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REACH Pikes Peak closes programs without warning

 

Last updated 10/7/2020 at 10:14am



REACH Pikes Peak, an organization that has provided numerous resources to low-income residents for many years, suddenly announced its closure on Sept. 30.

Officials posted the following statement to the REACH Pikes Peak Facebook page:

“It is with heavy hearts that REACH Pikes Peak is announcing its permanent closure. For over 55 years, REACH has been at the forefront of providing supportive services designed to enhance the quality of life for so many throughout the Pikes Peak Region. REACH has been thrilled to serve thousands in the Pikes Peak community over several decades and we are so proud of our team. REACH finds itself facing an uncertain future, and the decision has become clear to the organization. We greatly appreciate all of our staff, donors, volunteers, sponsors, and partners for your deep commitment — we cannot thank you enough.”

Some people in the community have commented how shocked and upset they are at this turn of events, noting that other agencies that previously served the downtown Fountain area – The Salvation Army and God’s Pantry, in particular – have relocated to the Security-Widefield area, leaving this side of the Fountain Valley with limited access to such resources. Although there are numerous other options available, most of those are clustered farther north with minimal services in the Olde Town district.

Michael Rafferty, whose family helped distribute food boxes at the Fountain office on E. Iowa Avenue every Monday, said the closure took him by surprise as well.

“This hurts us because we saw the need every day, whereas they saw it as line items on a budget sheet,” he said.

However, the Raffertys intend to continue giving out food to families in need at other venues such as The Salvation Army.

Erin Garcia, vice president of REACH Pikes Peak’s board of directors, explained that several factors led to the closing. First, REACH lost a community services block grant in 2017, which provided general operating funds.

“What that grant really did was allow a nonprofit like REACH Pikes Peak who is very small to be somewhat insulated from the typical ebbs and flows of funding in the nonprofit world” Garcia explained. “It really helped us to take care a lot of our overhead, take care of some salaries, and so forth.”

Having lost that grant, REACH had to look in new places for funding. Then in 2019, REACH committed to move to the Helen Hunt campus in Colorado Springs, near many of their clients. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck as they were moving in. Due to the pandemic, many private donors put their usual contributions into other ventures, which meant REACH lost some much needed overhead funds.

“COVID was really the catalyst that catapulted us as the board into identifying whether we could move forward,” Garcia said. “The picture was not pretty; it was going to be impossible to some degree to move forward and continue providing those services.”

Garcia said she is sad to see REACH close, but is glad that other local nonprofits can help fill the void.

“One of the great things about the Fountain Valley is we’re all so connected and we partner and collaborate so routinely,” Garcia said.

She added that she’s currently having conversations with the Salvation Army Fountain Valley Corps and the Connections 4 Life Center about hosting food drives similar to the ones REACH held. Conversations are also in the works with other nonprofits along similar lines.

“Even though we have made the decision to permanently close, the board is still very active in wrapping things up, but also making sure there are connections and making sure there are community collaborations so that way clients that we would have formerly seen can still get the services they need,” Garcia said.

Still, some in the community say not enough was done to prevent this. Erica Figueroa, who said she volunteered at REACH, has been posting her frustration and questions on the county’s social media pages, questioning why the county and city of Fountain haven’t done more to help financially, possibly with the federal CARES Act funds they received.

“I’m truly disappointed in the officials who have let this happen,” she said. “They are letting organizations that help low-income communities just close down! Fountain has a significant need for our families, but no one is listening!”

 

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