Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Region prepares for 'silver tsunami'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 10:11 AM

  • Garry Knight

Local organizations that help seniors are bracing for a crisis.

According to the Colorado State Demography Office, El Paso County’s population of those 65 or older will increase by 179 percent in the next 30 years — a far larger increase than is expected in the nation as a whole. And yet local service providers have done little to plan for the increase until recently, when the Innovations in Aging Collaborative and Peak Vista Community Health Centers led a six-month project involving 52 service providers and senior stakeholders that focused on aging well in the Pikes Peak region.

Topics included community awareness, the insurance system, care coordination/navigation, and affordable housing, among many more.

Recommendations, which are laid out in a consultant’s report titled “Convening to Support Aging in Place for the Pikes Peak Region,” focus on bringing in different perspectives, developing expert groups that can help solve and give advice on age-related issues, and increasing awareness of programs for seniors. Some examples are the proposed development of a hub for senior services, an education and navigation system for Medicare, and a better way to identify and meet mental health needs. To read the report, see
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Inside Out starts over with new downtown location

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 7:42 PM

Eric Pizana says he thinks kids will grow to love the new location. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Eric Pizana says he thinks kids will grow to love the new location.

Last year wasn't a lucky one for Inside Out Youth Services.

The LGBT youth nonprofit lost executive director Shawna Kemppainen to a job at Urban Peak early in the year, just as it was preparing to relocate out of its long-time home in the Independent's basement. By late summer, the nonprofit had a new home and a new executive director, Chris Robertson

But on the eve of its grand opening, the new location burned down for reasons that are still unknown. (Arson is not suspected at this point.) Robertson announced he had accepted another job at the Southern Colorado AIDS Project soon after.

That left only the board, volunteers, and volunteer program manager Eric Pizana to deal with a bad situation. Pizana says the nonprofit lost everything in the fire including furniture, photos, awards, a pool table, and a beloved stuffed lizard named "Mike."

The nonprofit moved into a temporary home at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media, where members could meet in the evening hours. Pizana says he was deeply appreciative of the free space, but this wasn't a home for the nonprofit; they couldn't store furniture or other items there. 

Thus Pizana is incredibly excited about the nonprofit's new downtown location, at 412 S. Tejon St. Painted in bright primary colors, and decorated with an array of donated furniture, the new spot offers a fresh start. That's especially true since the board plans to announce a new executive director within the coming days. Pizana, who has worked at the nonprofit for three years and was a participant at Inside Out when he was a youth, is among the candidates.

"I have such a tremendous passion for this organization," he says. "Being a youth back in the day, I know what it's like to have a responsible adult in your life." 

Right now, Pizana says his goal is to let youth know that Inside Out has a new home. He says he's excited that the location is once again downtown, because it provides better access to homeless youth, who in the past made up 1 in 5 of the program's 500 participants. 

"Isn't it ironic that an LGBT organization almost became homeless?" he says. " That is such a problem with LGBT youth." 

Speaking of which, Pizana says Inside Out is still in need of financial help, especially with a downtown rental payment. He urges supporters to give online and/or attend two upcoming fundraisers at Ivywild School. "Love Curses All" will be held Feb. 13 as a celebration of broken hearts. "Love Cures All" is planned for Feb. 14 as a celebration of love. Each event will cost $15.

The new location also has a kitchen. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The new location also has a kitchen.
The main room is large with plenty of seating. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The main room is large with plenty of seating.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Center opens for parents about to lose their minds

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 2:50 PM

There are other options. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • There are other options.

The headlines pop up throughout the year: Babies shaken to death and kids beaten to death all because a frustrated parent "lost it."

Everyone understands how anxiety can peak when a child won't stop screaming. And most parents have run into situations where there was no one they could call to take over for a few hours and give them a break. That's why it's great news that Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains is reopening the  KPC Respite Center as of January. The center is a place for parents to take kids when they're at their wits end, and fear they may lash out at the child.

