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.

Giving what is needed vs Giving what you want to give

Giving what is needed vs Giving what you want to give

This time of year, everyone wants to help those who are less fortunate.

When a natural disaster strikes (think the hurricanes in Texas and the Caribbean earlier this year) people want to help but donate the wrong things. For instance, does someone who lives in the tropics really need your old winter coat, even if they have lost everything to a hurricane? More likely, they need fresh water, cleaning supplies and building materials.

Similarly, think about what is needed on a local basis. Tri-Lakes Cares strives to meet the specific needs of those we serve in our community. Our Giving Tree program provides the opportunity for generous individuals to donate specific items requested by children and seniors. Our Holiday Food program gives all the fixin’s to our families to create a holiday meal at home – they can take the items and cook them at home, making memories beyond the hard times they currently face.

As impersonal as it may seem, sometimes the best thing you can do is make a financial donation. When I worked for an international aid organization back in the mid-1990’s, it was more cost effective for us to receive cash donations which were then used to purchase much needed humanitarian supplies in Europe to be shipped directly to the war-torn areas of Bosnia. If we had tried to purchase those items in the U.S. and arrange for shipping and transportation, we would have helped a lot fewer people with meager supplies.

In the same manner, Tri-Lakes Cares can leverage your donations to purchase food through Care & Share at a much reduced rate. Your $20 can purchase up to 100 lbs of food, supplementing the many donations we receive through food drives and collections in the community. In addition, your financial contribution can help with things such as rent assistance and utilities payments. This may not seem “sexy” but it can make a huge difference in the lives of those who are struggling to keep a roof over their head or make sure their families stay warm.

So, before you start collecting coats or toys or other items, contact us (or any of your preferred charities) and find out what is really needed. It may not be what you think it is.

Christine, Development Manager at TLC, worked for an international aid organization in the mid-1990’s and wrote this blog from personal experience having to provide humanitarian aid overseas.

‘Tis the season for food drives!

‘Tis the season for food drives!

Like many food banks and food pantries, Tri-Lakes Cares is entering the hectic season of food drives when community groups and individuals collect food for our pantry. With your support last year, our pantry distributed over 200,000 lbs of food through the various programs!

We are so grateful for the generosity of so many BUT sometimes the items donated are not always the most useful or the most needed to stock our shelves.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when hosting a food drive:

Visit our Current Pantry needs page to see what is most needed: Pantry Current Needs  You can also call Michèle, our Food Programs Manager to inquire about specific needs at (719) 481-4864, ext 111. She can also provide you with collection bins for smaller drives and answer any questions about donating food.

Large packages or cans are great money savers for the buyer BUT unless a family has 10 members or more in the household, these large sizes are impractical for our food pantry. We are not set up to break down large bags or boxes of beans, rice, flour or other staples (10 lbs or larger) and typically we send them to the Marian House Soup Kitchen on our Friday morning bread runs.

Avoid baby food. Believe it or not, there is little demand for these items. Most families that have infants or small children benefit from the WIC program (Women Infants and Children nutrition program) which provides them with infant formula and baby food. Most of our client families have older children and the occasional donations we receive of baby food are sufficient to meet the needs.

Exotic foods. Every food pantry receives those odd ite ms (usually left over from gift baskets) like canned oysters, wild game, oddly flavored coffees or condiments, strange vegetable combinations, etc. These items can be donated – paying attention to “best use” by dates (more on that in the next bullet) – but often they will remain sitting on our shelves as long as on your own pantry shelves.

What about those “best use by” dates or “sell by” dates? Believe it or not, these are not required by federal law (according to the USDA website), except for on infant formula. Dates are provided by manufactures to help consumers determine the best quality and time of consumption of food products. There is a lot of confusion revolving around these dates, but a good rule of thumb to follow is within one year of the date stamped on the can or box is acceptable. Anything older than that, we will not be able to use.

Watch out for those dents and broken boxes! Please do not donate cans that are severely dented, boxes that are torn or open, or any open or started food items. We will just have to dispose of them.

