Nonprofits

Monday, September 24, 2018

Where to get free flu shots in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 4:02 PM

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Last flu season, El Paso County Public Health recorded 489 influenza-related hospitalizations: a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

It's about that time again.

To stay out of the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone 6 months and older should get an influenza vaccine, which can be life-saving for kids. It's best to get one by the end of October.

"When a person receives a flu vaccine, it causes the body to create antibodies,"  a statement from Penrose-St. Francis Health Services explains. "This process takes approximately two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from this year’s anticipated strains of the flu virus. This is why people need to get a flu shot annually — the vaccination is based on the strains that research indicates will be most common for that year."

Getting a flu shot is especially important for members of high-risk groups, including children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women, nursing-home residents, and those with certain medical conditions, the statement adds. People from these groups are prone to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.

Try vaccinefinder.org to find locations near you with the flu vaccine. If you're uninsured or don't have vaccine coverage, never fear. Penrose-St. Francis Faith Community Nurses will stick it to you for free at the following clinics for adults and children over 4:

Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Mission Medical, 2125 E. LaSalle St.

Monday, Oct. 15 from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. @ Dream Center Women’s Clinic, 4360 Montebello Dr. # 900

Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. @ Family Connections, 917 E. Moreno Ave.

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Connections 4 Life, 6436 US-85, Fountain

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. @ Ecumenical Social Ministries, 201 N. Weber St.

Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Westside CARES, 2808 Colorado Ave.

Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. @ Grace Be Unto You Outreach Church, 3195 Airport Road

Monday, Oct. 29 from 12 to 2 p.m. @ Tri-Lakes Cares, 235 Jefferson St., Monument

Monday, Nov. 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. @ Mercy’s Gate, 4360 Montebello Dr. #300

Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Marian House Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, 14 West Bijou St.

Tuesday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Iglesia Nueva Vida, 124 Delaware Dr.

Wednesday, Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Springs Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Dinner) @ Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 East Kiowa St.

On Sunday, Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., you can also attend the 9Health Fair at Mission Medical Center to get free flu shots, Pap smears, Body Mass Index tests, and foot screenings, as well as low-cost blood screenings ($20 to $40). Just make sure to register online.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trump administration proposes historically low refugee ceiling for 2019

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 at 1:39 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May.

The State Department will accept a maximum of 30,000 refugees next year, breaking the record for the lowest cap on admissions for the second year in a row.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new number — 15,000 under this year's limit — during a Sept. 17 media briefing, adding that the administration also plans to process more than 280,000 asylum cases. Historically, there has been no official limit on the number of admitted asylum seekers, and Pompeo did not provide an estimate of how many would actually be granted protection.

While refugees and asylees must both prove a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of nationality based on race, religion, nationality or social group, refugees must have their paperwork approved before entering the United States. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, ask for protection when presenting themselves at a port of entry or submit an application from within the U.S.

Currently, about 800,000 people already in the U.S. are waiting for a judge to rule on their asylum cases, Pompeo said. That's due in large part to an influx in Central and South Americans, including teenagers and young children, crossing the border to escape violence and extreme poverty.
"In consideration of both U.S. national security interests and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country," Pompeo said. "This year's refugee ceiling also reflects our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed."

As of Sept. 14, with just weeks left in fiscal year 2018, the U.S. had admitted a mere 20,825 refugees, far short of the 45,000-person limit set by President Donald Trump's administration. The year before, President Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000, but Trump cut that number in half with an executive order after Obama left office.

Normally, the total number falls no more than a few thousand short of the cap, but changes at the administrative level overseas, including a longer vetting process, have caused a shortfall unheard of since right after 9/11.

Pompeo says part of the reason the cap is lower this year is to maintain rigorous vetting: "The security checks take time, but they're critical."

Refugee program cuts have already taken a toll on Colorado's resettlement agencies, the Independent reported in June. At the time — about three-fourths of the way through the fiscal year — Lutheran Family Services in Colorado Springs had resettled only 40 refugees, compared to 110 total last year, according to volunteer coordinator Cathy Verdier.

Denver's African Community Center had resettled 134 refugees in June, though it had planned to accommodate 400 by the end of September, Managing Director Melissa Theesen said. Two years ago, ACC's total was 581.
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Three ways to help women beat ovarian cancer

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 2:06 PM

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One woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day in Colorado. And every 40 hours, the disease kills a Colorado woman, according to the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society.