Such centers can be a valuable last resort, and protect kids. Read on:

Colorado Springs, CO] On October 1, 2013, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains (LFS) assumed the name and operations of the KPC Respite Center and plans to reopen its services in January, 2014.

To celebrate the planned re-opening of the KPC Respite Center, LFS is hosting an open house on Thursday, November 14th, 2013. Tours of the KPC facility will begin at 4:30pm, followed by a program and refreshments at 5:45pm. KPC supporters, board members and community leaders will be in attendance as well as LFS staff, board members and donors. The media is invited to attend at Ascension Lutheran Church located at 2505 North Circle Drive, Colorado Springs CO 80903.

Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner says, “KPC Respite Center is a critical resource for child abuse prevention in our community and we are so thankful for the work Lutheran Family Services has done toward reopening the wonderful facility. Parenting is a hard job. Being able to provide a break for families when they need it most can mean the difference between life or death for a child. Having this resource available in our community again will help get us closer to the goal set forth by the Not One More Child Coalition of not seeing one more child in El Paso County die due to abuse or

LFS has been providing adoption, foster care and refugee resettlement services in Colorado Springs for many years and is privileged to be operating the KPC Respite Center. “We are extremely proud and excited to continue this cherished community resource”, says Jim Barclay, LFS President & CEO.

The KPC Respite Center was created by a family whose infant son, Kevin Patrick Callum, died from Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of his frustrated grandparents. The respite center provides temporary respite care for children ages 0-6 years when families are experiencing a crisis, need a break or are considered high risk. KPC is the only respite center in Colorado Springs with a 24-hour crisis phone line and in extreme cases can provide up to 72 hours of free care for children. The center provides services to single parent families, foster/adoptive families, military families and families experiencing marital challenges. In 2012, the center provided 4,038 hours of care to 501 children from 304 families.

Lutheran Family Services believes that all people, from the newborn to the most elderly, are valued members of our community. Every day we provide help and support to children and families, because everyone deserves HOPE during the most challenging times of their lives.

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The Black Forest shooter, TESSA and silent witnesses

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 2:14 PM

People visit the Silent Witnesses at Cottonwood. - TESSA
  • People visit the Silent Witnesses at Cottonwood.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and TESSA — the local nonprofit that works to end the crime and help victims — was once again out in force.

For years now, TESSA has picked a day in October to set up dozens of wooden, life-size cutouts on the lawn of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Painted red, each silhouette represents a local victim of a fatal domestic violence attack. Plaques attached to the back tell their names and stories.

This year, there were 76 cutouts. But instead of another tragic display in the same spot, TESSA decided to move the figures around, taking handfuls for short displays at the city's colleges, military installations and libraries. Most of them, however, spent the month at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts, where they will continue to stand until Nov. 20 as a part of the Dia de los Muertos display.

Michelle Schaunaman, spokesperson for TESSA, says the displays have been a popular attraction for visitors, who have been moved by the stories. And they're part of the healing process for the families of the victims, who come to visit the silhouettes every year.

But over the weekend, the display seemed to take on a special significance, after Black Forest resident Kenneth Lankford allegedly shot and killed his wife and a female neighbor, and gravely injured the neighbor's husband. Stories following the shootings stated that Kenneth Lankford faced animal cruelty charges, and that his wife, Terry Lankford, may have feared his violent temper. Neighbors also said they feared Kenneth Lankford.

Janet Kerr, executive director of TESSA, says that those stories point to domestic violence that's spinning out of control.

“One of the things that we’ve known for years about domestic violence is that it is highly correlated with both animal abuse and child abuse,” she says. “... They’re just all very high indicators of each other.”

Kerr says that neighbors, coworkers, or loved ones who see those signs in someone's life should offer their support, and be nurturing. This helps because abusers often isolate their victims and make them feel as if they have no one to turn to. If you're close to the victim, it also helps to say things like, "He seems violent" or, "I'm afraid for you," because those statements help ground the victim in reality, and abusers often try to manipulate their victim's ideas of what normal behavior is. But the most important step, Kerr says, is to call TESSA's crisis line at 633-3819. Trained counselors can help to form a plan that fits the victim's needs and does the most to keep them safe.