Consider nutrition value. A large number of the clients we serve are senior citizens, who are struggling to make ends meet. Items such as gluten free, low sodium and low sugar can be in demand, but if we don’t have it on our shelves, it makes it difficult to meet those needs.

If you don’t want to donate food, there are two other ways that you can help our pantry:

Shop “Buy It Forward”. Once a month on the first weekend of the month, the King Soopers on Baptist Road offers pre-packaged bags of the current month’s grocery items needed for our pantry. When you do your own grocery shopping, add a “Buy it Forward” bag to your cart. The bags are collected and picked up by a volunteer and delivered to Tri-Lakes Cares. It’s easy and doesn’t require any extra shopping on your part.

Donate! Believe it or not, your financial contribution can be stretched further through the buying power we have with Care & Share Food Bank, where we can typically pay 19 cents per pound for food. Your $25.00 could purchase 132 lbs of food and other items; or support other needs in the pantry. Click on the big “Donate Now” button at the top of the page to make a contribution today!

However you choose to support us, our most heartfelt thank you!

Too much Zucchini? Share the bounty!

August 8th is National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day!

Ah Zucchini! Easy to grow and quick to take over the garden of an unsuspecting gardener (especially the novice), the ubiquitous zucchini is a summer squash that can be served up in so many ways – sautéed, roasted, boiled, fried, added to bread recipes, muffins and other baked goods. A search on Google quickly turns up nearly as many recipes as a single plant does zucchini.

Seriously, access to fresh fruits and vegetables is often difficult for those with limited means, including the individuals and families who come to Tri-Lakes Cares. Through our “Help Yourself Market” and the generous donations of our food rescue partners, we are able to offer a wide variety of produce – both familiar and sometimes odd – that many of us take for granted.

If you are a gardener, you can help by donating any extra tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, green beans, and yes, even zucchini! And, you don’t even have to sneak it onto our porch – ring our doorbell and we will gladly take it in.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Share it in the comments section and we will re-share with our clients, volunteers and staff.

“Volunteering is a calling” by Kelly Bryant

  Merriam Webster defines the word ‘volunteer’, as a person who does work   without getting paid to do it.  Although the definition put forth by dictionary.com says virtually the same thing, I prefer their verbiage – a volunteer is a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.   Why would anyone is his/her right mind be willing to do this?  Volunteering is a great way to fills one’s time in retirement, and it’s also an easy way to meet others in your community – whether it be at school, at church or just in the local neighborhood.  Some people volunteer in order to develop new skills and others do it because of the proven health benefits it provides.   While giving their time benefits volunteers in many ways, it is not why they do it.  I believe it is a calling – a calling to help others who are not as fortunate as they are; or to participate in the education and enrichment of their children; or to raise money for an organization for which they are passionate; or to aid people who have survived disaster.  The list goes on and on.  Yes, volunteers seem to be fueled by compassion and a deep desire to make the world a better place.

Americans volunteer in huge numbers.  According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service in 2016.  Using the national estimated per-hour value assigned to these hours by Independent Sector*, the total monetary value of that service is a staggering 193 million dollars.

Taking that down to a local level, our Tri-Lakes Cares volunteers worked a total of 15,894 hours in 2016, which averages out to just under 75 hours per volunteer.  The 2016 per-hour volunteer value in the State of Colorado is $25.97.  A quick calculation shows us that just one volunteer working an average number of hours annually, saves Tri-Lakes Cares nearly $2,000 each year.  As a result we are able to make those funds available to clients by way of added services.  The $2,000 saved might enable us to provide school supplies for 160 kids.  Or, we may use it to cover the cost of our entire Snack Pack program for ten weeks.  Again, this is the impact of just one volunteer.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is Sunday, April 23 through Saturday, April 29.  It’s a time to thank volunteers everywhere for a job well-done.  A simple thank you hardly seems adequate, but it’s all we’ve got.