The Southern Colorado nonprofit works to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and helps the women fighting it pay for medical expenses, prescriptions, household expenses and health insurance deductibles.

Since there's no test for ovarian cancer (it's not covered in a Pap test), women's best defense against the disease is being able to recognize its symptoms, the Ovarian Cancer Society says. Those can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urgent or frequent urination. Women experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks may have early-stage ovarian cancer, and should see a gynecologist for further testing.

If the disease is diagnosed early, a woman's chance of survival is 93% — more than double her chances when the diagnosis is late-stage cancer.

Here's how you can show your support for the women fighting this disease for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and into the future.

1. Get a tattoo

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Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, Fallen Heroes Tattoo is donating $40 for every $60 tattoo to the Ovarian Cancer Society. On Saturday, the business will host an all-day party with lunch from Bird Dog BBQ, vendors and more to conclude its five-day Tattooathon event.

If you haven't scheduled an appointment, owner Brenda Brown says there's still a few times available through the 15th. "We are willing to stay as late as people are willing to come," she promises.

This is Fallen Heroes Tattoo's third year supporting the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society. Brown says the goal is to raise $15,000 — nearly double the $8,000 raised last year.

Call (719) 635-7431 to schedule an appointment with Fallen Heroes Tattoo, located at 524 W. Colorado Ave.

2. Get your exercise

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The Ovarian Cancer Society's 10th Annual Be Ovary Aware 5K Run 3K Walk is Sunday, Sept. 16 at America the Beautiful Park. Registration is $35 for adults and $25 for youth 16 and under ($40 and $30 if you wait till the day of).

There are cash prizes for the first, second and third place 5K winners in each category. Whether or not you beat out the competition, you'll get an event shirt, a runners' bag, a door prize ticket and post-race snacks from Wooglin's Deli.

The event will also feature a pre-run yoga stretch, door prize drawings and a memorial balloon release.

3. Rock out

Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society. - JOHN ODEN
  • John Oden
  • Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society.
Clear your calendar Oct. 20 for Double Your Trouble's Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute concert at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center.

Double Your Trouble consists of Randy Stephens on guitar and vocals, Bill Taylor on bass and Kevin McBride on drums.

Tickets are $15 to $20 plus fees, and a portion of the proceeds will support the Ovarian Cancer Society. Stephens says Double Your Trouble will also give away a Stevie Ray Vaughan replica guitar at the event.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and doors open at 7. Stargazers Theatre is located at 10 S. Parkside Dr.
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Showered with Love takes homeless hygiene mobile

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 4:29 PM

The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets.

Kelly Terrien, a local business owner and veteran, created Showered with Love when she "wanted to do something to give back to the community — something that was needed."

The result: a three-stall trailer with showers, sinks and toilets, where people experiencing homelessness can have access to "the basics for self-care."

For now, Terrien will park the trailer outside the Salvation Army's R.J. Montgomery Center shelter, where it will serve guests as the shelter remodels its bathrooms to make them more family-friendly. The Salvation Army will also partner with Showered with Love to bring its services to different areas of the community that may be far from downtown's shelters and nonprofits.

"There are homeless neighbors throughout the entire city," says Salvation Army spokesperson Jeane Turner. "If you can show them that they're loved and help them clean up," she says, that could be a first step on the path out of homelessness.

David Kauffman, the Salvation Army county coordinator, mentions Powers Boulevard as one area where homelessness is less visible than in downtown, but where services like Showered with Love's are of use. "This is one of the ways we can make a touchpoint with them."

Terrien also hopes her trailer can help the working homeless. Perhaps that looks like someone with a minimum-wage job, living in a car — someone who might not be as noticeable as a chronically homeless individual, but still needs a place to shower.

She says the nonprofit is looking for donations and volunteers. Currently, Terrien has just one other person on staff, but wants to hire a full-time operations manager. Showered with Love also needs a truck to pull the trailer, and items such as shampoo, conditioner and feminine hygiene products.

You can donate online here.
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Two more animals dead after hailstorm

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 12:54 PM

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo continues to suffer from the consequences of a freak hailstorm Aug. 6, announcing the deaths of two additional animals that fell victim to baseball-sized hail that shattered skylights and pelted outdoor exhibits.

A meerkat pup, which had recently been born and wasn't yet named, went missing underground after the storm and has not been recovered. The zoo has assumed it passed away. The second new casualty is Snoop, one of the zoo's prized peacocks.