Kerr says that 75 percent of domestic violence homicides happen when the victim is trying to leave their abuser, so it's important to have professional help. In the most extreme cases, TESSA can help victims change their names and Social Security numbers and protect other information that might help their abuser find them.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inside Out exec makes quick exit

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Let's not mince words: It's been a lousy year for Inside Out Youth Services.

Early in the year, the LGBT youth nonprofit announced that Shawna Kemppainen, it's executive director of three years, would be leaving to lead Urban Peak. The shelter was already planning to move out of its longtime home in the basement of the Independent when its lease ran out.

Inside Out weathered those changes, leasing a new location and hiring Chris Robertson as its new executive director. But last month, the new offices were destroyed by an overnight fire, leaving the program homeless. Robertson said at the time that the nonprofit was moving to a temporary location and that he'd be working hard to find it a permanent home. But now Robertson has announced he'll vacate his position at the beginning of December.

Amy Dinofrio, Inside Out's board president, says Robertson has accepted a position at the Southern Colorado Aids Project. The board is looking for a replacement. Hopefully, they can find someone who is up for a challenge.

Friends of Inside Out-

As the President of the Board of Directors, I am writing to share news of some changes coming up in the leadership at Inside out Youth Services. Chris Robertson will be leaving the post of executive director at the beginning of December.

We hold deep gratitude for Chris's service to empower and advocate on behalf of LGBTIQ youth, and for his passion to engage people in our work! Even though it has been a tough battle for us recently Chris took the flag and led us! I am very proud of the successes he has accomplished in just a short time!

We all wish Chris well, and please join us in thanking him for the positive energy and excellence he provided as a leader!

Change always brings opportunity, and we are committed to getting the right next leader on board as a full-time Executive Director. I will be honest in stating I don't know what this search will look like just yet. I am meeting with some partners, and stakeholders, and I will update you as we move forward. Although advantageous, I would like to have a replacement picked by the first week in December.

Our search will be inclusive of the opinions of Inside Out's youth and volunteers, as well as external stakeholders.

Right now, I want to ask for your support for Chris, as he closes out his chapter here with us, and for Eric Pizana, Program Manager at Inside Out, who has led the internal programs and volunteer work and continue staff leadership for the Pikes Peak Safe @ School Coalition's advocacy efforts. Eric is extremely dedicated to the youth at Inside Out, and we are grateful for his leadership. You can reach Eric here: Without Eric's work and dedication to our mission, Inside/Out would not be where it is today!

Because of your support and advocacy for young LGBTIQ people, we are headed in the right strategic direction building more safety, acceptance and possibility for youth. Your support is so very appreciated.

If you need to reach me, please contact me at, or my cell 719-352-8674.

Thank you for all you do,


Amy Dinofrio
Board President
Inside Out Youth Services

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Your weekend cuteness overload

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Earlier this week, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo debuted three Canada Lynx kittens born at the zoo May 8.

And with their tufted ears and huge paws, they are freakin' cute.

  • Matthew Schniper

Lead Animal Keeper for the zoo's Rocky Mountain Wild exhibit, Rebecca Zwicker, says that mom Majina and dad Kajika have been together since 2007. That they took to one another is a bit unusual because Lynx are normally solitary in the wild — which is also why success in breeding within zoos is not super-common, adding to the local excitement about this little family. (Canada Lynx are considered "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.)

Dad's still not quite sure what to make of the kittens. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dad's still not quite sure what to make of the kittens.

Zwicker says in general, zoo staff are "pretty hands off" with the kittens. It's mom's job to raise them, she says, and right now staff only get involved when it's time for physical examinations, vaccinations and the like. As the kittens grow, the keepers will start doing some training with them, as public relations manager Erika Meyer says, primarily "to help facilitate positive veterinary care." They'll also be trained to get used to crates, because they'll likely be transferred to another zoo in a few years. 

