EL PASO CO. — Since the pandemic began a year ago, local non-profit organizations have been tasked with meeting the growing needs of people in the community, including an organization in northern El Paso County.
Tri Lakes Cares is located in Monument and it's the only health and human service organization in the northern part of the county. They've been serving areas like Monument, Palmer Lake, and Black Forest for 37 years.
Haley Chapin has been the organization's executive director for 11 years and she says needs from those communities during the pandemic looked different than other parts of the county.
"A lot of people think Northern El Paso County doesn't have a need. You might not see it," said Chapin. "But when the community has fewer resources than the city, to be able to provide those needs for those community members are that much more important."
Chapin says during the pandemic, the needs of services tripled or even quadrupled.
The organization provided food and clothing, financial assistance, mental health counseling, and medical care for more than 1,000 people last year. They also began delivering groceries every week to seniors like Barb Shean, who lives in Palmer Lake.
"That is so helpful, because going to the store with all this, it's kind of scary. So getting our groceries delivered was absolutely marvelous," said Shean.
Shean has been getting help from the non-profit for nearly 15 years says, and was one of the 140 seniors the organization helped during the pandemic.
"It's hard to go to a place and ask for something, but we can come here and feel free to ask for what we need. We can count on these people," said Shean. "They're angels, they really are. I don't know what I'd do without them. I'm very thankful and very blessed."
The organization canceled all in-person fundraisers last year, had fewer volunteers, and faced a food shortgage, but Chapin says the community's support was critical when it was needed most.
"We didn't know where the end was going to be, and to be able to keep up with the unknown was very difficult for us," said Chapin. "As our need increases with client demand, the community rallies behind us, so we're very appreciative of the community's support."
In the northern part of El Paso County, it takes a little longer to drive to the store or work. The organization recognizes that and also helps with transportation and car repairs.
The cost of living is also higher in that part of the county, and many families struggled to make monthly payments on their rent or mortgage during the pandemic. Chapin says it wasn't uncommon for people to want help in paying a $1,500 to $2,000 rent or mortgage payment. The organization helped about 80 households and gave away more than $100,000 last year to help with those types of payments.
For more information about the organization, click here.