Client Services

It takes a community

By Paula Blair, Case Manager & Program Manager

There is a phrase which is used frequently – “it takes a village.” The Tri-Lakes community exemplified this recently.

On a snowy and cold January day, Jim and Mary – homeless clients of Tri-Lakes Cares – had a special request.

They have been living in their old van at a local truck stop. Jim and Mary had already shelled out money for repairs, but it still need extensive repairs, including heat making it even more difficult to stay warm.

They had read on TLC’s website that we could offer hotel vouchers, so they asked if they could get one to get in out of the cold. Fortunately, we had received grant funds from First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs specifically to help homeless clients.

Since Jim and Mary were currently parked at a gas station on Baptist Road, it was suggested they could stay at the closest hotel, The Fairfield Inn. Haley, TLC’s Executive Director, told Paula, the Case Manager to contact Dave, a TLC board member, who knew the owner of the Fairfield Inn. After several phone calls and emails, a room was secured at a steeply discounted rate – just in time for Jim and Mary to be safely housed before a snow storm the following day.

In the meantime, Haley also contacted Kyle and Carrie, owners of Christian Brothers Automotive in Monument to find out if one of their technicians to look at the van where it was currently parked. A tech went out and determined that it was an easy and inexpensive fix. He drove the van to the shop, where Christian Brothers provided a deep discount to TLC to help these homeless clients.

In the end, the van was repaired, while Jim and Mary were safe in a hotel room during a very cold snap.

We thank Kevin, the owner of the Fairfield Inn; Kyle and Carrie, owners of Christian Brothers Automotive, and First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs for assisting two individuals with life-saving help.

Cooking Matters – Learning how to shop for, and cook, healthy meals on a budget

By Michele Palmer, Food Programs Manager

Earlier this year, Tri-Lakes Cares partnered with Care & Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado to begin offering “Cooking Matters” classes to our clients.

Per Jessica McConnell, the Cooking Matters Program Manager at Care & Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado:

Cooking Matters helps families to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget, as part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Cooking Matters offers cooking, food skills, and nutrition education for community members facing food-insecurity. We provide courses and tours throughout El Paso County to teach skills for creating healthy meals and stretching food budgets to ensure families are fed and nourished. The classes are hands-on, skill-building, and discussion based to introduce low-income families to healthy possibilities within their financial means. We staff classes with Nutrition and Culinary experts, and other volunteers from the community, so the participants can get the most knowledge from the classes.

Sisters, Bella and Micah cooking up some fun in the kitchen!

In July, we concluded our first “Cooking Matters” class for families. Trinity Lutheran Church offered their kitchen facilities for 4 families (4 adults and 4 children) to learn about shopping and cooking healthy meals on a budget. With the help of Jane, a Tri-Lakes Cares volunteer nutritionist, the families and other TLC volunteers prepared dishes which were both budget-wise and healthy. Everyone then ate together, with the clients receiving the ingredients to re-create the meal at home. After completing the 6-week course, the graduates received a cookbook, cutting board, reusable grocery shopping bag and, best of all, a super-duper, high quality Chef’s knife!

We are currently conducting our second session of “Cooking Matters” – this one for adults only.

If you would like to learn more about the “Cooking Matters” classes please contact Paula Blair, Programs Manager at (719) 481-4864, ext 112.


Ayla and her brother study the weekly sales ads. Hmmm…what will be on the menu?


Chef Lynne (and TLC Volunteer) teaching about cooking, prep and knife skills.


Volunteer nutritionist Jane did a fantastic job teaching the aspiring home chefs about nutrition, smart shopping on a budget, and menu planning.

Some of the proud graduates! They successfully completed the 6-week course and received a cookbook, cutting board, reusable grocery bag, and best of all, a super duper high quality chef’s knife!


The Cooking Matters classes would not be possible without our fabulous volunteers! From left to right: Mary, Lori, Paul, Lynne, Rebecca and Jane. A big thank you!

