By the numbers
Northwest Colorado recipients
• Love INC, Craig: $5,000
• LIFT-UP of Routt County, Hayden: $7,500
• Catholic Charities-Western Slope Office, Glenwood Springs: $10,000
• Marillac Clinic, Grand Junction: $10,000
• Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, Grand Junction: $7,500
• Mountain Family Center, Hot Sulphur Springs: $10,000
David Freseman didn't know what to say.
Visiting officials from the El Pomar Foundation had just presented him with a $7,500 check for his nonprofit, Lift-Up
of Routt County.
After a brief pause, he looked down at the check and said, "Oh my goodness."
He wasn't the only one to get good news that day.
El Pomar program associates Amy Humble and Vanessa Macias visited Craig on Monday afternoon to deliver two unsolicited checks - totaling $12,500 - for two Yampa Valley nonprofits: Lift-Up, of which Freseman is the executive director, and Love INC, which received $5,000. Although LIFT-UP is based in Hayden, the award presentation took place in Craig.
El Pomar is in the process of distributing $1 million to roughly 90 nonprofits across the state, all out of its new Colorado Assistance Fund.
The money is intended as a stimulus package, an infusion of resources to help charity groups meet growing needs partly caused by national economic problems.
Humble said El Pomar started the fund to help fight against the tide of increasing financial insecurity.
"El Pomar sees there is a definite need right now, with the economy the way it is and people having trouble, that there needs to be money going out into communities, and organizations like yours can do that," she said.
In total, Humble's organization gave $50,000 to six Northwest Colorado nonprofits, including some in Mesa, Garfield and Grand counties.
Macias said El Pomar's goal was to provide money without asking people to spend time filling out grant applications.
"Applying for grants is probably not what's needed now," Macias said. "It's helping those in need."
The El Pomar Board of Trustees decided which organizations to award money to with the help of its nine regional councils, spread throughout the state.
The Northwest Regional Council includes Craig resident Audrey Danner, the executive director of Yampa Valley Partners, and state Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, recently elected to state Senate.
At Monday's gift-giving presentation, Danner lauded El Pomar for its commitment to helping nonprofits during hard economic times.
"El Pomar is looking to scale back its administrative expenses," Danner said. "We're using Web-based conferencing and such to cut down on meeting costs and putting that money into funding community groups that can make a difference. Requests for food, shelter, clothing all have increased all across the state as things have gotten worse."
Freseman and Love INC Executive Director Pat Jones said there have been more requests for help in the past two months than usual. They expect to use most of the surprise funding for helping people pay rent, though the Love INC board will decide how to spend its $5,000 at a meeting Dec. 18.
"It seems like in November, there really seemed to be a big increase in the number of people calling for help with rent and personal items," Jones said.
Lift-Up has received 20 calls for rent assistance in three weeks, Freseman said, when usually the number would be one or two a week.
However, the two shared different accounts of where the requests came from.
In Routt County, where Lift-Up is based, Freseman said unemployment has gone up because of decreased demand for construction jobs, as well as the usual drop in seasonal jobs at the end of summer.
Freseman didn't have much hope for things getting better soon, as he expected Steamboat Ski Area layoffs could trickle down into jobs at retailers, hotels and restaurants.
Jones said most of the increased need she sees is a result of new people moving to Craig, trying to get on their feet.
She couldn't say for sure, but that may also be a sign of tough economic times across the country, as western Colorado generally has a better job market than other places. Times still are hard for people, though, and she was happy to be able to do a little bit more.
Freseman echoed that sentiment toward the end of his meeting with Macias and Humble.
"There's nothing worse than saying to somebody, 'We can't help you because we have no money,'" he said. "Thank you so much."