To our TLC volunteers:  You come and faithfully serve our clients week after week, month after month, year after year.   We are inspired by your grace and professionalism.  We are awed by your generosity and commitment.  We are amazed by your talent.  You are stellar, and we are honored to know you.  From the bottom of our hearts……THANK YOU!!!


*A national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good.

We couldn’t do it without you! (Part 1 of an occasionally series)

We are so thankful for our partnerships with our local community through service-oriented clubs and organizations, youth groups, churches, businesses and others, who live and work in the Tri-Lakes Region.

In an effort to acknowledge all these wonderful groups, we will be posting periodic blog postings and also updating the “Our Supporters” section of our website.

For this first posting, we are high-lighting the various service clubs in our region who support us. These organizations, and their members, host fund-raisers that benefit Tri-Lakes Cares, volunteer, donate goods, services and advocate for the work we do in the community.

Monument Hill Kiwanis Club: Their motto is Helping Kids & Youth, Building our Community, and Having Fun while doing it” and this is epitomized each year in October when they host their “Empty Bowls” fundraiser bringing the community together. Attendees select an empty bowl, crafted by local potters, and sample soups donated by local restaurants. In conjunction with the Empty Bowls, Tri-Lakes Cares hosts the silent auction portion of the event. Without the tireless work of the members of the club, this event would not be as successful as it is. You can view photos from last year’s event here – scroll down. And THIS YEAR’S EVENT on October 5!

Beyond “Empty Bowls,” the Kiwanis conduct food drives for us with a huge focus on “Harvest of Love.” Members of the club help with holiday distributions in November and December. And, this year, they helped facilitate the donation of desktop computers and monitors for our clients in partnership with Blue Star Recycling.

Tri-Lakes Lions Club: We have enjoyed a great partnership with the Tri-Lakes Lions Club. They provide financial support for clients who are seeking assistance with vision needs as well as to our “Help Yourself” area of the pantry, providing funds to purchase fresh produce.

In June, they hosted a fishing derby at Palmer Lake (scroll down to see photos), collecting canned food donations as the entry fee for the kids who participated. And on September 19th, they are hosting a golf tournament at The Club of Flying Horse with a portion of the proceeds designated for Tri-Lakes Cares.

Tri-Lakes Women’s Club: The mission of the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club is to support the Tri-Lakes community through charitable and educational endeavors by raising and distributing funds to assist qualified organizations and promoting the education of its members and the community through instructional programs.  For the past 40 years they have held their annual spring event – Pine Forest Spring Show – to raise funds. In addition, they hold a fall event – this year a food and wine tasting event to be held at Spruce Mountain Ranch in September called “Harvesting Hope.” The funds raised at these events, they support various organizations through a grant-making process. We have been fortunate to receive funds to purchase items (carts, filing cabinets, tables, etc.) for both Tri-Lakes Cares and Hangers to Hutches to help with daily operations.

Additionally, the members of the club have conducted numerous food drives to benefit our pantry and have participated in the annual “Giving Tree” program which helps us provide gifts to children and senior citizens in need in our community.

American Legion Tri-Lakes Post 9-11: For the past three years Post 9-11 has provided us with grants to specifically help with the emergency financial needs of our military and veteran clients. In order to raise funds, they conduct weekly bingo games on Saturday nights in The Depot Restaurant at Palmer Lake (did you know that the Post 9-11 actually operates the restaurant?). Visit their website for details on how to participate!

Sertoma: We have been grateful and fortunate for the support of two Sertoma clubs in our area. Sertoma is an international service organization whose members are dedicated to volunteerism and philanthropy in SERvice TO MAnkind. Their main focus is assisting individuals with hearing and hearing loss issues, but their support goes beyond their primary mission.

Legacy Sertoma: Legacy Sertoma continues the legacy of the Sertoma mission and support for the community in the Tri-Lakes area. Traditionally, they have raised funds to support our holiday programs in November and December ensuring that those in need or financial stress can enjoy a holiday meal and gifts (for youth and seniors).

