Vail Valley Cares holds its annual grant awards breakfast, giving $300,000 to 34 local nonprofit groups | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Cares holds its annual grant awards breakfast, giving $300,000 to 34 local nonprofit groups

Brian Maloney Special to the Daily

AVON — Here's something you should do this week: Donate something to or buy something from one of Vail Valley Cares' Thrifty Shoppe locations. Those donations or dollars go a long way in the community.

Vail Valley Cares — a nonprofit Christian assistance organization — held its annual grant award breakfast at the Eagle River Presbyterian Church on Wednesday. There, the nonprofit group gave $300,000 to 34 local nonprofit groups. Those groups provide services, from suicide awareness training to meals for seniors to financial and other support for local families facing hard times.

This year's grant awards actually came to $299,600. To get to an even $300,000, the grant committee provided an extra check of $400 to a nonprofit that's been a great partner to Vail Valley Cares. This year, it was the Vail Valley Charitable Fund.

The Charitable Fund received a grant, of course, to aid its mission of helping local families facing catastrophic medical bills. That help comes from either one-time grants or organizing fundraising events. Throughout the course of about 20 years, the fund has given more than $7 million to about 1,500 local families.

The grant from Vail Valley Cares helps fuel the Charitable Fund's giving.

Other donations can have equal or greater impact.

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The Bright Future Foundation provides help for families in abusive and other crisis situations. That foundation receives a good bit of government aid, as well as money from other foundations.

But Holly Kasper, of Bright Future, said much of the funding that foundation receives is "highly directed" — meaning that dollars from one source can be spent only on specific services. The Vail Valley Cares grants can be used to pay for services and items those directed grants can't. The Thrifty Shoppes also provide clothes and toys for kids who may have left their homes on a moment's notice.

Paying for extras

The grants also help pay for programs and services that other grants haven't envisioned.

The Eagle County School District has a Transition to Life program for disabled kids who won't graduate from high school. The Transition to Life program helps find jobs for those young people, as well as job coaching and social programs.

Vail Valley Cares grants also help provide counseling services for students at Red Canyon High School. That school is designed for youngsters who, for whatever reason, don't fit in the valley's two high schools. Without Red Canyon, many of those students simply wouldn't earn a high school diploma.

Principal Wade Hill told the group that the school's focus is on academics, of course, but also on character development. The Vail Valley Cares grant helps the school provide that extra portion of education.

A few grant recipients told stories about people and families who have been helped by the nonprofit groups Vail Valley Cares helps.

Catholic Charities provides services to families in various kinds of need. Group representative Marian McDonough talked about a single dad of two young kids, one of whom is disabled.

The father came to Catholic Charities for help with rent, because he hadn't been paid in several months. The organization helped with rent, worked to get the father's wages paid and got his disabled child's government disability payments transferred to him.

Six months later, the father was working and his kids were doing well, McDonough said.

Eagle Valley Family Assistance representative Pat Hammon had a similar story. That group also helps families in need, providing household budget counseling and providing no-interest loans to help pay off credit or medical bills.

Hammon said one client, also a single parent, received a loan and paid it off, at a rate of $10 per month.

"When she moved to Florida, we thought that's the end of that," Hammon said, quickly adding that the group recently received the final $10 payment on that loan.

Success in support

Sometimes, success can't be measured in dollars.

Roundup River Ranch provides to very sick kids a week at a Western camp. No family is ever charged for that experience. Some of those kids are away from home or a medical center for the first time, and that can be intimidating.

Katie Santambrogio, the ranch director of development and marketing told the story about a youngster who was feeling a bit homesick, something his new camp buddies helped by pulling bean bags next to his bed and spending the night around him.

That kind of support extends from the cabin at a camp to the valley's nonprofit groups.

After the ceremony, few were in a hurry to leave — everybody knows everybody else in the valley's nonprofit community.

Looking out over the slowly-emptying room, Vail Valley Cares Executive Director Greg Osteen was relaxed and smiling.

"I don't know of anyplace else where they have something like this," Osteen said. "It's very special."

Now, it's back to work. And there's plenty of work to do.

Pastor Ethan Moore closed the ceremony and told the group about a recent Saturday when he'd pitched in to help sort and process donations.

"I helped for two hours and I was worn out," Moore said. "They work all day, all week, all year to do this."

Go. Donate. Buy. It's good for everyone.

By the numbers

34: Area nonprofit groups that received grants Wednesday from Vail Valley Cares.

$300,000: Total grant awards for 2016.

$3.3 million: Total grant awards since 2000.

$50,000: Scholarship awards to Colorado Mountain College the past three years.