Much like the home-front World War II effort of the 20th century, a benevolent spirit has erupted across the Pikes Peak region to fight the 21st century coronavirus war.
Even as Pikes Peak region residents hunker down under a stay-at-home order issued Wednesday by Gov. Jared Polis, cohesiveness pervades the community. It's demonstrated by money flowing into a communal pot for local nonprofits to virtual fundraisers to crafters’ fingers working overtime making face masks.
More than half a million dollars has been raised for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which benefits El Paso and Teller counties during emergency declarations.
The last time the fund, a program of Pikes Peak Community Fund, Pikes Peak United Way and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management, was activated was 2013, after the Black Forest fire. The fund received $430,000 in contributions that year.
This time, $426,000 has been collected so far for El Paso County nonprofits and $91,000 for Teller County organizations, officials said Wednesday, during a public appeal for continued financial contributions.
Distribution starts this week with checks to seven of 13 initial applicants, from Care and Share Food Bank to the Fountain Valley Senior Center. Agencies that provide immediate basic human needs related to food, shelter, safety and health care and those serving the most vulnerable populations are being give top priority.
But needs are far outpacing donations, said Gary Butterworth, CEO of Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
The fund has received $1.2 million in needs’ requests from El Paso County and $150,000 from Teller County, he said.
“People need help right now, and we have all hands on deck,” said Cindy Aubrey, president and CEO of Pikes Peak United Way.
The agency’s 2-1-1 resource and referral line has experienced a 167% increase in people calling for help with rent, food and other necessities, she said.
Donations to the relief fund can be made at https://www.ppcf.org/donate/.
“That money stays right here to help local folks,” Aubrey said.
Businesses, individuals and foundations such as The Colorado Springs Health Foundation, which gave $250,000, are contributing.
Building on its tradition of performing amid tragedy to celebrate the resiliency of the community, Colorado Springs-based First Line band gave a benefit virtual concert for the relief fund Saturday night. More than 1,300 viewers watched online.
“We thought why not support our local community,” said Valerie Carricato, band manager and drummer.
“We couldn’t find a good venue, so we set up in my garage,” she said. “We had a whole production, and it went really well and was a lot of fun.”
Across the community, people are volunteering at Care and Share Food Bank, which CEO Lynne Telford said is distributing food to 267 partner agencies across southern Colorado, and through COS I Love You, which connects faith communities to assist the community, are calling thousands and thousands of isolated and shut-in people, asking if they need anything, said Executive Director Stu Davis.
With some supplies like gold in coronavirus times, drives for N-95 face masks, non-latex gloves, hand sanitizer and disposable gowns for first responders, medical offices, law enforcement and other frontline workers are ongoing.
A group of medical students working with MedSupplyDrive is collecting items at noon Saturday at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Health Lane Center parking lot, 4863 N. Nevada Ave.
Project C.U.R.E. has organized a personal protective equipment drive from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at UCHealth Park, 4385 Tutt Blvd., the field of the Rocky Mountain Vibes. The drive will benefit all hospitals across the region.
Colorado Crafting for a Cause, an online Facebook group that formed after wildfires began ravaging Australia, has turned its mask-making efforts to benefit workers at local nursing homes, memory care centers, hospitals, fire departments, doctors’ offices and others.
“It’s a nice, refreshing kind of project,” said Codi Natelli, a stay-at-home mom, Scout leader with the Pikes Peak Council of Boy Scouts of America and organizer of Colorado Springs’ mask-sewing project.
Volunteers have created more than 300 homemade face masks with a shield of polypropylene that resists water, blood and bodily fluids, and prevents droplets from a sneeze or cough from escaping.
The goal: 4,000.
That’s the estimated local need for health care workers, Natelli said, adding that demand is increasing rapidly.
“I have the fabric and the talent to do it,“ Colorado Springs resident Donna Campell said, dropping off six masks to Natelli earlier this week.
Black Forest resident Karen Garbee made 10 masks on Saturday from leftover fabric she had, after fashioning two prototypes from a pattern posted on the group’s Facebook page. She’s dedicating three hours a day to the volunteer project.
“For my mental health, I can’t do it all day, every day,” she said. “After I’m done sewing, I’m going to do something I want to do. “Otherwise, it can get overwhelming.”
The masks are intended to be given away to first responders and medical care providers, Natelli said, and not sold. Already, scammers are trying to do that.
“Woot, woot. We’re rocking this,” Garbee said as she handed over her masks to Natelli.