Vail Valley Cares awards $525,000 in donations to 65 local charities

Grant recipients share their stories at Wednesday breakfast at 4 Eagle Ranch

Sacred Cycle cofounder and board member Jeannine Anders speaks about the organization, which helps survivors of sexual assault through therapy and mountain biking, at the 2023 Vail Valley Cares grant recipient breakfast.
Zoe Goldstein/Vail Daily

The ecumenical Christian help organization Vail Valley Cares handed out $525,000 in donations to 65 local charitable organizations Wednesday at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott at its 24th annual breakfast honoring grant recipients.

Humor and inspiration presided over the crowd as Vail Valley Cares board members Erik Williams and Jeff App co-MCed the event, giving each representative the chance to speak about their organization and their plan to put the grant money to work.

“We should do this once a month, just get people together and give out checks,” Williams joked.

“The checks would be a little smaller,” Apps responded.

Vail Valley Cares was founded in 1992 by two local pastors, Jerry Milsaps and Benny Clark, to accept donations of clothing and household items and distribute them to Eagle County residents in need. In 1994, the two received a grant from the local Rotary Club to open a thrift store in Edwards. By 1995, the store in Edwards was financially independent, and an Eagle branch had also been opened. In 2000, under the guidance of Executive Director Greg Osteen, the grant program began to distribute excess money made by the stores.

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All of the money provided to grant recipients is raised through the Vail Valley Cares’ two Thrifty Shops, which resell donated clothing, household items, furniture, and more. In 2000, the first year of the program, Vail Valley Cares donated $53,000 in grants to local charities. Since then, the organization has donated over $5.4 million to local charities.

The grant-recipient organizations cover a wide variety of issues in Eagle County, from childcare to elder care, horse rescue to mental health, housing assistance to legal support, firefighting to meal providing, and so much more. As he visited each representative, Williams encouraged grant recipients to share stories that exemplified the importance of their organization’s work.

Vail Valley Cares board member Erik Williams (standing, right) MCed the event, while the organization’s executive director Greg Osteen (standing, left) handed out checks to grant recipients.
Zoe Goldstein/Vail Daily

Shana Devins, executive director of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, spoke about a school group that was labeled “tough” by their teacher, who said they struggled with staying engaged in class when they visited the horses.

“One of the first things that we do with the kids is they do some service to give back and help take care of the horses, and so they’re out there scooping poop, and the kids all started out, ‘ew, gross,’ whatever,” Devins said.

At lunchtime, the adults on site expected the kids to be relieved to leave the smelly chores. Instead, Devins said, they did not want to stop working.

“They said to us, ‘Can we eat lunch right here? Because as soon as we’re done eating lunch, we want to go right back in and keep helping the horses and taking care of the horses.'”

Reilly Spence, the development coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Continental Divide, shared a story from one of the organization’s volunteers.

“It has been a really difficult and long case. About two years, now, she has been serving this child. She has found and united six siblings from this family. It is work like this that would not be possible without you guys,” Spence said.

Some organizations were new to receiving grants from Vail Valley Cares, which will enable them to take their work to new levels. Spare for Change, an organization that connects people through golf, received its first grant and won an additional $500 for the purposes of staff bonding during a card draw early on in the breakfast.

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Spare for Change cofounder Susan Havens had an emotional moment as she used some of her floor time to share about the organization’s next event: 100 Holes per Hour, a fundraiser for people affected by the Maui (Lahaina) wildfires, happening on Sept. 1 at the Eagle Ranch Golf Club.

Bringing together the leaders of so many of Eagle County’s nonprofit organizations to share a meal and stories of impact and success for the philanthropic event emphasized the strength of the community. In addition to full stomachs and full pocketbooks, attendees left with full hearts.

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