On Tuesday, the zoo had confirmed the loss of a rare cape vulture, Motswari, and Daisy, a Muscovy duck.

Among the injured animals is Twinkie, a Rocky Mountain goat who suffered an eye injury. She's improved since Monday, the zoo says, and an external veterinary team from the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University will visit her Friday. Other animals are improving or stable, and some have been removed from the zoo's list of medical concerns.

Many zoo guests and employees were injured during the storm, some rushed to the hospital. And vehicles in the uncovered parking lot were rendered undriveable by smashed windshields. The zoo says there's still about 100 cars waiting to be towed, down from more than 200 on Tuesday afternoon.

"Zoo security will continue to monitor the cars through 5 p.m. Aug. 9," reads an Aug. 8 statement. "At that time, if a vehicle is still in the lot, it will be towed to the south corner of the Zoo's parking lot without security monitoring...If vehicles are still not claimed by Tuesday at 8 a.m., they will be towed to a monitored facility at the owner's expense."

The zoo plans to reopen this Saturday, Aug. 11, at 8 a.m. for members and 9 a.m. for the general public. It will close at the regular time of 5 p.m. After that, the zoo will return to its normal schedule: seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EdVenture programs for kids and teens (including birthday parties, ZOOMobile appearances, WildNights, Kids-Only WildNights, Zoo exploration tours and teen programs) are canceled until Monday, Aug. 13.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of only nine zoos with accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that doesn't have tax support. Instead, it operates on admissions, membership dues and donations, the zoo says.

"Although the Zoo is fully covered by insurance, the revenue lost during these high-season days will still be a hit for our non-profit budget," the statement reads. "Our employees are also stretched financially, due to personal vehicle losses."

Those wishing to help the zoo and its employees recover from the storm can donate at https://bit.ly/2OYtInY.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

VetFest welcomes veterans to Sky Sox Stadium for tournament, resources

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 5:26 PM

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At the Wounded Warrior Project's first-ever VetFest on Aug. 4, attendees can catch up on Veterans Affairs information, slide into new opportunities, and maybe even hit a career home run.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Sky Sox Stadium, veterans and their families will enjoy a softball tournament while taking part in a Veterans Affairs town hall and claims clinic, a career fair with more than 40 local employers, and a resource fair with up to 50 service organizations. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from vendors.

The event, also sponsored by the state and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is free for all attendees, including the general public.

"It’s a chance for veterans to go to one location, get information about the VA, register with the VA and link up with all of the resources that are available to them here in the local community," says Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 Commander Anthony Archer. "Plus the comradeship of veterans from all generations getting together."

And a dose of friendly competition: The Colorado Springs Fire Department, Wounded Warrior Project and Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center are among the organizations vying for victory in the all-day softball tournament.

Here's the full schedule from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox:

9 a.m. Doors Open

10 a.m. Softball Tournament, Job Fair, Town Hall Begins

12 p.m. Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Opens, Town Hall Ends

2 p.m. Job Fair Ends

4 p.m. Championship Game Begins, Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Ends

4:50 p.m. Trophy Presentation, Closing Remarks
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Independence Center honors veterans with disabilities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. - COURTESY MATT GETZE
  • Courtesy Matt Getze
  • Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

El Paso County has the fifth largest population of veterans with disabilities in the country, Mayor John Suthers said in a speech at the Independence Center's annual ADA Luncheon, Celebrating Veterans with Disabilities.

Out of 100,000 veterans in the county, 37,000 have disabilities, Suthers said. That amounts to more than Cook County, Illinois or New York City.

And that's partly why the community gathered July 26 to recognize the local organizations that do the most to serve those who serve us, on the 28th anniversary of the day President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Independence Center's 2018 award recipients:

Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition: This organization works to end veteran homelessness by providing transitional housing. The coalition's Crawford House in Colorado Springs is a temporary, structured environment for those overcoming addiction.

Achilles Pikes Peak: The team at our local chapter of Achilles International provides adaptive recreation opportunities for veterans with disabilities, including cycling, running, hiking, and more.

Military Artistic Healing Program at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center: "The ability for veterans to share their feelings is a vital part of the healing process," Suthers says. These art classes help them to do just that.

Team Rubicon: This organization helps veterans "find a sense of identity through service," Suthers says. Veterans who are part of the program help those affected by natural disasters, using their skills and experience from the military to respond to emergencies.

Home Front Cares: This program helps create a safety net for veterans by providing grants for rent, utilities, car repair and other forms of emergency assistance for those at risk of homelessness.