Gleneagle Sertoma: In response to the growing Gleneagle neighborhoods in the mid-1980’s, Gleneagle Sertoma was formed. It is the largest Sertoma club in the immediate region and hosts its annual “Spirits of Spring” event to raise funds to benefit a number of non-profits in the area. We are grateful to have been the beneficiary of past events. Members of the club have also collected school supplies and held food drives to fill our pantry shelves.

Knights of Columbus, St. Peter’s Council #11514: The Knights are a fraternal order of Catholic men who work to support various charitable organizations in the community. Each year they provide financial support to our programs and services, while 12 of their members volunteer on a regular basis in our food pantry. Other causes they support include Special Olympics, School District 38’s special education department  and St. Peter Catholic School. They also provide scholarships to students to attend the parochial school. Funds are raised through pancake breakfasts Sunday mornings following mass at St. Peter Catholic Church and spaghetti dinners. Their biggest fundraiser is the pancake breakfast they host each year at the Fourth of July parade.

Thank you to all of these groups for their support! We couldn’t do it without you!

Please watch for future posts thanking other groups and donors!

Your legacy is our future!

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.
Albert Pine

August is “What Will Be Your Legacy?” month.  Take the month to reflect on your past, consider your present, and plan for the future to make positive changes that will affect generations to come.  Some things you can do are write out your family history for your children, grandchildren and other young people in your family; plan how to implement your long-term goals (what is on your bucket list?); and update or complete your will or estate plan.

A common misconception is that wills are just for the wealthy. But in reality everyone, even those with a modest income, has assets. Consider: if you own a car or a home, you have assets. If you have a life insurance policy or an IRA or other type of retirement account, you have assets. If you own family antiques or jewelry, you have assets. A will or estate plan can protect those assets and help your heirs understand your wishes for distribution. This is part of your legacy.

Another aspect of your legacy can include our future. When writing your will or establishing your estate plan, consider leaving a bequest to Tri-Lakes Cares. In simple terms, a bequest is a transfer (a gift) of assets or property at by will to a specific recipient. You can also name Tri-Lakes Cares as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy or your IRA/retirement accounts.  Naming us a beneficiary will let your heirs and others know the importance you place on supporting us and ensuring our future.

If you have already named Tri-Lakes Cares in your estate plans, thank you! We would love to hear from you and learn your story. Don’t worry; we will keep it completely confidential.

If you want to include us in your estate plans, we can provide you with sample language, but make sure you consult your lawyer or financial advisor.

So, during August think about your legacy and begin planning how you want to be remembered.

will map

The Overhead Myth: Non-profit overhead is critical for growth

There has been a war declared in the nonprofit sector.

I’m not sure if you heard of it, but it’s a war against the “overhead myth”, or the idea that financial ratios are the sole indicator of nonprofit performance. Recently TLC Volunteer Jennifer Cunningham set out to do her part in debunking that myth by writing the article below. Thank you Jennifer and all the warriors out there who are doing their part to encourage donors to focus on outcomes rather than overhead!

We try to be careful with our money. When it comes to charitable giving, we tend to be even more protective, wanting to ensure it is put to its best possible use. Most often, we look to an organization’s overhead numbers to determine whether they are worthy of our dollars.

But strictly considering overhead as a gauge may be short-sighted. Let’s compare. Organization A has an overhead of 23 percent. They are providing many services to many individuals, growing their program offerings through fundraising, reaching established goals and possibly saving some in reserve for leaner months. Organization B, on the other hand, has only 8 percent overhead. They too are meeting basic client needs, but there is high turnover due to low salaries, no new programs and they live quarter to quarter in their budget, hoping a significant need does not arise.

Which would you rather support?

The difference here is the amount of money Organization A has invested into promoting their programs, compensating their employees and investing in infrastructure. They are strong. They may be spending more, but they’re also generating more in dollars and outcome. Organization B is barely hanging on and doesn’t have the capital to grow.

Which agency is more successful at meeting their projected objectives?

There is a very pervasive and entrenched attitude when it comes to non-profit performance and expenditures.

As Dan Pallotta, a staunch advocate for non-profit success, states, “Charities should have the same tools and permissions as the for-profit sector, or they will have no real chance of solving the world’s problems.”

