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Community Assistance Fund makes a difference and art supports the cause

Archuleta County has been described in many ways over the years. Words such as “community-minded,” “caring,” “empathetic” and “generous” are ones that often come to mind.

Almost everyone knows individuals who have been in need of financial, physical, and/or emotional help at one time. The community has seen an increase in these types of needs with the recent economic struggle. People are hurting due to lost jobs, rising costs and other emergencies.

Many organizations and groups have stepped forward to help a neighbor or a stranger in need. One support group that is called upon almost daily is the Community Assistance Fund.

The Community Assistance Fund, funded and administered by the Community United Methodist Church, is an organized effort that has been helping individuals for more than 10 years. This fund meets emergency needs of people in the Archuleta County area, regardless of their religious affiliation, if any. Additionally, on occasion, money or commodities go to help people who are just passing through our community and find themselves in unexpected need of some type of support.

Originally, the local program was known as the “Crisis Box Program.” Local agencies knew that if an individual or family came to them with food needs, they could receive help in the form of a food box with basic ingredients to help them through an immediate crisis. Food boxes are still a large part of this program — the CUMC Food Pantry — but the scope of the effort has grown to meet the increasing needs of the community with the creation of the Community Assistance Fund.

Pastor Don Ford of CUMC has played an integral part in this community outreach program since his arrival here. Through his caring and insight into the needs of many in our community, the components of the program continue to expand. The success stories have reached far beyond Archuleta County. Last year, Pastor Don was invited to speak at the national conference of Methodist ministers in Dallas, Texas, about the organization, funding, components and success of the program here in our area. What the program has done here now serves as a model for many other communities.

It is good to have such a program to help people out. On the other hand, it is sad to realize that so many people are in need. Regretfully, the requests for assistance are increasing at a faster pace than at any time since the program began. During the first five months of 2008, over $14,000 was disbursed from the fund. During the first six months of 2009, $33,000 has been given out. There have been 417 food boxes distributed so far in 2009. That is about 70 boxes per month, and more than two boxes a day in every five-day week the Church office is open. Emergency (temporary) housing subsidies or lodging donations have amounted to over $4,000.

Here are some additional examples of how the fund is used:

• Food needs when Crisis Boxes are unavailable.

• Car assistance — vital repair bills, etc.

• Child care and day care assistance, baby items such as baby food and diapers.

• Counseling fees and testing (co-pay for Drug Court and DUIs).

• Eyeglasses.

• Gasoline vouchers for work, job hunting, doctor appointments.

• Home repair bills — fixing appliances, materials for miscellaneous home improvements (labor provided by church members).

• Short-term lodging assistance at local motels.

• Emergency meal vouchers for use at local restaurants (often for transients or out-of-towners with unexpected, immediate emergencies).

• Medical and prescription drug bill assistance (co-pay).

• Moving expenses.

• Rent and mortgage assistance (co-pay deposits on rentals, for example).

• Utility payment assistance (when Energy Outreach Colorado funds are depleted).

It is important to understand a little about “how the Fund is funded.” Many people do not realize that funding for this vital program is dependent solely on cash or item donations. Local groups such as the Pagosa Women’s Club and the local Boy Scouts have, for example, supported the food box program through food drives. The Fund is not, however, supported by such organizations as United Way, United Fund, Department of Social Services, or town and Archuleta County law enforcement agencies. No local or state tax dollars are used for this fund.

Community United Methodist Church is a strong supporting member of Pagosa Outreach Connection, an important support group in our community. However, the Community Assistance Fund is a separate entity from Pagosa Outreach Connection, operates independently of that organization, and is funded totally independently as well. Many of the needs which are met by the Community Assistance Fund are different from those met by Pagosa Outreach Connection.

There are ways you can help with the Community Assistance Fund, whether or not you are affiliated with Community United Methodist Church. Cash and food donations are always gratefully accepted.

You also have the opportunity to purchase a ticket for this year’s Art in the Garden Festival, a major fund-raiser for the Community Assistance Fund. The event will be held Saturday, Aug. 15, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Art in the Garden, now in its second year, is a celebration of the senses in the form of fine paintings and sculptures, beautiful musical entertainment, and gourmet food and beverages — all enhanced by the stunning environment at El Rancho Pinoso, where the festival takes place. With purchase of a $30 (tax deductible) ticket, you will have the opportunity to see 15 regional artists drawing, painting and sculpting in one of the most gorgeous settings in the San Juan Mountains. At the same time, you will enjoy the talents of individual musicians, or musical ensembles, every 30 minutes between 3 and 7 p.m. Elegant and delicious hors d’oeuvres will be presented by a talented group of local chefs and their assistants.

Can you imagine a more enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon and evening, while helping someone less fortunate than yourself at the same time?

Wait ... there is more. You will have the rare opportunity to enjoy the beautiful, streamside setting and incredible views of El Rancho Pinoso, located by driving up the Blanco Basin Road (County Road 326) to Castle Creek Road (CR 660). This 900-acre private fishing ranch is situated in one of the most beautiful, serene valleys in our part of the country. Bob and Betty Lindner, and their son, David, have graciously invited you to visit their ranch for this event.

The commemorative poster art for 2009 has been created by longtime former Pagosa Springs resident and nationally-known artist Claire Goldrick. She will offer a beautiful, signed and numbered limited-edition event poster that depicts the spectacular scenery that serves as the setting of the event. There will only be 25 of these giclee´ posters available for purchase, at the affordable cost of $30. In addition, there will be a few remaining posters from last year’s event held at Rito Blanco Nursery. These posters were created by the inaugural year poster artist, Jeanine Malaney, an accomplished Pagosa Springs resident. This may well be your last opportunity to begin a collection of all the posters from this annual event.

The artists who are participating in the festival will each have original works on display for your enjoyment and for purchase. The 15 selected artists will each donate a 30-percent commission to the Community Assistance Fund from the sale of their artwork. In addition to works by the artists, there will be event note cards available in two different sets of six. These cards depict the stunning flowers, gardens and scenery at El Rancho Pinoso. Cash or checks will be accepted at the Festival for your purchases. A credit card option will not be available this year.

Event tickets are available in three locations: The Chamber of Commerce, The Plaid Pony, and the temporary Community United Methodist Church office located on Lewis Street just west of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church complex. Payment can be made by cash or check at these locations. There will be no tickets available at El Rancho Pinoso, so plan ahead to secure your tickets and enjoy an afternoon of relaxing and gracious entertainment.