At the luncheon, the Independence Center also highlighted its Veteran in Charge program, which helps veterans who might otherwise be placed in a nursing home to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. That support includes a flexible monthly budget that allows veterans to choose the services they need, including assistive devices such as chair lifts, meal delivery, transportation and in-home care.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NAMI offers free "Mental Health First Aid" events

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 2:00 PM

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A series of free events from the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Colorado Springs, better known as NAMI Colorado Springs, will help family, friends and supporters of those dealing with mental illness learn how to best help.

The first, NAMI Bridges of Hope, is geared toward faith communities. At this July 24 breakfast, participants will learn from presenters about how mental illness affects individuals, families, and communities; and how "faith communities can help congregants touched by mental illness," according to an email from spokesperson Lisa Hawthorne. The event is 8:30 to 10 a.m., and location information will be provided upon registration. Call 473-8477 or email info@namicos.org to register.

Then there's NAMI's Mental Health First Aid Training, an eight-hour class in partnership with AspenPointe that teaches participants "how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis," and how to "identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses."

Mental Health First Aid trainings are offered in 23 countries, says Madeline Arroyo, class coordinator with AspenPointe. The class helps participants learn to recognize symptoms of major mental health issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and suicide.

Arroyo says the training is best suited to those over the age of 18, because of the emotional toll that comes with interacting with someone in crisis.

Out of everyone else, "there’s not one person that wouldn’t benefit."

"One in five individuals in any given year is faced with a mental health crisis," Arroyo says. "In the course of a lifetime, one in two. And if it’s not us, it’s one of our loved ones."

Those classes are offered on Aug. 24, Sept. 21, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 (all Fridays) in the Nautilus Room of the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Register online at http://www.mhfaco.org/findclass.

A survey released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17 percent of Colorado teens had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 13.3 percent had made a plan to commit suicide and 7.2 percent had attempted suicide, according to a statement from the Jason Foundation.

We recently wrote about NAMI's Below the Surface campaign, which seeks to raise teens' awareness of Colorado's Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 service for people feeling depressed, anxious or upset.

The crisis line, run by Colorado Crisis Services, is free and confidential. Anyone seeking help can call 844/493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Help the homeless for a free 365 Grand Club trial membership

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 10:52 AM

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The 365 Grand Club's "Stakeholders Meeting" drew an audience of several dozen that included three City Councilors, nonprofit workers and TV reporters to the Mining Exchange A Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa, on July 11.

The mysterious meeting announced just two days earlier promised to be "A Community Call to Action" promoting "a pivotal initiative to move the needle on direct and preventative care of our homeless population."

It turned out to be a couple of short presentations by representatives from Springs Rescue Mission and REACH Pikes Peak, followed by a "call to action" by Andrew Woehle, the Club's membership director.

That "call" consisted of a three-month trial membership offer to anyone who donates $250 to either nonprofit.

A membership means access to three fitness centers, along with perks such as 10 percent discounts at certain restaurants and access to monthly mixers.

But wait, there's more: "Stakeholders [aka donors] will be featured on the 365 Grand Club website and newsletter as well as any press releases surrounding impact initiatives."

If you're already a club member, you can get a 5 percent discount for donating $250.

Woehle promised there were people on hand at the meeting to help people sign up for what the 365 Grand Club's website promises is the "best elite urban club in the country."

Councilors Bill Murray, Yolanda Avila and Richard Skorman sat front row at the meeting.

Just the day before, Murray and Avila were the sole councilors voting against an ordinance targeted at the homeless population that will penalize people who set up camp within 100 feet of public waterways.

"How about silence," Murray said when asked for his response to the membership offer.

Murray said the councilors, like the rest of the audience, didn't know what the meeting was about until Woehle's ending announcement.

He offered a "thank you" to the 365 Grand Club for "standing up and asking for contributions for the Rescue Mission.

"I had hoped it would have been a more expansive conversation."
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cross-country cyclist stops in Springs to hear refugees' stories

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 2:30 PM

Alana Murphy, front right, with Lutheran Family Services staff in Colorado Springs. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Alana Murphy, front right, with Lutheran Family Services staff in Colorado Springs.


Alana Murphy's not your typical 25-year-old. In the past two months, the former Fulbright scholar, world traveler, nonprofit worker and government intern has biked more than 1,800 miles through ten states, and clocked in about 50 interviews with refugees and refugee families.


