COLORADO SPRINGS — Community members and local non-profit organizations have all stepped up to help others in need during the pandemic. One organization that's stepped up locally and for others across the state is El Pomar Foundation, which is based in Colorado Springs.
The organization was founded in 1937, and they give grant money to non-profits in El Paso County and across the state of Colorado. Last year during the pandemic, the foundation gave away nearly $20,000,000.
"Specifically with COVID-19, the trustees responded very quickly to the crisis as it was evolving in the state," said Kyle Hybl, president and CEO of the organization for two years.
Hybl said within a week of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the state, trustees for El Pomar Foundation activated the Colorado Assistance fund, something they hadn't done since 2012.
Hybl says the funds provided an additional $3.1 million dollars in help for non-profits. The funds were allocated three times last year: in the beginning of the pandemic, in the summer to help people and communities recover, and in December when cases started rising again. December's funds went mostly toward food assistance across the state.
$483,000 went to organizations in the Pikes Peak region, including West Side CARES. The organization provides food, clothes and help with rent and utilities.
"With recognition that our pantry operations have grown by 250%, El Pomar has provided direct support to those pantry programs," said Kristy Milligan, the organization's CEO. "We continue to listen to our neighbors about what services are needed most, and we modify our programs to meet the growing need."
The people who reach out to them have gone through tough times like one woman who lost her husband to COVID-19.
"She had been at the hospital with him, and we were able to pay for the two months that she was unable to work because she was at her husbands bed side," said Milligan.
Milligan says the number of families helped last year grew by 80%. The organization also helped more than 160 families stay in their homes after receiving rental assistance.
During tough times for so many, Milligan says, "I think that people forgot that they're not alone and that their community cares about them. And it's nice to remind them.
"The generosity in which individuals and corporations and foundations have stepped up is truly extraordinary. It is neighbors taking care of neighbors," said Hybl. "Our ability to help nonprofits who are supporting these people -- we're grateful for the great work they're doing and are grateful to support them as they do their part to enhance and promote the well-being of people in Colorado."
West Side CARES remained open all year long during the pandemic, despite not receiving any federal or state funding. The organization returned more than 1,100 phone calls to answer questions that people had during the pandemic. Most people had questions about how to get their stimulus payment or assistance with rent and utilities.
El Pomar Foundation also helped fund a city employment program last summer, to help youth get jobs during the pandemic.