Vail Valley Cares distributes $306K in its annual giveaway day | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Cares distributes $306K in its annual giveaway day

EDWARDS — If it's better to give than receive, and it is, then Vail Valley Cares was as good as it gets Wednesday.

Vail Valley Cares hosted its 15th annual grant giveaway day Wednesday at Trinity Church in Edwards. This year, they gave away $306,000 to 41 organizations, a new record for both. The bigger picture is that this year's grants pushed them over $3 million in grants during the course of 15 years.

Dozens of good-hearted people packed Trinity Church, which was converted into a huge banquet hall.

"All of you are interconnected in some way," said Jeff Apps, who is with the Vail Valley Cares board of directors. "With headlines that point to everything that's falling apart in the world, remember the people in this room. They're doing good."

The Thrifty Shops have been around 21 years.

"It's the generosity of the community that makes this happen," said Greg Osteen, Vail Valley Cares director.

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In the beginning

Twenty-one years ago, Vail Valley Cares started small, as most things do. Jerry Milsaps was on the Trinity Church staff and started collecting donations of food and other things in his tiny office.

He gave it away as fast as he could, but he still ran out of room.

Benny Clark was the Trinity pastor in those days, and also the president of the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club. Clark had the idea for the original Thrifty Shop and convinced his fellow Rotarians to cover the rent for the first year.

They only had to cover a couple months, and then the Thrifty Shop was able to repay the Rotarians in about three months.

The Edwards location was so successful that they opened a second store in Eagle.

They sell all kinds of stuff and raise all kinds of money. They give a bunch of it away to other local helper groups.

"When so many funding sources are unstable, it's a blessing to have Vail Valley area," said Sherry Mintz, director of the Bright Futures Foundation.

Among the recipients

Many of the organizations that received grants have been around longer than Vail Valley Cares.

Bright Futures Foundation is in its 31st year, and Catholic Charities has been around since 1995 … the list goes on for quite awhile.

CASA of the Continental Divide advocates in court for abused and neglected children, which are some of the toughest local cases.

The Children's Garden of Learning is using their grant to buy and install a new dishwasher, relieving their teachers of dish duty.

There's also the Eagle County School District transition to life program, for young people who have developmental issues. It works. One hundred percent of their people are gainfully employed.

Eagle Valley Family assistance provides loans to local families. Paul Wible told the group that they've loaned more than $1 million, and that their return rate is higher than some banks.

Early Childhood Partners will use their grant money for a program designed to keep preschoolers and kindergartners from being expelled, which happens.

The Education Foundation of Eagle County operates the School of Rock camp in Minturn, and some of the money will go to this year's 25th anniversary Wild West Day. EFEC also gives money away. Last year, Wild West Day raised enough money that each elementary school received $18,000.

InteGreat is helping run this summer's inaugural summer lunch program. Almost half of Eagle County's school students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, the terms by which state and local education officials designate a student as "at risk." The program started last month, and they're serving more than 500 lunches most days, utilizing 70 volunteers.

There's the Loaves & Fishes Cafe that operates out of the Edwards Interfaith Chapel. They provide free meals to the local community. Among them is the little girl who was celebrating a birthday, but her family couldn't come up with the extra cash for a cake. At one of the Loaves & Fishes nights, a huge birthday cake showed up.

"How did you know it was my birthday?" the girl asked.

They didn't, of course.

"Now, I can have a birthday party," the girl excitedly told the Loaves & Fishes crew.

Mountain Valley Horse Rescue saved seven horses from a slaughter auction, by buying them. Among those horses was Jackie, who was emaciated and had one eye, hence her name, One Eyed Jackie.

Jackie, it turns out, is one of those horses who will stand patiently while 38 kindergartners groom her. Jackie also works with foster kids, teaching the lesson that the best thing for the inside of a kid is the outside of a horse. Now, Jackie is off their adoption list. They're keeping her.

For 19 years, Small Champions has been teaching kids with disabilities about ski racing and life, not necessarily in that order.

Survive bought the Rittenhouse restaurant building in Gypsum and opened a combination restaurant transition program to help people move from incarceration to life. Survive works, too. In the larger world, 75 percent of people in jail return to jail within three years. In the Survive program, only 10 percent do.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.