She calls her journey "The Beautiful Crossing," and hopes, through the stories of the people she interviews — from New York City to Portland — to educate her online followers about the value of the United States' refugee admissions program.

(Read our recent reporting on refugees here.)

Murphy has only been able to upload a handful of interviews to her website so far because of limited access to internet. In August, she plans to have all 75 to 80 interviews from her trip online, where viewers can scroll through a state-by-state archive of photos, text and audio clips.


The trip is funded by a couple of private donors and Murphy’s personal savings, and she says she’d rather have supporters take the time to listen to the interviews than donate money.


Murphy stopped in Colorado Springs on July 6 and 7, speaking with five refugees through Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, a local resettlement agency, before departing for Denver on July 8.


The Independent spoke to Murphy about what she's learned on the trip so far. (This interview has been edited slightly and condensed for clarity.)


How did you come up with the idea for this project?

I've worked with refugees and migrants for the last eight years of my life. I went overseas when I was 17, and I was learning Arabic, and I started working with a group of Syrian and Iraqi women who were waiting for resettlement. That kind of got me interested in international resettlement and what it was like for people who came from refugee backgrounds. From then on I started working with World Relief in Chicago, first as a volunteer, then as a full-time intern and then as staff, and I also had several other experiences working overseas in response work other than resettlement, direct response work in either refugee camps or with refugees who are living in urban city centers. I was able to intern full-time with the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which is the bureau within the State Department that manages the Refugee Admissions Program, and saw from that end kind of a policy side, and then I also was able to work here in resettlement, welcoming refugees to my home city, which is Chicago. So I’ve actually been able to see a lot of different sides and positives and negatives, and just really fell in love with being part of a team that’s welcoming people here to the U.S.

Murphy, right, leaves New York City with friend Joy Bitter, who accompanied Murphy for the first six weeks of her journey. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Murphy, right, leaves New York City with friend Joy Bitter, who accompanied Murphy for the first six weeks of her journey.

How long are you expecting the whole journey to take?

I started on May 12 and the entire journey’s about three months. So it’s 95 days, and I travel about 4,300 miles. So now I’m on the second half of the trip and after Colorado I go up through Wyoming and Idaho, Montana and I go over to Spokane, Washington, and then Seattle and then Portland. And that will be the end of my project.


Is there anything that's surprised you?

The best part of this project has definitely been doing the interviews. And I’ve been, I feel really blessed to meet the people that I’ve been able to talk to. Some of my questions are focused on American culture, living in the United States. And I think it’s always interesting to learn about your own country and your own culture from someone who can see it from the outside. I’ve had some participants say some really interesting things. So kind of like a funny one, for example is one participant talked about how he was shocked when he realized how much money Americans spent on dogs and pets, he was like, they have these pet stores, all pet supplies for dogs, and that was so surprising to him, he could never really kind of get over that — 'Wow, so much money on these pets!'


Then another participant, he was from the Congo, and he had started doing talks in schools where he would go into public schools in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he’s living now. He would speak with schoolchildren about his experience, coming from the Congo and what that was like. And he had kids asking him, 'So do all Africans live in trees?' And at the time when he got this question, actually, I believe it was President Bush had been in Africa doing a diplomatic tour, doing some official visits with different countries and different presidents. And his response to these kids was, 'Well, I guess if all the Africans live in trees, then President Bush is in the trees with us.' For him of course, he knew it was kids, he wasn’t really offended, but he was concerned that in a day and an age when we have the internet and we have access to so much information, why are these children growing up — if they’re part of what some people consider the most powerful nation on earth — why are they growing up and they have no concept of what it’s like in modern-day Congo or modern-day Ghana or these other countries in Africa?


So those have been, it’s been really interesting to hear that from participants, and also just to hear how much they value living here in the United States and the things that we might take for granted. Another participant talked about how he was shocked when he realized you could return things here in the U.S. I know that sounds like a silly thing, you know, like not an important thing, you’re fleeing a conflict zone, that’s not the No. 1 thing you’re going to value. But he was saying he had bought something and it didn’t work. And he brought it back to the store and they gave him his money back. He was just shocked that that was even possible, that kind of freedom. He just thought that was really cool. And other people, of course, have talked more about, they really value that there are laws here that apply to everyone, and not just people of a certain class — that even though we have obviously people that are from a higher class or lower class, they still feel that people are expected to follow the laws and follow the same rules, and to them that really meant a lot.


