As COVID-19 hit the region, many turned to Pikes Peak United Way and 2-1-1. At its peak this spring, calls to the free, confidential resource and referral hotline were up more than 200%.
The surge in calls was in part because the staff was called upon by the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County to serve as the exclusive call navigators for El Paso and Teller Counties’ health departments, answering questions that the public had in response to COVID-19. Beginning March 14, our staff was trained and began taking calls. Pikes Peak United Way is still taking 100% of the calls today.
Thousands of people needed help. From those in the hospitality or retail industries to workers at various small businesses, the calls were mounting. Many were like Kristen’s.
Like so many, Kristen, who worked in retail, soon found herself at her “wits end” while navigating the new reality of this pandemic. She was placed on unpaid leave from her job, and then her car broke down. Suddenly, she was having trouble buying food for herself. She didn’t know where to turn. But after she heard a local TV news anchor mention 2-1-1, she researched the free hotline and decided to call.
“The minute I called, I knew, oh my goodness, this is a godsend,” she said.
She received free groceries through a delivery program for seniors and others who were home bound. The program, which was run by Pikes Peak United Way, Care and Share Food Bank, Salvation Army, COSILoveYou and Silver Key provided more than 1,000 food boxes to people in need.
When you support our work, you are investing in this community and improving the lives of countless people across the region. You are helping us launch programs like the one that brought Kristen much-needed relief.
We have been working to support the most vulnerable among us during this crisis. After the virus hit, Pikes Peak United Way worked in partnership with the Community Foundation to raise more than $1 million for the Relief Fund for El Paso and Teller Counties, which distributed funds to dozens of local agencies. We also worked with El Paso County to distribute $1 million in Federal CARES funding, which will help residents with rent and mortgage assistance, utilities, medical payments, food and funeral expenses. We helped take applications and select nonprofits throughout the region to receive the funding. (Pikes Peak United Way did not apply for either funding).
We helped plan community drives to keep child care open, helped hospitals acquire cleaning supplies, delivered prescriptions, provided families with diapers and gave students laptops. We connected volunteers with agencies that needed them. We continue to distribute food twice a month to families in need in Colorado Springs through a partnership with Care and Share.
In August, thanks to hundreds of volunteers and caring Colorado Springs residents who wanted to help, more than 7,500 students across the region received new, stuffed backpacks from Pikes Peak United Way, COSILoveYou, Crossfire Ministries and Walmart.
As families begin to recover from the devastation this pandemic has brought to our community, Pikes Peak United Way is committed to working creatively and collaboratively to help those in need. We fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. And we don’t do it alone. We work alongside volunteers and donors. For almost 100 hundred years, our closest partners have been employers. We help their employees make a greater difference in their communities.
Pikes Peak United Way’s annual campaign launches every fall with those employers and during a typical year, that means workplace giving campaigns begin at companies across the city. This year, events and in-person gatherings will not happen because of the pandemic. This is likely to have a significant effect on our funding.
A lot has changed this year, but what hasn’t changed is our commitment to the Pikes Peak region. And we need your help now more than ever. Together, we can change how – and how many — people can make a difference.
We know one thing for sure — our community is worth investing in. In a time when there has been so much talk about what divides us, let’s take more action that unites us. For more information, visit www.ppunitedway.org.
Cindy Aubrey is the CEO of Pikes Peak United Way.