Getting Ahead (in a “Just Gettin’ By World”)

By Kim Whisenhunt, Operations Manager

Part 3 of a 3-part series

During our last fiscal year, Tri-Lakes Cares served 490 households. We helped 88 households with utilities and 58 households with rent or mortgage. Tri-Lakes Cares helps with emergency, relief and self-sufficiency programs. In the past, we have been heavy on the relief and emergency programs but in the last five years we have concentrated on our self-sufficiency programming. We are aware we cannot solve poverty for most but we do know it is important to offer programs to help someone who is ready to make that change and move forward.

Tri-Lakes Cares runs a self-sufficiency program called Getting Ahead (In a Just Getting’ By World) created by Philip DeVol. This 12 to 15 week program studies poverty and near poverty through the lens of economic classes to better understand how society and those economic classes work: poverty, middle class and upper class. The participants work as a group to investigate the impact that poverty and low wages have on all of us and what it takes to move from a just-getting-by world to a getting-ahead world.  The classes are not “taught” but rather run by a facilitator who helps with group discussions and investigations of the participants’ community. The attendees are considered investigators because they are investigating their community and what in their community are barriers to becoming self-sufficient.

Each chapter of the Getting Ahead workbook addresses different aspects of poverty.

Module 1 -“My Life Now”: If you are going to do something about poverty, you should know an accurate, specific and complete picture of poverty and instability in your community. The investigators create a mental model of poverty addressing what their day-to-day concerns are when living in poverty. Having to delicately balance all of these concerns on a daily basis causes one to live in the “tyranny of the moment.”

To the left is a Mental Model of Poverty. These are the concerns a person in poverty must juggle every day. Imagine the difficulty you would have when your resources do not match your needs.  People in poverty are constantly living in the “tyranny of the moment”, putting out fire after fire.

Module 2 – “Theory of Change”: When daily life is unpredictable and unstable, people can become caught in solving problems all day long. Breaking out of that trap can lead to a new future story. It is important for the investigators to know that the stages of change they will go through almost never occur in a straight line and that relapse is normal. The point is that when there is a relapse, we don’t have to start all over but can go back to the preparation or action stage. In the book DeVol states, “the difference between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ fuels the motivation needed to actualize personal growth.

Module 3 -“The Rich/Poor Gap and Research on Causes of Poverty”: Until we explore and understand  all of the causes of poverty, we won’t be able to build communities where everyone can live well. There are many causes of poverty, a couple of examples are individual behaviors and circumstances, community conditions, and the list goes on.

Module 4 – “Hidden Rules of Economic Class”: Understanding the hidden rules of class can increase understanding, reduce judgmental attitudes, and help people come together across class lines to solve problems. You may ask, what are hidden rules? Hidden rules are the unspoken cues and habits of a group. If you know the rules you belong, if you do not, you do not. Phil DeVol essentially says, we grow up learning how to survive in our environment by watching how our parents survive the environment. We did not have to be taught the rules directly. Hidden rules come from the environment we were raised in whether it is poverty, middle class or wealth.

Module 5 – “The Importance of Language”: Language skills can help us learn, solve problems and create relationships of mutual respect. Understanding which register of language to use can be the difference in getting a job and being passed over for a position. There are many registers we use in everyday conversations. For example, when we speak to our friends, we have often use word choice that is general and not specific, a smaller vocabulary because of the comfort in the relationship. When we are at work and school, we tend to use a more formal register with complete sentences and specific word choice.

Module 6 – “Eleven Resources”: Ruby Payne defines poverty as “the extent to which an individual does without resources.” Poverty is not just about lack of money. Often people living in poverty are lacking in the important resources that can help them cross the barrier from poverty to self-sufficiency. Our community can do something about poverty by building individual, institutional and community resources. Four of the key resources the Getting Ahead class addresses are Financial, Emotional, Social Capital, and Motivation and Persistence.

Module 7 – “Self Assessment of Resources”: During this module, each investigator assesses their own resources.

Module 8 – “Community Assessment”: In this module, the investigators look at a community assessment. In Getting Ahead, there are two main story lines: the individual and the community. In the last few modules, they assess themselves and in this module, they assess the community. The group investigates the community’s ability to provide a high quality life for everyone, including people in or near poverty. They identify community assets that help the group build resources.