In the meantime, Zwicker and the other staff are having fun with the kittens. "We're seeing personalities," she says, adding that "they're pretty avid climbers" but "still have their clumsy moments." 

  • Matthew Schniper

Mom watches her playful bunch, a trio including two boys and one girl. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mom watches her playful bunch, a trio including two boys and one girl.

It should be noted that now's a good time to get in your squee quotient at the zoo — they've had a huge baby boom. A porcupette was born the same day as the kittens; a Red River hoglet arrived the day after; a baby giraffe arrived Aug. 1 (the third in the past year); and seven peachicks have taken over the ground in the past few months.

One of the seven "little peas" born this year. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • One of the seven "little peas" born this year.

And one more completely unrelated "cat" note, if you'd like to add your own kitten (albeit domestic, not Lynx), to your family, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is at "cat-pacity" and waving all adoption fees this weekend.

You know you need more cuteness in your life.


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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Run will help community centers

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Community centers give kids a better shot at success.
  • Community centers give kids a better shot at success.

The second annual Blue Moon Trail Run on August 30 will benefit local community centers.

Nearly closed during the recession years, the city's four community centers provide a safe place for youth to congregate, affordable day care, programs and meals for seniors, and a place for community members to work together. Each is located in a low-income neighborhood. 

Though the budget has improved, the centers still struggle to make ends meet, and have had to find creative ways to meet their budget.

2nd Annual Blue Moon Trail Run To Benefit Community Centers

The 2nd Annual Blue Moon Trail Run takes place the evening of Friday, August 30 in Piñon Valley Park, 5585 Mule Deer Drive 80919. Featuring a kids race at 5:45 p.m. and followed by a 5K/10K run through adjacent Ute Valley Park, this race is suitable for all competitive levels. A post-race barbecue is available to all registrants and volunteers, featuring Bristol Beer for all adults. Childcare is also available. All net proceeds benefit the community centers of Colorado Springs. 5K and 10K: $30.00 through August 29 / $35.00 on August 30. KIDS Races: $5.00 for ages 10 and under / Two distances: 400m and 800m. The race is presented by UpaDowna; Pikes Peak Community Foundation; and Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services. For more information, visit or contact Brian Kates at 385-7940.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fork(lift) and beef: Both in need

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2013 at 11:58 AM

A lot of local fundraising focus is of course still devoted to the Black Forest Fire, but other organizations remain in need as well. Two recent calls for assistance come from the Marian House Soup Kitchen and Blue Star Recyclers. From the press release, here's info on the first:


Blue Star Recyclers, with the help of the Beanstalk Foundation, needs to raise nearly $10,000 more for the purchase of a new forklift. Here's more on that:

With your help we now employ 22 people at our Colorado Springs facility, and we have created 42 total jobs for people with disAbilities in six Colorado communities.

You may have noticed recent articles in local newspapers about our strategic partnership with the Beanstalk Foundation. For the past year Beanstalk has actively supported our mission on a number of fronts, and one of the invaluable services they provide to non-profits like us is something called a Challenge Funding Campaign.

Today we are excited to launch our first Challenge to replace our 20+ year-old forklift, which is now on its last legs. As a recycler we collect, process, stage, and ship tons of heavy electronics materials every day, so our forklift is the most vital piece of capital equipment to our operations.

You can help by visiting our online challenge page and make your tax-deductible donation of any size.

We are extremely grateful to Scott & Darlene Allen, who got things started with a generous donation of $5,000.00 through their Brady-Brooke/Rotary International Donor Advised Fund. That takes us one-third of the way to our goal, leaving only $10,000.00 to be raised from individual donors like you.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Red Cross closes Black Forest shelter

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

Red Cross

A week after opening it, the American Red Cross has announced closure of its shelter for Black Forest Fire victims and evacuees. Here's the release, which at the bottom also includes a look at some of what the nonprofit organization has accomplished during the early start to this fire season.

