Our View: Digging deep for worthy causes

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Editor's note: This editorial has been corrected from its original version. Betsey Jay is executive director of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation; Lisa Brown is program director.

It's no surprise that local nonprofit agencies are feeling the weight of a struggling economy on their backs. But while charitable giving is down - not only locally, but nationally - the need for many of the essential services provided by our nonprofit sector is at an all-time high.

We realize the challenge in asking residents to dig deeper into their pockets when many already are struggling with reduced or lost wages. But we also recognize the significant role many of these nonprofit groups play in our community.

Organizations like the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, LIFT-UP of Routt County, Horizons Specialized Services and Advocates Building Peaceful Communities (formerly Advocates Against Battering and Abuse) provide important health and human services for residents who otherwise can't help themselves. Demand for services at those agencies continues to rise, even as their budgets shrink.

We also shouldn't lose sight of the economic role nonprofit groups play in Routt County. The Yampa Valley Community Foundation conducted a nonprofit agency survey in January that paints an important picture. The survey was sent to 134 nonprofit agencies; 56 responded. Of those, 36 were organizations that have staffs and provide services. Those 36 agencies employ 670 residents and combine for $27 million in operating budgets. Twenty-four are experiencing an increase in demand for services, and 19 anticipate budget shortfalls in 2009. Twenty-five of the 36 agencies have reserves, and 12 of them plan to tap into those reserves this year.

Tapping into reserves may be the right approach, especially as agencies look to meet demand for services. But we should all be concerned about the long-term health of many of our nonprofit organizations.

Fortunately, there are things each of us can do to help. If you're able to, consider donating additional money to your favorite nonprofit group or to an umbrella agency like Routt County United Way. The United Way provides funding for dozens of member health and human services agencies through its annual fundraising campaign. This year's campaign fell about $125,000 short of its goal, meaning most United Way member agencies will receive less money than they did the previous year.

If you're not in a position to donate money, perhaps you can spare a few hours of your time. Many nonprofit groups are always in need of volunteers. Partners in Routt County, for example, needs responsible male mentors for local youths in need of positive role models.

Businesses can help by following the example of companies like SmartWool, which provides employees with paid time off to volunteer in the community.

If time and money are hard to come by, perhaps you can pick up an extra can of tuna fish, beans, soup or vegetables next time you're at the grocery store. For just a dollar or two you can help restock the shelves at LIFT-UP of Routt County's food bank, which is being relied upon by more residents than ever before. A small food donation can provide the next meal for a needy local family.

As Yampa Valley Community Foundation program director Lisa Brown said, being charitable is a choice, and that's a choice our community has made time and time again. Perhaps now more than ever, it's time for us to donate what we can to help organizations that play a tremendously valuable role in Routt County.

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