Module 9 – “Building Resources”: In this module, the group analyzes the difference between resources that are for “getting by” and resources that are for “getting ahead”. There are organizations in a community that provide getting-by resources such as food, clothing cash and so on; then there are resources that can help one get-ahead, one would be this Getting Ahead course. Getting Ahead investigators make their own argument for change, create a future story, and plan to build resources.

Module 10 – “Personal and Community Plan”: This module is a wrap-up of what was learned and discovered, and includes working on Personal and Community Plans. The investigators create a future story for themselves and a mental model for community prosperity.

Tri-Lakes Cares is extremely proud of the 48 clients that have graduated from this program. We have seen a reduction in needed financial services from many graduates and we have witnessed the hope that the graduates feel about their future. They can see that there is a way out and Tri-Lakes Cares in there to support them on their journey.

Therefore, when you wonder who is a Tri-Lakes Cares client, you can see a diverse group of hard working people who may have been raised in poverty; or someone in a short-term situation that has thrust them into situational poverty. From what we see on a daily basis, no one wants to live in poverty and Tri-Lakes Cares is there to offer resources and support for all in need in our community.



Crunching on fresh fruits and vegetables! – June is “National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month”

By Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager

When most people think of a food pantry they envision shelves of non-perishable items: canned fruits, vegetables, beans and boxed pasta and cereal. While Tri-Lakes Cares does have a pantry that houses those things, we also have a food program called Help Yourself that may surprise some people in what we offer.

Help Yourself is a perishable food pantry, which is run on donations through community retail partners as part of their food rescue efforts and is a no-cost program for Tri-Lakes Cares to offer.  Help Yourself contains fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and bakery products and is set up to look like a grocery store. Glass door refrigerators display milk, eggs, yogurt as well as cut and packaged fruit and vegetables. Our produce bins hold potatoes, onions, peppers, bananas, apples and oranges, to name a few.

Help Yourself allows clients to shop for themselves, as anyone would at a grocery store. They can examine the fruit, and pick the best one; they can check the dates on the yogurt to confirm they can eat it before it’s inedible.

In September of last year, our clients took a survey and at that time the most common request was that they would like to see more produce, dairy and meat. We are continually working to procure these items for our clients. We have come a long way from September, and will continue to move forward.

This month, Next Step Ministry will be constructing a garden wall on the south side of our building. This garden will grow herbs and vegetables for client use. We are constantly striving to become self-sustainable, just as we ask our clients to be while using our programs.

If you are a gardener, there are opportunities to get involved to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to our clients:

For more information and recipes about incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, visit the USDA website at: National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month



Good nutrition for everyone

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics? The theme for this year is “Put Your Best Fork Forward” to help remind all of us that we have the tool – the fork – to make healthier food choices. Even small choices help to improve health now and into the future.

But what if you can’t make those healthier choices due to financial circumstances? How do you choose between the loaf of sliced white bread (usually cheaper) and the healthier multi-grain option when you are trying to stretch your food budget to feed your family? How can you take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables to improve health when those same items are outside of your budget?

This is where Tri-Lakes Cares can help! Through our “Help Yourself” pantry option, individuals and families can shop and select whole grain breads, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products such as milk, eggs and yogurt – all thanks to our community partners. Every Monday and Thursday, our volunteers pick up these items from stores across our community (Safeway, King Soopers, Natural Grocers – to name a few) as well as from Care and Share. Other volunteers help unload the donations and stock the “Help Yourself” shelves, resulting in a friendly atmosphere for clients to “shop.” They can take advantage of the healthier options and consequently stretch their food budget at the store. Of course, we also get some sweet treats which everyone can enjoy periodically.

And, remember, if you are starting to feel “spring fever” and you are planning your vegetable garden – if you harvest a bumper crop, Tri-Lakes Cares will be happy to take your surplus crops and make it available through our “Help Yourself” program.

By providing these options to our clients, they can make better food choices, hopefully improving their health and wellbeing. In addition, they can stretch their limited financial resources to cover other cost of living expenses such as rent, utilities, medical needs (prescriptions), or school needs of their children.

