Grand County ramps up for the ‘Grand Give’ |

Grand County ramps up for the ‘Grand Give’

Katie Looby
Sky-Hi Daily News

Mountain Family Center Executive Director Jill Korkowski says it’s easier to give than receive.

So, she is encouraging families facing challenges to ask for help, because community leaders are poised to make a generous offer.

The Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce, Grand Foundation and Sky-Hi Daily News are sponsoring the first “Grand Give,” inspired by “Oprah’s Big Give.”

The celebration of the “ongoing” event will be held June 19. Community members are encouraged to show their generosity to struggling individuals and families with goods, services and/or cash donations.

The Mountain Family Center is taking the lead on the project. The non-profit organization helps Grand County individuals and families through its foodbank, homeless prevention and rental assistance.

“The greatest obstacle of the project rests on those who are struggling,” Korkowski said. “These are the ones who must dig deep into their hearts and recognize asking for help is one of the most courageous acts they will ever do in their lives.”

Rhonda, 51, of Granby, says Mountain Family Center helped get her back on her feet.

“It’s amazing how they helped me. They saved my life more than once,” said the victim of an abusive marriage. “I am disabled for life from my past domestic violence.

“(The center) helped me get a place to live, and did everything they could to help me with food and make sure I didn’t end up on the streets.”

Rhonda said she’s a proud person, but there are times when she has to reach out for help. She was an independent person until her husband broke her back.

“He was an alcoholic,” Rhonda said, adding that during one of their arguments her husband pushed her backwards down a flight of stairs.

“He was drunk when he broke my back,” she said. “He left the rent unpaid. He did everything he could to make life miserable for me. If it wouldn’t haven been for Jill I would have been in the woods, in a tent, with nothing to eat.”

Korkowski still checks on Rhonda occasionally.

“She’ll leave care packages on my door step if she thinks I’m not eating,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda said food stamps aren’t enough to feed a person for a month, no matter “how you cut them.”

“Without proper food it’s hard to get up emotionally, physically and mentally,” she said. “I have no family here except people like Jill who I call family because they care.”

While she was in a state of depression, she also received help from Susan Whitefeather, Granby’s Colorado West Mental Heath-Alpine Center program director and Colorado Vocational Rehabilitation.

Mountain Family pays for her rent and her ex-husband helps with her utility bills.

“I hold no hate against him,” she said. “I moved on from it. I am just trying to get my own life together now.”

Rhonda is pursuing an information technology bachelor’s degree online with Colorado Technical University. Her goal is to start a computer software business.

The Mountain Family Center also helped Tracy Edmondson, 38, of Kremmling during the last five years.

“They’ve helped me with so many things even when I didn’t ask,” she said. “They have just been an awesome resource center and support center for me.”

She was injured at work and now is on worker’s compensation. The single mother of five has two children who still live with her.

“(The center) helped do so many things for me,” she said. “They’re very compassionate and very supportive. It’s just a wonderful asset for our community.”

Mountain Family Center has been serving people in Grand County since 1979. All the money and items raised from the Grand Give will help people in need, Korkowski said.

“Each day, I hear stories from families who are truly struggling,” said Mandi Appelhans, Mountain Family Center family advocate. “These are the local working class that makes a fair living. Usually, just one unforeseen incident ” a medical situation, a car breakdown or job layoff creates a situation that challenges a household’s ability to remain self-sufficient.”

Chambers of commerce and Grand Foundation are asking their members to join the Grand Give as well.

“The idea came up when we were planning an appreciation event for our members,” said Catherine Ross, executive director of the Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Instead of having a party for our members we decided to have a celebration for the results of our first Grand Give.”

Danielle Longano, Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce business manager, helped organize the event.

After watching “Oprah’s Big Give,” she thought, “Wouldn’t it be a great opportunity for us as an organization to give back to those in our community.”

She said the community is encouraged to “leverage” its money and work with family and friends to donate and support different services or items.

On June 19 community members will come to the celebration and bring vouchers that state what their pledges are. The center will call them when they need that service or item.

The center will use the money to purchase items that clients need. “They’re really good at making sure the money’s not misused,” Longano added.

Korkowski said all of the gifts and funds will go directly to people in need.

“As far as financial donations and individual gifts … that’s going straight to the community,” Korkowski said. “(The center’s) kind of the filter agency.”

Grand Foundation will help track all the donations and report the project’s outcome.

“We believe that the concept directly parallels the mission of the Grand Foundation, which is to improve the quality of life for residents of Grand County,” said Megan Ledin, Foundation executive director.

The Chamber encourages its members to start with a contribution from their business and build on that by asking contacts to help reach their goals and “give big.” Individuals also are welcome to participate.