Mission Monday ~ Pikes Peak Elder Justice Center

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Mayling Rodriguez, the inaugural Executive Director for the Pikes Peak Elder Justice Center. While this organization has been around a while, serving our community, it has just recently become a 501(c)3 and hired its first Exec. 

Their mission is to provide a community response working toward preventing and eliminating elder abuse in the Pikes Peak region and beyond, through identifying victims of mistreatment, creating safe shelter for them. Their new structure is giving PPEJC the opportunity to deepen their impact in the community. 

PPEJC envisions a community in which people in later life can live in safety, dignity and with respect. To do this they take a three pronged approach to supporting our most vulnerable seniors. Programming includes Elder Shelter, Fiduciary Education, and coordinated services through their Forensic Team. Learn more about their work on their website

I was surprised to learn of the proliferation of elder abuse in our society. Despite this sad trend, in Mayling’s new leadership role, she has chosen to focus the energy of the organization on hopefulness. Being a source for services and support makes PPEJC a beacon of hope in an otherwise devastating situation.

Mayling wishes more people knew about this problem and could help to expand the awareness of the resources and services available. You can help to spread the word by forwarding this article to others who may have interest or needs that PPEJC could help with. To learn more about their work, or to get involved, reach out to Mayling or follow them on Facebook.

Mission Monday ~ First Tee impact story

I realize that I have already done a spotlight on First Tee last spring. I don’t usually do repeats, because there are so many great organizations out there to talk about! However, when Community Impact Coordinator, Lauren Graziano brought this story to my attention, I felt like I needed to share it. Especially since the organization is often misunderstood.

First Tee is a youth development organization that enables kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, they create active learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do.

This past summer, a young First Tee participant named Levi helped the team truly see the impact of First Tee’s youth programs and how important the mentorship First Tee coaches offer really is. The story is told from the coach’s perspective.

Levi is full of life, laughter, positivity, and so enthusiastic about everything he does. At First Tee, we only
see him on the golf course, but I had thought that was his personality in all aspects of life. The way he
encourages those around him is truly amazing. Even when his golf opponents hit a bad shot, Levi is
always cheering them on and encouraging them to do better on the next shot.

Little did I know, Levi is battling severe depression. His dad approached me while Levi was playing golf
and thanked me sincerely for the programs and camps we offer at First Tee and especially for all the
amazing coaches who have helped Levi throughout his golf career. His dad continued to tell me that
they have been taking Levi to counseling and therapy for severe depression and suicidal thoughts. He
said that when Levi steps onto a golf course that his whole mentality changes. Golf has been the one
thing to keep him stable and excited for life. His dad also said that Levi has mentioned my name
numerous times during therapy and that he feels so happy while he is golfing at First Tee and that he
loves his golf coaches.

While his dad was telling me this, I had a knot in my throat and a pit in my stomach. I never in a million
years would have known what Levi was going through if his dad had not told me this. Although my heart
aches so badly for Levi, I am filled with more passion and drive than ever before. It helped me realize
that what we do at First Tee is so much more than golf. These true-life moments, the impacts First Tee is
making outside of golf through the mentorship coaches provide is the heart of our mission. I am so
honored that I get be Levi’s happy place. And that he feels joy, excitement, and safe at First Tee.

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, donor, mentor, or just want to learn more, go to their website. You can also reach out to Emily Smith, Director of Golf and Education.

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits and small businesses.

Mission Monday ~ The Exodus Road

According to the latest report from the International Labour Organization there are currently 50 million enslaved people in the world. Of those, 22 million are in forced marriages, 21.3 million are in forced labor, and 6.3 million are in commercial sexual exploitation. These numbers represent an increase of 10 million people over the last 5-years. The Exodus Road is combating this global crisis with their vision of a world where humans are never bought, sold or exploited. 

Through programming focused on training/education, intervention, and aftercare this agency is battling human trafficking in Brazil, India, Latin America, the Philippines, Thailand, and the US. In the 10-years that The Exodus Road has been operating – 1,814 children, men and women have been freed from trafficking. 1,543 survivors have been supported with aftercare; this is significant as 80% of those trafficked end up being re-exploited.