Wildfire Update: Red Cross to Close Black Forest Shelter at Noon; Continues to Serve Residents at 4 Fixed Sites

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO., June 19, 2013, 11:30 a.m. — The American Red Cross will close its shelter at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument at noon today. Red Cross caseworkers, health workers and mental health experts will continue to provide people affected by the Black Forest fire with resources, emotional comfort, health services and recovery assistance at four fixed locations.

Last night, 5 evacuated individuals stayed overnight at the Red Cross shelters. All of those individuals have found other accommodations for tonight or are being assisted with accommodations by the Red Cross.


Red Cross volunteers will distribute cleanup kits, water and snacks and offer informational resources, basic health services and emotional counseling at the following fixed locations:

· School in the Woods, 12002 Vollmer Rd., Colorado Springs, noon-5 p.m.

· Intersection of Black Forest Road and Burgess Road, noon-5 p.m.

· Intersection of Milam Road and Shoup Road, noon-5 p.m.

· Multi-agency Disaster Assistance Center, El Paso County Public Health, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Rd., 8 a.m. — 6 p.m.

Residents will be able to pick up cleanup supplies including items such as sifters, shovels, trash bags, work gloves, rakes, paper towels, and facemasks at all sites except the Disaster Assistance Center.

The Salvation Army will be providing snacks and meals at the School of the Woods and Milam Road locations.

Large portions of Colorado are under red flag warnings for high fire conditions. The Red Cross urges residents to take steps to be prepared; one thing people can do is download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, available in English or Spanish. The app puts help right in people’s hands, such as instant access to steps people should take before, during and after wildfires. Owners of Apple and Android devices can download the free app in the in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

If a fire is threatening your neighborhood, you should listen to local media for updated fire
information and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Other steps include:
• Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
• Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to leave quickly.
• Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors.
• Use the recycle or recirculate mode on your air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
More information on wildfire safety is available on the preparedness section of

Local Red Cross chapters have activated on-call rapid-response teams throughout the state so that the Red Cross can mobilize quickly to respond to any additional wildfires that may occur this summer.

RED CROSS SERVICES TO DATE: To date, the Red Cross and partner agencies have provided the following services:

· Opened and operated a total of eight separate shelters and evacuation centers in Monument, Colorado Springs, Kiowa, Cañon City, Walsenburg and Rifle, providing a total of 911 overnight stays.

· Distributed 1015 comfort kits containing hygiene items, toothbrushes and other basic essentials

· Registered 431 individuals in Safe and Well

· Served 9,652 meals and snacks (provided primarily by The Salvation Army)

· Made 365 health and mental health contacts with affected residents

· Made 517 health and mental health contacts with affected residents

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

UPDATE: School Districts 2 and 11 want to feed the kids this summer

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Colorado Springs School District 11's extensive summer feeding program will continue this year.

Anyone ages 1 to 18 is invited to eat free at one of many locations — both in neighborhoods and schools. All locations will serve lunch, but only some will serve breakfast.

For a list of locations and hours, check out their press release here: News_Release-FNS-Summer_Program-5-13-13-1.pdf

——- ORIGINAL POST, MAY 7, 5:24 P.M. ——-

Hey, its better than an empty stomach.
  • Beau Wade
  • Hey, it's better than an empty stomach.

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? This summer, the meal's free to kids all season long in Harrison School District 2.

Such programs are vital in poorer areas, where children often rely on free school breakfasts and lunches for their nutrition. Expert organizations like Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado have long called summer the hungriest time of the year, because kids can no longer rely on school meal programs.

Read on for more information on Harrison's program:

Any child under the age of 18 currently living in Harrison School District 2 will have access to free meals twice a day this summer.

The Harrison School District Nutrition Services announces the sponsorship of the Summer Food
Service Program. Free meals will be made available to children 18 years of age and younger.


