
The Lake County Community Fund was launched in 2017 to facilitate giving to Lake County nonprofits.
According to the 2018 census, 35% of Lake County residents are Latinx. The minority percentage goes to 42% when Black Indigenous People of Color is added. Most people, regardless of ethnicity, can be unsure where they can get help when they need it.
“The goal has been to create a ‘No Wrong Door’ for community members as they seek assistance,” McMurtry said.
Of LCCF’s five-member Unmet Needs Committee, three are Latinx women and one is an immigrant.
“It’s a happy story and demonstrates how people of all backgrounds and station in life can trust each other, and come together for the common good,” McMurtry said. “People lost their jobs when the pandemic rolled through. The county and city governments, and volunteers came together in hours. The minute the resorts shut down in March they sprang into action.”
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