Training and education serves to help increase awareness and understanding of law enforcement, nonprofit partners, and the local communities on human trafficking. To date 1,246 officers and citizens have been trained on the realities of human trafficking and how to fight it in their own countries. Education is one of the most powerful and crucial weapons in the fight for freedom. You can take their digital course – TraffickWatch –  to learn facts, stories and action steps you can take. 

In speaking with Sonia Meeter, Director of Partnerships, I learned that small efforts can have an impact on this big problem. Monthly donations of even $19 truly helps make a difference and advance this work. You can also engage with The Exodus Road via social media to learn more about their work and share with friends and colleagues. Links, as well as a sign-up for their newsletter, can be found at the bottom of their website.  

After 10 years of fighting to eradicate human trafficking, it’s time to celebrate the impact The Exodus Road community has made over the past decade. Their Anniversary Celebration is coming right up on Thursday, October 6th at Lumen8 Rooftop Social. If you are moved to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, consider joining this insider’s look into the work. Details and tickets can be found here, TODAY is the last day to purchase!

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors.
She empowers nonprofit organizations to help make the world a better place.

Mission Monday ~ The Voices of Grief Support and Education Center

A recent study conducted by The Voices of Grief Support and Education Center, in partnership with psychology professor Dr. Rachel Weiskittle, revealed that 84% of respondents had experienced significant grief. And yet, what does society teach us about dealing with grief? Generally, we are taught to suppress our feelings of loss, despite it being so prevalent. This is concerning because grief can affect us physically, mentally and socially.

The Voices of Grief Center exist to combat this critical social issue. With a mission to transform the way people encounter grief, the organization is working to shift the narrative around grief. The agency’s vision is to create supportive spaces to honor the natural process of grief and to educate our community in healthy expressions of grief and mourning. Strategies include support, partnerships, and education.

In visiting with Program Director, Sarah Lee, I learned that the grief network in our community is very disconnected. Their strategy around partnership is intended to fill the gaps and create coordination. The previously mentioned survey also unveiled that 33% of those surveyed were unaware of any resources for grief support in our community. Educating the community on the resources available; as well as promoting the importance of healthy grief and mourning is key to advancing this work.

Currently, the Voices of Grief Center is providing support groups using the Companioning Model to come alongside folks and give them space to grieve. This method provides a safe place where participants can be heard, accepted, and their grief can be acknowledged. The agency is building their foundation through expanding their facilitator team and increasing the opportunities. Additionally, they are building their support network through sponsorships.

Like many young nonprofit organizations, their biggest challenge they are facing is getting the word out about the resources available. Next month the Voices of Grief Center will publicly launch their work with two community programs. World renowned author, educator and grief counselor, Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt will speak on Exploring the Need to Grieve and Mourn and Exploring Grief After Suicide. Details on the workshop and registration can be found here. You can also learn more about this important work by checking out their website or reaching out to info@vociesofgriefcenter.org

Grief is a Consequence of Love
 ~ Stephen Levine ~

Mission Monday ~ Reigning Hope

Growing up with her brother Chuckie, Kesti Suggs knows first hand the challenges families with special needs children face. That experience has shaped her values system and given her a sensitivity and compassion to reach out to other families dealing with tough issues. Together with her husband Randy, they believe the Lord has given them this time and place to provide services to the special needs community.

That passion, calling, and understanding has been channeled into creating Reigning Hope Therapy Services. There are a wide variety of programs provided at the farm located south of Falcon. Therapeutic services include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and mental health services. In addition to traditional treatments and tools, Reigning Hope’s Therapists use a variety of unique modalities unique to the farm. Physical Therapist Amanda Huckstep shared that the best thing about serving children at Reigning Hope is that the holistic, natural environment makes it fun. Using animals and the land makes it feel less clinical and sterile. She believes that they get better results because kids don’t realize they are doing work.

It’s important to note that Reigning Hope is not just about therapy. It’s so much more! With a commitment to supporting the whole family, programs include siblings groups, summer day camps, family mixers, family weekends (coined Chuckie’s Place Weekend), recreational therapy, and special events. With a goal of helping families feel supported, encouraged, connected, and providing opportunities to create lifelong memories, Kesti and Randy feel privileged to provide programs that enhance the lives of this unique community.