Thank you to all of our food partners who make the “Help Yourself” area so successful! If you shop at any of these stores, be sure to thank them for their support to Tri-Lakes Cares!

Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado
King Soopers (Baptist Road, Store #77)
Kneaders Bakery & Care (Northgate, Store #45)
Kum and Go (Interquest Pkwy, Store #0665)
Kum and Go (Monument, Store #0650)
Kum and Go (Research, Store #0684)
Natural Grocers (Baptist Road, Store #MU22)
Panera Bread (Briargate, Store #203070)
Penzeys Spices (N Academy Blvd)
Pizza Hut (Voyager Pkwy)
Safeway (Monument, Store #1440)
7-Eleven (Northgate, Store #36714
Small Cakes Cupcakery (N. Academy Blvd)
Sprouts (Northgate)
Starbucks (Interquest Pkwy)


Energy Awareness – Energy Costs – Energy Efficiency: What Can You Do?

By Paula Blair, Annette Craft & Christine Bucher

October is “National Energy Awareness Month”, an effort to help citizens understand the importance of energy to our prosperity, security and environment. This may seem “over our heads”  to us on the local level in our own households, but October is also a good time for us to consider our own energy consumption and how we can reduce it thereby saving money, time and the environment.

Colder weather is just around the corner and a nip is now in the air, and many of us welcome winter with snow falling and building snowmen and sledding. Others, however, look at winter and are filled with stress, frustration and feelings of dread. Heating bills are higher and some are left in the cold.

Last month,  Jen Kinney wrote in a blog posting on the Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC) website about a study she co-authored by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and The Energy Efficiency for All Coalition. This study shows that low-income families, minorities and rental households may pay as much as 7.2% of their household income paying for energy. Other studies reveal that low-income families spend anywhere from 17% to more than 50% of their income on household energy while other families spend on average 4%.

These energy costs reflect the condition of those who live in low-income housing – usually older homes which lack proper insulations, have older appliances and are less likely to have the resources to mitigate these effects.  However, even in newer homes older appliances, inefficient thermostats and leaky windows can lead to increased energy costs.

What can be done? Surprisingly, there are many resources available to individuals and families who are struggling with energy costs.

November 1 through April 30, you can apply for assistance through LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program), a federally program that helps eligible families, seniors and individuals pay for a portion of their winter home heating costs.

Throughout the year, Energy Outreach Colorado, through its partner agencies, helps low-income Coloradans with energy and heating assistance, emergency furnace repair and energy efficiency improvements.

Another local resource, Energy Resource Center (ERC), can help landlords and renters make their homes more energy efficient. Qualified individuals and families can request a free energy assessment to determine what changes can be made to help make homes more energy efficient, thereby saving money. ERC can also provide assistance in making the recommended changes. Those who are not struggling financially can also request an energy assessment from ERC for a small fee and learn how to save money in the process.

On October 20th, ERC will hold a class at Tri-Lakes Cares about energy efficiency, weatherization and the services they provide. It will start at 12:30 p.m. and last about 45 minutes. Contact your case manager to sign up.

In addition, our case managers at Tri-Lakes Cares can help you access help for energy costs. Contact Annette (719-481-4864, x 102 / A-L) or Paula (719-481-4864, x 112 / M-Z) for questions or how to get help.

In the meantime, here are some simple things that all of us can do to help bring down our energy costs (source ERC’s website):

  • Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
  • Clean or change your furnace filter.
  • Clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator, removing dust and other debris which causes the unit to use more energy to run.
  • Keep your thermostat lower at night or when no one is home.
  • Fill your dishwasher completely before running it.
  • Caulk drafty windows.
  • Unplug appliances or electronic devices rarely used (even if these items are not on, just by being plugged in, they are drawing power).

Challenge your family to bring down your energy costs and you might be surprised how small changes can make a difference!



By Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager

Nearly 1 in 7 Coloradans struggle with hunger, sometimes not having enough money to buy food. Devastatingly, 1 in 5 Colorado kids may not know when or where they will get their next meal.  1 in 7 seniors struggle choosing between food and medication.