Refugee admissions are way down right now, because the cap has been lowered and then the whole process has just kind of been slowed down from the top. What's your reaction to that? And do you think that getting these peoples' stories out there can help maybe create some change?

My project is independent, but in my opinion and from talking to different resettlement agencies and kind of reading a lot and being really interested, I do think that it’s very clear that very few refugees are arriving right now to the United States through the admissions program. The first cause of that is probably the cap, but then of course there’s a list of countries that are still banned, but then I think the third kind of indirect cause, that maybe isn’t really being seen or talked about as much, is that President Trump decided that there was a need for new processing procedures in order for people to come here. But there was not a lot of direction or clarity given in terms of how the procedures and interview process could actually be approved, and so then at this point I believe that for a lot of people, even who might be coming from the Congo for example, a country that’s not banned, the processing has actually been significantly slowed down, and very few people are even being admitted from countries that aren’t per se banned, simply because the Refugee Admissions Program has kind of been put on hold until new procedures can be put in place.


I believe at this point just over 13,000 people have come in fiscal year 2018, and the cap for this year is set at 45,000. And that cap of 45,000 is actually the lowest number of people that would be admitted to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program since it was started in 1975. So 45,000 might sound like a big number to some people, but it’s actually less than 0.5 percent of people who are displaced internationally because of conflict. So it’s a very small percentage of actually the need globally.

Murphy at Union Station in Denver. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Murphy at Union Station in Denver.

And in terms of whether this project or other advocacy measures can help with raising numbers again, I do think it’s really important to show support for the Refugee Admissions Program and show that our country historically has welcomed refugees. The Refugee Admissions Program started after World War II, and actually it was started by citizens and local faith-based organizations that wanted to open up doors to people fleeing Hitler and other regimes in World War II. So it was a citizen-based initiative which then was formalized by the government and became the Refugee Admissions Program. It's a huge part of the image that we’ve kind of shown to the world overseas. And I think it’s important to show that we continue to support and value that, but it is true that it’s within Trump’s constitutionally given powers to set a cap on the program and grant special immigrant visas. And so I don’t believe that, necessarily, advocacy efforts can change the restrictions that have limited the program at this time, but I do believe that the program will survive the current situation and the current political environment, and I hope that more people, hopefully through my project and other advocacy efforts come to learn more about the program, and value the program and the impact that it’s really had here in the United States. I hope that when things change and the political environment changes there will be more support and more people that are trying to welcome refugees to the United States.


Do you see yourself continuing to do work like this in the future?

Yes, I definitely do. I feel very passionately about working with refugees, especially here in the U.S. in resettlement. My field is actually international migration policy, so that’s what I study and what I pursue. My next step is, actually, I will be going to Beijing and I’m going to do a master’s program in China, and I'm studying government response and government policies to respond to internal migration within the country.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Homelessness meeting to convene businesses and stakeholders

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 1:49 PM

One area near Shooks Run and Fountain Creek that motivated City Council to adopt an ordinance regulating creekside camping. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • One area near Shooks Run and Fountain Creek that motivated City Council to adopt an ordinance regulating creekside camping.
Many agencies and individuals have poured their hearts and money into the local homeless problem, but sometimes it doesn't seem like any progress is being made.

Now, a local business is trying to create a platform for businesses and individuals to step up to help curtail homelessness.

The 365 Grand Club Properties, which owns many downtown businesses, including the Antlers Hotel, Famous Steak House, Johnny Martin's and others, is hosting a community meeting of stakeholders on Wednesday, July 11, at 2:30 p.m. at The Mining Exchange, another 365 property.

Backers tell the Indy that several City Council members are expected to attend, as well as Mayor John Suthers.

"We're coming together as a team to come up with a way to help with the homeless issue downtown, the homeless issue in the community,"  says Andrew Woehle.

The Indy has written about this issue extensively over the years, most recently to report Council's action to ban creekside camping.

Turn the page to read the full the news release:

365 Grand Club Properties welcomes business leaders and community members to join a collaborative stakeholder opportunity set for Wednesday, July 11 at 2:30pm at The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa in the Grand Ballroom.