As if all of that isn’t enough, horsemanship, adaptive riding, and volunteerism are also available opportunities at the farm. These programs give participants the chance to connect individually with their horses, gain unique skills, and to form a special bond with these amazing animals. Learn more about all the services and programs offered through Reigning Hope by checking out their website.

Like most nonprofit organizations, Reigning Hope relies on the generosity of donors to ensure they are able to provide high quality, impactful programming. Insurance covers many of the therapeutic services offered, but the recreational programming is offered free or at a very low cost to families. If you would like to support a family, program, or camp, donate here or reach out to Kesti to discuss how your gift can have the most impact. Additionally, Reigning Hope is currently seeking passionate volunteers to serve on their Board of Directors. Find out what that entails by reaching out to Kesti. By getting involved you can play a role in enhancing the lives of children and families dealing with special needs.

Mission Monday ~ Sarah’s Home

Over 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States every year. This isn’t a “somewhere else” problem, it’s right here in our communities. 85% of children rescued were born in the US and the average age of children when they are trafficked is 11 or 12. This is a huge and devastating problem that requires multiple approaches to combat it. Here in Colorado, Sarah’s Home is fighting the problem by serving rescued girls and helping them in their recovery.

Sarah’s Home provides sanctuary for girls ages 12 to 18 to help them realign with the life they were meant to have. In addition to being a residential facility, services include an accredited school catered and individualized for each girl, mental health support, medical, vision, and dental care. A mentoring component teaches girls how to have healthy and trusting relationships with adults. Girls are taught life and relationship skills. In addition, for kids who have had their childhoods stolen from them, they are given the opportunity to have fun and be kids again.

Currently this organization is in the process of developing and opening Daniel Academy. Approximately 35% of children rescued from trafficking are boys. Community Engagement Coordinator, Jillian Winters, tells me that they believe theirs will be the only facility in the country serving boys recovering from trafficking. In order to meet this tremendous need they have received a donation of land and are currently in a season of growth and evolution as they figure out this next challenge.

I asked Jillian what they wished more people knew about Sarah’s Home. Her reply was focused on the problem. She would like to see more awareness of sex trafficking. The more people know, the smaller the world becomes for sex traffickers. Education is not the primary focus of Sarah’s Home; however, they work to empower people to be part of the solution through education. Ideally they would love to be forced to close their doors because there is no longer a need.

There are many ways that you can get involved. Check here for upcoming trainings to learn more about the problem and what to look for. You can also host a Fireside Chat to educate you and your friends or family. And if you would like to financially support the work of Sarah’s Home or Daniel Academy you’ll find a variety of opportunities here.

Autism Vision of Colorado

The mission of Autism Vision of Colorado is to educate the community on autism and autism awareness; and to create a safe place for individuals on the spectrum and their families to meet one another, support one another and advocate within the community. Founded in 2019, this all-volunteer organization provides a variety of services and events. 

Support Groups are a significant means for connecting people, and connecting people to resources. Autism Vision of Colorado facilitates groups for Teens, LGBTQIA+, Artist and Crafters, Care Givers, and more. These groups provide a safe place for vulnerability, exploration, support and education. 

Sharon Starkey is the founder and Board President. Her personal connection of supporting family members on the spectrum drove her to want to help others who are struggling. She wishes that more people understood that Autism is not a bad thing. Through education, awareness and exposure, Autism Vision of Colorado is working to create a community where all people feel safe and welcome. 

Like many organizations, raising money is their biggest challenge. The good news is, you can help! If you would like to support this amazing cause with your time, money or connections, go to their website. They even have opportunities to sign up for the Amazon Smile or King Soopers Community Rewards programs. These businesses offer third party support from your regular spending. It’s a great way to help, for those who cannot give additional time or money right now. 

Here are two upcoming events where you can learn more and have fun:

  • Pokemon Go event ~ May 21st, 10:00 am to noon at Cottonwood Creek Park
  • Autism Vision of Colorado Annual Picnic ~ June 11th, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Nancy Lewis Park

Watch here for more information.

Mission Monday ~ Cool Science

Cool Science is all about making science – actually Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math (STEAM) – cool for kids; just like sports, music and art!  They do this by traveling throughout Colorado, bringing their unique blend of cool demonstration shows and hands-on STEAM activities to elementaries, middle schools, and libraries. 