Otero Elementary School
1650 Charmwood, Colorado Springs CO

Centennial Elementary School
1860 S Chelton, Colorado Springs CO


Session One: June 4- June 28, 2013
Session Two: July 9- August 2, 2013


Breakfast: 8:15 - 9:00am
Lunch: 12:15 - 12:45pm

Breakfast and Lunch will be served daily, Monday through Friday. Adult meals are available for

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Strong turnout for local race in Boston's name

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Yesterday the Pikes Peak Road Runners hosted a 5k to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Stephanie Wurtz, coordinator of the quickly organized event, estimates that 400 to 500 runners came out. And though participation required no registration fee or purchase of any kind, they were able to raise approximately $500 for, which financially assists those affected by the tragedy and, at the time of this blog, had raised more than $29 million.

Some local runners in attendance had actually participated in this year's Boston Marathon, and all runners were encouraged to sign a banner which will make its way to the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the marathon.

Colorado Springs runners sign banner for Boston
  • Lauren Johnson
  • Colorado Springs runners sign banner for Boston.

Signed banner to head to Boston
  • Lauren Johnson
  • The product of their handiwork.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Venetucci will have water, and pumpkins, in 2013

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Michael Hannigan sounded an alarm earlier this month, as the Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s executive director warned everyone that the storied Venetucci Farm might not have water for its crops, livestock or pumpkins in 2013.

“We have to do whatever we can to save this farm,” Hannigan said in the Between the Lines column of the Indy’s April 10 issue.

Friday, Hannigan announced that the crisis has been averted, allowing Venetucci to continue its normal farming operations in 2013.

We have a call in to Hannigan, but here are the details from a Facebook posting as well as a release:

Venetucci Farm
We are thrilled to announce that the water needed to maintain Venetucci Farm for 2013 has been secured!

The community responded with a wonderful outpouring of donations and connections, which resulted in finding augmentation water to lease.

JV Ranches, which is owned by Sheila Venezia and her family, came to the rescue. Longtime residents of the Pikes Peak region, Sheila and her children, Dean, Kathleen, Rosemarie and other family members toured the Farm to learn what was needed. Almost immediately after the visit, they agreed to transfer some of their water to be converted to augmentation water and credited to Venetucci Farm.

Now, in 2013, the Farm will be able to grow healthy food for the community and lots of pumpkins for kids.

In addition, two other entities have since stepped up to lease additional water to the Farm. Special thanks are also in order for Al Testa and the Colorado Centre Metropolitan District, along with Perry Thompson of Osage Capital.

In March, Venetucci Farm faced a serious crisis when farm managers learned that there would be no “augmentation water” designated for the property during 2013. Under Colorado law, farms that rely on using their ground water rights to pump water for irrigating crops must purchase “augmentation water” — water that is allowed to flow back into the aquifer or down Fountain Creek.

Venetucci Farm is already looking at multiple options to secure water for 2014 and beyond. Farm manager Patrick Hamilton said: “We have identified several alternatives for a permanent source of augmentation water for the Farm. We look forward to working with the community to secure the augmentation water needed for the Farm’s future water needs, and to ensure Venetucci Farm is around for generations to come.”

Spring planting is already underway. And, most importantly, we can now gear up for the Summer 2013 “Raise The Barn” initiative to raise money for a beautiful, functional, multi-use (and much-needed) barn for the Farm. Stay tuned for more news about that important project in the near future!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

More help needed to rescue kids from abuse

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 5:20 PM

The CASA Light of Hope luncheon

"I am for the children who were originally adopted from a Russian orphanage, who were frightened and hurting because their adoptive parents abused and neglected them, " the woman on stage told the crowd of hundreds at the Antlers Hilton today.

"[They] were poorly fed, locked in a room and physically abused."

The woman — Judy Thompson — is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, one of the many volunteers and employees of CASA of the Pikes Peak Region that together have helped over 9,000 kids in conflict over 23 years. Many of the kids were abused. CASA highlighted those achievements, and announced an initiative to help even more kids, at today's CASA Light of Hope luncheon.

Kristofer and Olivia, who are grade schoolers, were in dire straights when Thompson came along. She was able to get the kids important resources like therapy, and speak on their behalf in court. Because of her advocacy, the kids were permanently removed from their adoptive home, where it was discovered they had often been locked in a cold room with a plastic sheet on the floor for them to urinate and defecate on — a room the children dubbed "the nasty room."