September is “Hunger Action Month” – Feeding America’s nationwide awareness campaign designed to take action on ending hunger. During the month, Tri-Lakes Cares will be running its own awareness campaign found here.

But what is Tri-Lakes Cares doing about hunger in our community? How are we hoping to lift the 1 in 4 working families in Colorado who do not have enough food to meet their basic needs out of poverty?

In addition to our supplemental food programs and Help Yourself, TLC is expanding food assistance through:

  • With the funding assistance of Kaiser Permanente, Case Manager Paula is participating in community outreach to screen our  community for food insecurity.
  • Two SNAP Ambassador volunteers, Wanda and Karen, are on-site during client service hours to help our clients apply for SNAP. Colorado currently ranks 45th in SNAP/food stamp access for those eligible
  • Expanding the Snack Pack program to include free/reduced lunch students in District 38 high schools with funding provided by Nutrition Camp School Foundation
  • Hosting CSFP (Commodity Senior Food Program) at Tri-Lakes Cares to increase nutritious food access to our senior clients
  • Providing senior resources through “Senior Brown Bag” lunch to increase awareness and availability of senior programs in our community

Whether it’s by raising awareness, participating in the SNAP Challenge, advocating, donating or volunteering, find a way to make a difference in our Tri-Lakes community. Together, we can tackle hunger!

For more information on the food programs and food assistance, please contact Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager, foodprogramsmanager@tri-lakescares.org or 719.481.4864 x111

Helping each other – Seniors in our Community

By Julie Brown, Programs Manager

May was National Older Americans Month, highlighting the important roles that senior citizens play in their communities. From contributing to social networks to serving the community through volunteer work, older Americans are an important part of the areas in which they live. Seniors touch our lives every day, whether they are volunteering their time to improve the lives of those around them, or reaching out to friends and neighbors for a helping hand.

According to the National Council on Aging, “Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level ($29,425 per year for a single person). These older adults struggle with rising housing and health care bills, inadequate nutrition, lack of access to transportation, diminished savings, and job loss.” Many of our retired clients are on a fixed income and must carefully budget their income in order cover all of their expenses each month. Unfortunately, many seniors are faced with the devastating decision of having to choose between their required medications or having enough food to eat. We recognize this issue and understand that seniors, who do not have the ability to earn any more income, may never reach self-sufficiency. With that in mind, we do all that we can to support our senior clients and provide them with services that help them save money that can be spent on necessities such as medications.

We serve many seniors through various assistance programs, some of which are specifically geared towards assisting clients over the age of 60.  The Senior Groceries program provides a bag of groceries that is personalized for each senior, based on their dietary needs and personal tastes. A team of dedicated volunteers calls each client enrolled in the program to ask about their dietary needs and food preferences to generate a list of items to be included in their monthly bag of Senior Groceries. These phone calls serve another purpose – a chance for TLC to touch base with the seniors and have a conversation about how they’re doing in general and remind them that we are here to help.

In addition to the Senior Groceries Program, TLC clients have access to other food assistance programs including Help Yourself, Supplemental Groceries and holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Clients can receive medical services through the Penrose St. Francis Neighborhood Nurse Mission Outreach Program, staffed by Nurse Cindy Stickel. Clients can also speak with a volunteer Healthcare Advocate, who can offer guidance to clients when applying for health insurance. Tri-Lakes Cares can also provide a wide variety of financial assistance that is determined based on the need of the individual client.

Older Americans Month has provided an opportunity to reflect on the role that seniors play in our community. Most of the volunteers who serve Tri-Lakes Cares and enable us to run day-to-day are over the age of 60. The National Council on Aging states that some of the benefits of seniors volunteering are that “Older volunteers report greater life satisfaction than non-volunteers and that new relationships and making a difference provide a greater sense of purpose in life for older Americans.”  Without the compassion, valuable insights and tremendous skills of senior volunteers, Tri-Lakes Cares would not be able to impact clients and the community in the many ways that we currently do.

If you know of a senior in need or have questions about senior services in our community, please contact us. In some cases, we will be able to provide assistance (such as through the Senior Groceries program) and in other cases we will able to provide referral information to other organizations.