Driven by a desire for community involvement, this nonprofit organization was started in 2002 by an Intel employee. As leadership and partnerships have changed, Cool Science has evolved. Currently a staff of 1-2 run the operations, engaging many volunteers in program delivery. Programming includes demonstration shows, hands-on labs, and science nights/STEAM nights at over 200 schools and libraries per year. The hallmark event for this agency is the Colorado Springs Cool Science Festival. This 9-day event takes place in the fall attracting over 15,000 participants with more than 70 activities for all ages. 

What differentiates Cool Science from many other groups is that their leaders and key volunteers are actual scientists, engineers, and educators. These professionals give of their time because they know the value of exposing children to STEAM education. Improving creativity, collaboration, problem solving, and confidence are just a few of the benefits. Best of all, Cool Science programming is provided at a very low cost or free. Schools are never turned away because of an inability to pay.

Marc Straub has led Cool Science as the Executive Director since 2015. Even though they have been doing this important work for over 20-years, Marc still doesn’t feel like people really know much about them. As an agency working to develop our future leaders, they would like to expand the awareness of Cool Science. 

Increased visibility would help with their biggest challenge of volunteer recruitment. Cool Science is always seeking “science confident” volunteers who enjoy interacting with kids to assist with program delivery. In addition, they are currently looking to grow their Board. Skills that would help advance their cause include public relations, communications, marketing, and event planning. To learn more or get involved click here or email Marc directly.

Mission Monday – Pikes Peak Children’s Museum

I met Nohea March when she spoke at the Colorado Springs 1 Million Cups several weeks ago. Her enthusiasm for helping children to learn through play was contagious! After hearing her speak I knew I wanted to get out to see our Pikes Peak Children’s Museum.

Located on the southeast side of the city, their current space of around 3,000 square feet is packed full of experiential learning opportunities! Having opened in April of 2021, the facility includes rooms for space exploration, coding, farm-to-fork, simple machines, healthy communities, and creative arts. The exhibits change regularly, and there is even room for birthday parties.

This museum represents a huge expansion from the mobile museum they operated in the community for the past 16 years. However, Nohea and her Board see this location as a transitional space. Their vision is to secure a larger facility and create a full museum, while maintaining their presence on the southeast side of Colorado Springs. So while they now have a legitimate location, it doesn’t mean their need for funding or volunteers has gone away. Donations help ensure quality exhibits, support operational costs, and will go towards funding for the new space.
The Children’s Museum is a fully volunteer led and run organization. Currently they have volunteer positions open for grant writers, event coordinators, and class instructors. They are also working to grow their Board of Directors, with interest in bringing on governance volunteers with expertise in law, finance, and technology. To get involved as a volunteer, donor, or if you have a potential space for the Museum, please reach out to Nohea at nohea@pikespeakchildrensmuseum.org. You can also learn more about this community gem by visiting their website.
Get out and play!

Mission Monday – Wholly Kicks

There are many agencies dedicated to helping the economically challenged and housing insecure. The thing that sets Wholly Kicks apart is their dedication to walking with their clients. They see them as equals, because many of the leaders at Wholly Kicks have been in the same place at some point in their lives.

On the surface Wholly Kicks is about getting new shoes to people who cannot afford them. And they have done this very well! Over the past couple of years they have given out over 5,200 pairs of shoes. More importantly than the shoes, they have become an organization dedicated to relationships. By providing love and support, Wholly Kicks has developed a highly diverse leadership team from the people they have helped. These folks are uniquely positioned to meet clients where they are and provide compassion and dignity.

Tyg Taylor is the Founder and Executive Director of Wholly Kicks. He is passionate about walking with and alongside those in challenging situations by providing a few basic items for everyday life. In addition, he is committed to delivering support and compassion to empower others to consider a life that is deserving to be felt whole. Tyg wishes that more people knew about Wholly Kicks, but he also wants people to know that there is a story behind every person who receives shoes. Shoes are A thing, not THE thing.

You can connect with Wholly Kicks through their Facebook page or on Instragram. Tyg is always looking for volunteers and could especially use Spanish speakers at many of their distribution events. You can also get involved by making a monetary donation or a donation of new shoes. Learn how here or reach out to tyg@whollykicks.org.