With an army of volunteers and donations that drew gasps, the Aspen Mine Center in Cripple Creek has seen an outbreak of generosity during the coronavirus pandemic.
With 15 programs that serve a variety of needs for people in southern Teller County, the center, part of the Community of Caring Foundation, continues its work despite the shutdown.
While the doors are shuttered, a knock gains admittance, along with a temperature check, gloves and a survey of recent travels and people encountered.
The knocks yield surprises — such as a stimulus check for $1,200, another for half that amount. “I mean, people are just bending over backward because they want to help,” said Ted Borden, the center’s executive director.
With the casinos closed for three months due to the pandemic, the local economy cratered, leading to jobs lost, rent unpaid, cupboards bare and fear ignited.
At the beginning of the shutdown, Borden wrote grants applications. Two weeks later, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation awarded the center $25,000. “It was crazy,” he said, referring to the speed of the reply. And the foundation followed up with another $15,000 grant.
The state chipped in with two grants from the Colorado COVID Relief Fund, each $25,000 for emergency assistance and recovery. A business owner donated $5,000 and a local foundation added $5,000 to the pot of needs.
Members of Our Lady of the Woods Catholic Church went grocery shopping and donated 1,500 pounds of food. As nonprofits developed a network of kindness, the staff shared the groceries with other nonprofits and the Cripple Creek-Victor School District. Throughout the shutdown, the district prepared 60 boxes of food for students and their families. Teller County Regional Animal Shelter and the Pet Pantry donated pet food.
“So we’re getting to know all these other people,” Borden said. “Not to minimize the bad parts of the pandemic but from our standpoint, everybody is shining.”
Also there were the little donations, from $10 to $20, the kind that pull at the heartstrings. Or the two guys, Johnny Sammons and Dave Wasson, who ran errands all over the county.
But during that first week of the shutdown, in the middle of March, the Cripple Creek Market stepped in with $1,500 worth of groceries for residents caught with the job losses. At the same time, Ace Hardware paid 50 % of the center’s cost of the vouchers for propane and and gasoline.
But the greatest need was for help filing for unemployment through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center whose local employees are Hank Nelson and Brent Kennedy. “The demand was so huge that Community Partnership loaned us their employee, Jackie Manley,” Borden said.
In a time when senior citizens remain the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, senior advocate Rebecca Blair and Dawn Diamond, Reassurance Caller, checked on 277 older residents, starting over when the list was completed. “For the most part, they were doing great. It was amazing,” Borden said. “The calls have gone from 10 minutes a call to 25 or 30 minutes.”
For Borden, the constant activity at the Aspen Mine Center balances the 24/7 news cycle. “If you pay attention to the national news you’d swear the world is ending. There are a lot of people who are scared to death,” he said. “So I choose to pay attention to the positive stuff.”