The stakeholder meeting is a call to action regarding direct and preventative intervention for Colorado Springs residents who are homeless or living under the threat of homelessness in our current housing market. The 365 Grand Club Properties is answering the call to join the effort in addressing this growing challenge as thousands of El Paso County residents are in imminent danger of becoming homeless, and there are hundreds of homeless person who have no shelter. The 365 Grand Club Properties will offer a community incentive to business community leaders who become stakeholders at the event. Registration to the event is encouraged as seating is limited: www.365grandclub.com/stakeholder

“We are standing behind critical agencies like REACH Pikes Peak and Springs Rescue Mission to address and continue moving the needle on this community need.” — Perry R. Sanders Jr., attorney, restaurateur, hotelier and entrepreneur.

“This initiative is our way to engage our community. We also realize it’s not about your title or how much money you have, it’s your contributions to life that will define you in the end.” — Andrew T. Woehle, President, 365 Grand Club.

"We are honored to partner with Mr. Sanders and the 365 Grand Club Properties by assisting our community members to move out of poverty and prevent families and children from facing becoming homeless. As a community action agency, we want to be at the front lines to assist in immediate and unforeseen emergencies and disasters, providing the resources needed for community members to take control over their financial futures. Our agency serves over 15,000 community members each year and we will continue to serve our communities needs as they evolve” — Patrice Ravenscroft, REACH Pikes Peak, Executive Director/CEO.

“The heat of summer can be brutal for homeless neighbors. Many hurting people reach out to us each day to help them survive the exhaustion of being without a permanent home. Efforts like this mean so much to hurting men and women. There’s no doubt that when we work together all neighbors can enjoy hope.” — Travis Williams, Chief Development Officer, Springs Rescue Mission.
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Friday, June 29, 2018

City leaders break ground on Ronald McDonald House, set to open next year

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty. - RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES OF SOUTHERN COLORADO
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado
  • Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty.

Officials and business leaders broke ground on the new Ronald McDonald House on June 27. The construction site on the UCHealth Memorial North campus will soon be a temporary home for families with critically ill, hospitalized children.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado currently has a 6,500-square-foot facility near UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where it houses up to 11 families per night. The new location will be four times that size, according to a news release from Ronald McDonald House. It's expected to open in spring of next year.

An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location. - RTA ARCHITECTS
  • RTA Architects
  • An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location.

Ronald McDonald House has served more than 10,000 families in its central location, which opened 31 years ago. The nonprofit's mission is to keep families near their children during medical crises, providing them with access to a kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry room, along with indoor and outdoor play areas for children.

The new facility will serve children from Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and beyond, the release said.

Mayor John Suthers, UCHealth CEO Joel Yuhas, and Beth Alessio, the nonprofit's CEO, were among those who got their hands dirty at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"The new House will impact the lives, health and well-being of seriously ill children and their families well into the future," the release read. "We are thrilled for this important moment in the history of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado."
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Independence Center launches campaign to improve business access for people with disabilities

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 2:49 PM

The Independence Center is a nonprofit for people with disabilities. - COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENCE CENTER
  • Courtesy of the Independence Center
  • The Independence Center is a nonprofit for people with disabilities.

If a business doesn’t have accessible parking, ramps and signage, a person with a disability may have no choice but to drive away. That not only makes life more difficult for the individual in question, but also affects the business — it could lose customers and be liable to lawsuits.


A new campaign from the Independence Center, a nonprofit for people with disabilities, will provide business owners with free information about how to make their parking lots easier to navigate.


The Better Access is Better Business campaign is meant to help businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation passed in 1990 that sets certain requirements, such as designated parking, ramps and wide entrances to make facilities more accessible. The act has led to a number of “drive-by lawsuits” locally and nationally, in which an individual might sue a business for violating the requirements.


The problem with these lawsuits is that in many cases they don’t actually lead to change. Plaintiffs will choose to accept settlement money rather than continue the legal process, and the business owner may never fix the problem.


Patricia Yeager, the Independence Center’s CEO, said the Better Access is Better Business campaign offered a new approach.


“We thought, instead of drive-by lawsuits, why don’t we do drive-by ADA assistance?” she said.


With help from ADA Surveys and Plans, a consulting organization, The Independence Center plans to assess 100 parking lots in El Paso, Teller and Pueblo counties for ADA compliance this month. They’ll recommend changes for business owners for free.


“Part of our mission is to help not only people with disabilities and their families, but the community to thrive,” Yeager said. “And this is our way of helping the businesses in our community to thrive by adding new customers — people with disabilities.”


Yeager said oftentimes, business owners just aren’t sure what the requirements are or how to meet them.

"A building owner may have thought he got his certificate of occupancy and everything was good, but for a long long time, I mean years, there’s been no one really checking the parking lots for access," Yeager said.


