A case for charities

Those organizations not affiliated with terrorist relief maybe left empty handed

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— Local nonprofit organizations are concerned the recent terrorist attacks could, in the long term, translate into a reduction in funding.

To be sure, there has been a rash of giving in the weeks immediately following the attacks, but those donations have been somewhat narrowly focused, and with the local and national economy suffering, organizations are preparing for the fact that donors may not have as much to give in the coming months or may have already given to the relief efforts.

Another fear is that as the federal government focuses its spending priorities on recovering from the Sept. 11 attacks, federal funding for organizations that don't directly support that recovery effort will shrink.

"There is a concern that federal funds won't trickle down" because dollars are being used on relief efforts, said Millie Beall, executive director of Routt County United Way, which donates to more than 20 local nonprofit agencies.

An example is the Visiting Nurse Association, which is the community health and prevention agency in the county.

Ten to 20 percent of the VNA's federal funding could be jeopardized, VNA Executive Director Sue Birch said. The Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food stamps to 300 young families in the region, is at risk of losing federal dollars.

"Some of our basic programs could suffer," Birch said. "On the other hand, we will see increase funding for bio-terrorism (response)," she said.

The VNA and other local medical and emergency agencies can expect to see federal money to improve the region's ability to deal with a biological attack. Local agencies are meeting Friday to discuss bio-terrorism and the county's readiness and needs, Birch said.

"What we are particularly concerned about is the national economic conditions being felt locally," Birch said.

With projected reports of a thin winter tourism season, VNA programs providing financial and health service to locals could see an increase in need because of the lack of work.

Local economy

The Sept. 11 attacks have also indirectly affected nonprofits. Because of the attacks, airline travel and tourism reservations are on the decline, which means Steamboat could be in for a rough winter tourism season.

Anticipating the local economy will suffer, the Steamboat Springs City Council is looking to cut $1 million from the city's budget.

One of the first places the council looked to make cuts was in its funding of nonprofits. Among the agencies facing cuts are the Yampa Valley Land Trust, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation and Yampatika.

"Does this mean we are going to have to revisit our budget? Yes it does," said Susan Otis of the Yampa Valley Land Trust, which preserves open lands in the valley.

Otis asked the city for $60,000, which was a portion of what the trust needs for 2002; she received $20,000.

Initially, the city budgeted for an approximate 4-percent increase in sales-tax revenues in 2002. Sales taxes support 70 percent of the general fund. But following the terrorist attacks, the City Council asked for a new budget based upon a 5-percent reduction in sales-tax revenues.

"There is a very good case to be made that we not only won't get a 4-percent increase, but that we will see a decrease," City Council President Kevin Bennett said.

In fact, some estimates show sales-tax revenue could decrease up to 15 percent.

Though cuts are being felt by some nonprofits that depend on the city, the council passed a resolution last week to fully fund the Human Resource Coalition, which funds health and human services agencies, at $148,000.

"In my mind, it's making a statement they want to support a healthy community," Beall said, who also is on the HRC board.

Twenty nonprofit agencies in the county depend on money from the H.R.C., which the Routt County government also helps fund.

Private donors

The local chapter of American Red Cross, in Craig, reported about $20,000 was donated to the office from Northwest Colorado for disaster relief efforts, adding to the $269 million in donations nationwide. On top of that, locals have donated to separate fund-raising efforts, including more than $13,000 raised by the children in the Steamboat Springs School District.

But when the smoke clears, there is a growing concern that the outpouring of financial generosity toward disaster efforts will affect donations to local nonprofits not connected to relief efforts.

"I imagine this is going to affect everyone," Red Cross branch manager Deb Lowe said of local donations.

So far, private donations to local nonprofits are not off but it could be too early to tell, Beall said.

The United Way's annual fund-raiser, which raised $284,500 last year for local nonprofit agencies, recently kicked off and is running on track, reaching $30,000 on Friday.

Last year, 37 percent of Routt County United Way's funding came from private donations. It has yet to be seen if those individuals in the community will donate again to United Way.

"I can't tell that yet," Beall said. "So far, the people who are staunch supporters are still there."

Rob Dick, of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, said he hasn't seen a decrease in private donations either. In a fund-raiser the organization held jointly with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and Habitat for Humanity on Sept. 27, $36,000 was raised.

"We were concerned that we wouldn't be successful," Dick said.

However, he added that the money donated at the event proved them wrong.

"We haven't seen any signs (of donations slowing down), but at this point, it's too early to tell," said Neera Harmon, program associate for the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.

The foundation, which Harmon said has a stable source of funding from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., concentrates much of its energy on granting money to programs ran by nonprofit agencies.

She said the ripple effect from Sept. 11 in the nonprofit world hasn't been felt yet, but it may show up in the number of nonprofits coming to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation looking for funding.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@steamboatpilot.com

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