Join others in giving back

Carrie Simison-Bitz

Join others in giving back

The Give! campaign is my warm fuzzy because it offers a chance to both support and recognize the dedicated employees and volunteers who work in the Pikes Peak region's large nonprofit sector. These unsung heroes are tireless champions for their causes and do their work out of love, passion and community pride.

Next week, the Independent launches Give! 2010, our second annual end-of-year, community-wide, giving-back campaign. Last year, about 1,200 donors provided more than $198,000 for 29 local nonprofits. Give! nonprofits were also featured in $100,000-plus worth of media efforts and connected with hundreds of new volunteers eager to lend their time and expertise.

This year, our Give! Community Board has selected 40 nonprofits across seven categories (see below). We also have lined up more than $50,000 in challenge and matching grants from local business and foundation allies, as well as $140,000 worth of exposure from our media partners. To top it off, we have increased our goals, aiming for more than one-third of a million dollars ($333,333.34) via 3,000 donations to this year's worthy recipients.

Several of this year's Give! nonprofits have no paid staff and run on caffeine and volunteers — like Designated Driver, which will make our community safer by driving 6,500 inebriated people to their own homes in their own cars, annually, no questions asked. Some are Colorado Springs chapters of national organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is launching a much-needed local initiative through this year's Give! campaign — finding long-term Bigs to befriend children of local deployed soldiers before, during and after the soldiers return home. Or, God forbid, if the soldier and parent doesn't return home.

One of Give!'s core objectives is to get new people to start giving back to our community, especially adults in their 20s and 30s. To help accomplish this, we've matched each of our 40 nonprofits with two cadets from the Air Force Academy. These cadets' mission: to help their nonprofits use traditional and social media — and other creative means — to connect with younger donors.

Our 2010 theme is "Live here. Give here." And we encourage you — our readers, our community — to seek out the Give! Guide in next week's Nov. 4 paper, to read about the nonprofits and their common mission to make the Pikes Peak region a better place to live, work and play. And then, to figure out the best way you can get involved.

While giving is its own reward, with the help of several dozen local business partners we'll send you a diverse package of freebies (beginning at the $25 donation level) as a thank you. Rewards include such unusual items as lunch at the Olympic Training Center and a figure skating session with Colorado Springs phenom, U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian figure skater Rachael Flatt. They also include everyday pleasures like a haircut and a pint of beer. You can use these yourself, or give them to a friend.

If this recovering economy, you cannot afford to make a cash donation, consider becoming a volunteer. This year's Give! Guide features lots of ways you can lend your time to help tutor a child, meet your neighbors, visit a senior, foster a pet and/or help clear a trail. By giving back in any way you can, you'll join me in finding that extra reason why you love this community that we all call home.

Carrie Simison-Bitz is the Give! 2010 co-chair and associate publisher of theIndependent.

Give! 2010 nonprofit participants

Animals: Dreampower Animal Rescue, Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Hamlett Spay & Neuter Clinic, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

Arts & Culture: Colorado Springs Philharmonic, FutureSelf, Imagination Celebration, Manitou Art Theatre, Rock Ledge Ranch

Community-Building: Bike Clinic Too, Citizens Project, Colorado Springs Diversity Forum, Designated Driver of Colorado Springs, Greccio Housing, Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens

Environment & Sustainability: Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers, Friends of Garden of the Gods, Palmer Land Trust, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Venetucci Farm

Family: Cheyenne Village, Fostering Hope, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Pikes Peak Family Connections, Silver Key Senior Services, Women's Resource Agency

Wellness: Harbor House Collaborative, Mission Medical Clinic, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-CS Chapter, Suicide Prevention Partnership of the Pikes Peak Region, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southeastern Colorado Affiliate

Youth: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children's Literacy Center, Cool Science, Kids on Bikes, the Milton Foster Children's Fund — a Project of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Pikes Peak Region), Urban Peak Colorado Springs