Severely traumatized, Kristofer and Olivia were adopted by a couple that originally thought the kids would be too big a burden for them. After fostering the siblings, however, they fell in love.

Kristofer and Olivia.
  • CASA
  • Kristofer and Olivia.

The siblings also took the stage at the CASA luncheon, chattering on about normal kid stuff like sports and playing dress-up. There was barely a sign that the two had gone through so much, until Kristofer mentioned that he was highly impressed that all the kids at his new home had their own beds.

CASA executive director Trudy Strewler Hodges says she wants to create more happy endings for local kids. In many cases, that means helping parents to provide a safer environment for their children. In other cases, like Kristofer and Olivia's, it means finding them a new home.

"Without safety, seldom can children achieve the wishes and dreams that they have and reach their full potential," Hodges says. "These hopes and dreams ought not to be reserved for just some children. Every child is deserving of a chance to feel loved, and to be safe, and to be able to dream about their futures."

With that in mind, Hodges is launching an ambitious program to expand the organization's reach. The aim is to provide every local child in need with a CASA by 2020.

"I don't know when I've been more excited about a initiative," Hodges says. "I know that we can get there."

Still, the goal is a long way off. CASA volunteers generally represent only one child, and currently there are only enough volunteers to serve about 40 percent of area kids in need of the help.

Hodges says part of the initiative is switching to a more efficient model this year: Appointing long-term volunteers as "peer-coordinators," who can mentor and train new volunteers.

Of course, the other part of the puzzle is recruiting more volunteers and bringing in more funding. Those that want to help can go to

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Citizens Project unveils controversial ad campaign

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Citizens Project hopes a provocative new ad campaign will turn heads.

Executive director Kristy Milligan says the new ads were modeled after the "before and after" clues on Wheel of Fortune. The idea was to put a focus on the transformation of Colorado Springs from the center of the "hate state" to a more progressive and accepting place to live.

“It was actually a little bit controversial, even with our board,” Milligan says of the ads. “I think that it will be kind of provocative for many people, and kind of pull some strings for people, and we’re prepared for that.”

Some of the ads:



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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homeless kids need all that stuff in your garage

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Childrens shoes
  • JoshuaDavisPhotography

As the proud auntie of a baby nephew, I'm aware of how quickly tiny tikes move through merchandise. Those adorable overalls I bought him? Too small within a couple months. The toy he was fascinated with in March? So passe in April.

So I was actually sort of surprised to see that Springs Rescue Mission is hurting for baby and toddler gear. I see only two possible explanations:

1) Every parent has a garage packed down with thousands of dollars worth of baby gear they'll never use again.

2) People don't realize that ever since the recession, the growth in homelessness has really been in families. Sadly, foreclosures and unemployment have left many kids without a home.

So hey, if you've got a packed garage, this is the time to unload it.

Springs Rescue Mission (SRM) has launched a Baby and Toddler Supplies Drive to run through mid-June of this year. SRM President & CEO Rev. Joe Vazquez announced the drive Monday, April 22.

“Babies and toddlers clearly make up one of the most vulnerable groups in our community,” Rev. Vazquez said. “Add any challenge to a household budget — a medical bill, overdue utilities, a hike in gasoline or grocery prices — and vulnerable children become at-risk children.

“Supplies for this precious group of kids have proven to be crucial not only for the children but also for their families. The expenses to help ensure that a small child thrives can represent a significant part of a young family’s income. Any help that we can direct toward these children and their families will make a huge difference for them as they enter the summer months.”

Needed items include baby and toddler clothing, up-to-date car seats, baby food, baby wipes, baby soap and shampoo, baby and toddler toys, and diapers of all sizes. The community is invited to drop off these supplies on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in front of the Springs Rescue Mission administration building, located at 5 West Las Vegas Street in Colorado Springs. The supplies will then be taken to the Mission’s Supportive Family Services for distribution.

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