Interested business owners can contact Teri Ulrich at 719-357-6654 to have their business added to the survey list.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ESM forced to end WISH House program for homeless women

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 9:42 AM

The WISH House program provided transitional housing for up to 16 single women at one time. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The WISH House program provided transitional housing for up to 16 single women at one time.


Ecumenical Social Services, a nonprofit serving the homeless population in downtown Colorado Springs, announced May 16 that a lack of federal funding would force it to close WISH House, its transitional housing program for women.

We wrote about the WISH House this week.


Through the WISH House program, ESM housed up to 16 single women at one time, where they lived in four-bed rooms and could use a kitchen, TV room and computer room. The women were required to work, volunteer or attend job training during the day. ESM worked with the women to identify the “root cause” of their homelessness, and provided services such as financial advice to help them become self-sufficient.


Since the program was founded in April of 2017 with the support of a $100,000 federal community-service block grant, it has served more than 38 women, according to a press release. That funding is no longer available.


“While some went the full term with this program and now live self-sufficiently, some only stayed for a short while to best meet their personal needs,” the announcement read. “We cherished our time with all of them and have sent them all out the doors with our best wishes.”


ESM will continue to serve the homeless community with laundry services, showers and food assistance, according to the release.


“Last year, ESMs day-time programs served 70,000 people,” the release read. “Nearly 10,000 showers were taken, more than 4,000 loads of laundry were cleaned, and the number of people who received food assistance increased by 17% over the previous year.

“ESMs day-time services will remain open, but are in need of funding support due to the overwhelming demand for our services.”


The homeless population in El Paso County increased by 9.6 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to data from the Point-in-Time count released May 10. Females (adults and children) made up about 35 percent of the total homeless population in El Paso County this year.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Quad Innovation Partnership students research ways to save Venetucci Farm

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 5:02 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo


Pikes Peak Community Foundation has something new in the works for its Venetucci Farm, which has been plagued by financial problems since its water was ruled unsafe for human consumption in 2016.


The foundation is joining forces with the Quad Innovation Partnership, a collaboration between four local universities, to develop new solutions for maintaining the beloved farm’s role in the community. Student research teams in the Quad program will lead the effort starting this summer and continuing through the spring 2019 semester.


The students hail from Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. They comprise two research teams of three to five students each, and come from a variety of academic areas — including public affairs, economics and philosophy. Some will be graduate students; others undergraduates, said Jake Eichengreen, Quad’s executive director.


“Jake’s program is a really good resource for bringing in a lot of good community voices,” said Samuel Clark, director of philanthropy for PPCF. “Especially the voices of young, entrepreneurially-minded individuals that are engaged with the community.”


Venetucci Farm’s recent problems started in May of 2016, when the farm’s well water was considered unsafe under new EPA regulations. The water had been polluted by Peterson Air Force Base’s use of a fire fighting foam that contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.


Before farmers and local legends Bambi and Nick Venetucci died, they left their family farm to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which had a broader, grassroots community mission at the time. They intended for the farm to remain a community fixture.


But when water troubles arose, PPCF’s new CEO, Gary Butterworth, exercised an abundance of caution, suspending produce sales mid-season despite protest from some community members that the food was still safe to eat. The water itself, which had accounted for over half of the farm’s revenue, could also no longer be sold.


The financial turmoil that followed has left the farm’s future in question. Funding could come in the form of a reimbursement payment from the Air Force, which would allow for a water treatment facility to filter the groundwater. In the meantime, lacking revenue from the well water and produce sales, PPCF laid off longtime farm managers Susan Gordon and Patrick Hamilton.


PPCF is optimistic that the new partnership with the Quad will open new doors.


“I think that we just have the right people and sort of the right kind of voice and energy to work with on this process,” Clark said.


Ideally, the research efforts will result in a request for proposal (issued by the foundation, which owns the farm) to community organizations to implement some of the strategies the students will develop.


“Using that information from what the Quad teams discover, we can then package it and send it out to organizations to say, now that we understand what the opportunities are, who and how would we be able to take those opportunities,” Clark said.


Eichengreen emphasized the Quad’s enthusiasm about the upcoming project.


“I’m a Colorado Springs native and I grew up getting pumpkins from Venetucci Farm,” Eichengreen said. “Many of the fellow staff and students that I work with have similar connections to Colorado Springs and the community, and we’re just committed to doing this right.”


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