His first example relates to compensation. In order to attract the best and brightest in any industry, there needs to be monetary enticement. Granted, the individual with a heart for non-profit work may expect a lower salary than a corporate position. However, everyone has a need to support a family and plan for the future. There shouldn’t have to be a choice between doing good for your household or doing good for the world. The added benefit to competitive wages is lower turnover. When an organization lacks continuity or commitment, the overall mission and vision suffers.

Perhaps the biggest area where expenditures are vilified is in fundraising. Large for-profit corporations spend millions, possibly billons, on advertising and marketing with stellar results. Why is this same allowance not given to the non-profit sector? Increased exposure equals increased support, resulting in increased assistance to the clients. People can only give to charities they are aware of.

“The only way organizations are going to grow is to increase public awareness of the work they do,” insists Pallotta.

Fundraising sometimes requires risk, another area non-profits are discouraged from pursuing. The fear from board of directors is, “what if it doesn’t work?” Money that could have been spent on programs is now gone, leaving the organization vulnerable to criticism. But without trying something new, non-profits are left to the same, mundane, low-income generating activities.

There is also little allowance for structured growth. Start-up, for-profit businesses aren’t expected to generate revenue immediately. However, non-profits are held to an almost unreasonable standard of producing results as soon as their doors open. This emphasis on the “do” leaves no time to develop, formulate tangible goals and objectives or create strategic plans.

So what is a donor to do? Very few of us have the time or knowledge to dig into the financial records and reports of a non-profit. Even if you simply compared overhead numbers, this wouldn’t provide you with an accurate picture. Every organization groups expenses differently, resulting in an apples to oranges comparison, which can be misleading.

Thankfully, the answer is simple. Organizations like GuideStar.org, CharityNavigator.org and GreatNonprofits.org have done the work for you. These organizations are replete with information on every non-profit and neatly organize the information you need to make an informed decision.

Smaller non-profits, like those found in the Tri-Lakes region, will not be listed on CharityNavigator due to their lower revenue. However, GuideStar does list them. In the search bar, type “Tri-Lakes” and the site will prompt you for the state. After clicking Colorado, our local charities will be neatly listed. Here you can compare reviews, financial and impact summaries, as well as donate. Look for organizations that have been given the Gold Star seal.

Giving is good. It feeds our soul and deepens the connection to our communities. When deciding to give, don’t simply ask for overhead numbers. Ask for outcomes and feel good knowing you are making a difference.

Tiny Town and Adventure Quest



I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting Rhett and Alyssa recently. Ages 4 and 3 (though Alyssa assured me she was almost 4), Rhett and Alyssa came to TLC to personally deliver the fruits of their month-long labor of love for TLC on behalf of the Ascent Church’s Tiny Town.

Tiny Town (kids ages 2 through pre-k) and Adventure Quest (kindergarten through 4th grade) have committed to walking alongside Tri-Lakes Cares during the holiday season, hoping to raise money for the TLC food pantry and for those people who are less fortunate. They collected a special offering from Sunday, October 25 through Sunday, November 22, and asked the children’s parents to allow them to do some work around the house to earn change.

Rhett and Alyssa shared with us how they earned money to give to TLC. Rhett cleaned his room, helped with the dishwasher and laundry, and cleaned his play room. Alyssa cleaned her room and helped take care of her baby sister, who she tells me had been a little under the weather. Other kids raked leaves, washed windows, helped make dinner and set the table, and much more, all so they could earn money to give to people in need. In total, the Tiny Town-ers raised $44.92 for the TLC Pantry!

In addition to raising money through a special offering, Tiny Town and Adventure Quest collected 278 pounds of food for our holiday bags and decorated the bags themselves – 400 in total! We are so grateful to have these children involved in making a happy holiday celebration for families who are less fortunate.

Thank you Ascent Church for instilling in these kids the value of serving others and thank you Tiny Town and Adventure Quest for your effort to support Tri-Lakes Cares!