We’re at the halfway point here. Past halfway, really! And with Thanksgiving next week, it feels like we’re already on the downhill slide of Nonprofit November. Fifteen agency interviews down, ten to go! This week’s interviews have been wonderful, and represent a very diverse set of causes and agencies. Hopefully you find their work interesting, and maybe you’ll even discover a way that you would like to serve your community through one of these organizations.
Thanks so much for reading! Please share with others who you think may be interested. Let’s spread the word about the impact these amazing agencies are providing to our community.
Festival of Lights
Have you seen the movie A Christmas Story? Personally, it’s one of my favorite Christmas movies. In it, Santa comes to town with a giant lighted parade and lots of fanfare. If you’ve seen that, you have a pretty good idea of what the Festival of Lights brings to downtown Colorado Springs.
Nonprofit organizations exist for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is to improve the quality of life for a community. The annual Festival of Lights parade, always held the first Saturday in December, does just that for Colorado Springs. This event brings tens of thousands of people together to kick off our holiday season. Other events, like Tuba Christmas and a kids fun day surround the parade and add to the festivities.
While this is a wonderful event to attend and enjoy with family and friends, it’s worth noting that tons of time, energy and money go into making it happen. Planning begins in the summer and before it’s over 3,000+ volunteers get involved in the production. Special thanks goes out to the event sponsors who help to make it all possible: El Paso County, Flow Right, KKTV, LART/City of Colorado Springs, and Arrow Moving.
Executive Director, Dr. Terry Collinson, wants everyone to mark their calendar for Saturday, December 4th for this year’s parade. Things get rolling at about 5:50 pm. With 60,000 people expected in downtown Colorado Springs, plan to come early to find parking and get settled! To learn more about this year’s event go to their website.
Pikes Peak Library District Foundation
I’ve mostly been focusing on small-ish local nonprofit organizations to highlight. However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shine the spotlight on our local library system. The Pikes Peak Library District is not exactly small, but it’s an absolute jewel in our community. Our library is a lean, mean machine; which exists to provide resources and opportunities that impact individual lives and build community, enhancing the quality of life for everyone.
Approximately one in three people in our community are card-carrying members of the library. In 2020 PPLD saw over a million visitors, all while navigating closures and limited access due to the pandemic. More interestingly, our library has a reputation of being groundbreaking, trend setters. PPLD has led the industry in things like inner-library loans, computerizing their card catalog, and digital resources. As libraries across the country were planning to reopen from the pandemic, they looked to the PPLD for leadership on best practices.
I met with Lance James, Executive Director of the PPLD Foundation. The Foundation is a separate 501(c)3 established in 2003 to bridge the funding gap the library has between their allotted revenue and what it takes to meet the needs of our growing community. The current focus is on growing the number of individuals who support the Foundation.
One thing that Lance wants the community to know about is the library’s Knights of Columbus space. This is a facility adjacent to the downtown Penrose Library. It’s a beautiful facility with both large and small meeting spaces; as well as an outdoor garden area. This space (and many others) is available for community members to use free of charge! To learn more about this fabulous community resource, or to reserve a space go to: https://ppld.org.
Victory Service Dogs
Victory Service Dogs was born out of a need that founder, Steve Corey, saw in our community. There are other agencies that connect veterans with dogs, but it can take a long time and be a very expensive endeavor. Steve believed that there had to be a cost effective and timely way for veterans to get connected with dogs and services that would help them live their lives.
At Victory Service Dogs (VSD) they believe in helping disabled veterans, first responders, and children gain an improved quality of life through the partnership of a loving service dog. By partnering and contracting with Dog Trainers, VSD is able to create customized trainings for each person’s unique needs. Lisbeth Keen, Marketing & Project Manager, shared that they don’t just train the dogs, they train the owners on how to work with, care for, and train their dog.
Every day, 22 veterans end their own lives. In the six years since its inception, VSD has worked with over 300 veterans, and not lost one to suicide. Client turned staff, Mary, shared the story of her journey with her support dog, Neptune (who is the absolute cutest!) Her life has literally been changed for the better since utilizing VSD’s services. Training Neptune to provide her with support has improved her quality of life, increased her independence and self-confidence, and helped her enjoy family relationships, rather than feeling like a burden.
Victory Service Dogs is in growth mode as the demand for their services continues to climb. They have exciting plans for the future; including bigger space, expanding their youth program, and increasing education to the public. Like many agencies, funding is a challenge. You can donate or get involved as a volunteer here. VSD will be hosting their first major fundraising event next month. Pawsitive for a Purpose Winter Gala will be held on December 17th. Tickets are available now. You can also reach out to Lisbeth directly. She loves to share about the amazing work they are doing!
TESSA envisions a community free from domestic violence and relationship abuse. Their work supports victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, trafficking, and stalking. Established in 1977 they were formed based on community needs.
Programming includes shelter, victim advocacy, counseling, legal services, and youth education. They deliver education on healthy relationships, consent, and how to be an upstander (rather than a bystander). Victim advocacy can be anything from walk-ins and their safe line, to supporting victims at the courthouse and in the hospitals.
Community Engagement Manager, Rica Molet, shared that they served 1,500 individuals last year. But the need is much greater. CSPD receives an average of 35 domestic abuse calls every day. The thing Rica would most like people to know about is that TESSA does not exclusively serve women. Marginalized men make up about 8% of their client base.
TESSA is rebuilding their volunteer programming (post COVID) and has many opportunities, including working with clients, serving in their safe house, youth & children programming, hospitals & courthouses advocacy, office/administration, and more! Get involved by going to https://www.tessacs.org. Additionally, the team at TESSA is in the middle of their annual Holiday Shoppe. They ask the community to help them in providing gifts for the kids and families in their programming. To help bring some holiday cheer, check out their wishlist. Gifts are needed by December 3rd.
Partners in Housing
Did you know that families are the fastest growing demographic of the homeless, making up 41% of that population? Partners in Housing exists to provide one year of transitional housing and supportive services to families experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, with the goal of achieving self-sufficiency.
The thing that Resource Manager, Jillian Birchmeier, would most like our community to understand is that homelessness doesn’t necessarily look like you might think. While we are all aware of the homeless camps, or the panhandlers on the freeway ramps, that represents just one segment. In fact, we all likely have people in our sphere who are experiencing homelessness and we don’t realize it.
With 68 housing units, two donation centers, case management, career readiness, budget and credit counseling, free on-site daycare, and more, Partners in Housing is truly changing lives in our community! But it’s not easy. The challenges facing their families include the high cost of housing when they transition out of PiH, rising costs of food and gas, finding full-time employment that aligns with child care, and access to safe and affordable child care.
The best part of my visit with Jillian was learning about their success stories. Last year 87% of their families improved their housing situation, 96% improved their self-sufficiency, and 89% improved their job readiness. Several past participants have come back as staff, Board volunteers and even served as Board Chairs.
I highly encourage you to check out some of their success stories. If you want to help have this kind of impact, there are many ways that you can get involved. As you might guess, when a family is setting up a new apartment/house they have many needs. Your in-kind donations can help families make their space a home. In addition, financial donations and volunteers are always welcome!
Want to learn more about how you can have a lasting impact on your community? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call or check out this article on how to be a community superhero. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver.
Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.