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Family Visitor Program blessed by its own guardian angels

Carrie Click
Special to the Post Independent

The Valley Professional Building on 23rd Street in Glenwood Springs is home to a host of for-profit businesses, from dentist and doctor offices to insurance companies. Now, it’s also home to a local nonprofit, the Family Visitor Program (FVP), which provides education and support services to newborns and their families from Aspen to Parachute.

What’s remarkable about FVP’s occupancy is that, in just over a year, the organization is only $1,268.75 shy of completely paying off the $180,083.75 mortgage loan on its condominiumized office space. FVP has met a goal that evades many savvy businesses in the for-profit sector, to say nothing of the nonprofit community.

“It’s unusual to see a nonprofit be able to purchase its own office space, especially in our market,” said Jim Yellico, a Realtor with Rocky Mountain Realtors and a FVP board member. “But that comes with the luck of the Family Visitor Program. Someone seems to always be looking out for us.”

The idea of buying office space started when Family Visitor Program executive director Sandy Swanson looked at the costs of renting and buying. By buying space, Swanson realized, FVP would be paying far less in the long run. But she never expected to eliminate the organization’s mortgage within such a short time frame.

“It’s like a miracle,” she said simply.

Well, sort of.

Swanson, along with FVP staff, volunteers and board of directors, rallied together in a massive effort to implement a multi-tiered capital campaign. Development consultant Judy Moffatt and Ellen Fischer of the Gates Foundation were key advisors in helping FVP establish its successful capital campaign – one that started directly within the organization.

“Ellen encouraged us to begin our campaign by contributing money ourselves,” Swanson said. “As a result, 100 percent of the board and 90 percent of the staff donated funds.”

From there, the Family Visitor Program asked the surrounding community for cash donations and in-kind services, such as remodeling assistance, computer work and painting. Swanson received a mortgage loan from Bob Young at Alpine Banks, who also agreed to become the organization’s chairperson for the campaign.

“Alpine gave us the best deal,” Swanson said, “No points, no closing costs, and a variable loan at prime.”

In addition, the office space’s seller, Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez, a plastic surgeon, donated repairs and remodeling to FVP, helping to convert his former office into a nonprofit administrative center.

Next, the Family Visitor Program initiated a grant application process to local, regional, state and national agencies.

“We have been so well supported,” Swanson said. “We received grants from nearly a dozen organizations, from the Aspen Valley Community Foundation to the Coors Family Foundation to the Johnson Foundation – and so many more.”

Now, with foundation support “tapped out,” as Swanson puts it, and with its goal nearly in hand, FVP is again looking to the local community to contribute the last few dollars to put the organization over the top.

“What’s so important about completing this campaign,” Swanson said, “is that we have a matching grant from the Gates Foundation that depends on this money coming in from our regional community.”

The concept of home visitation for pre- and post-natal families started in the early 1980s after the Henry C. Kemp Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect at the University of Colorado conducted a study of new families and how best to support them.

Working with the Colorado Department of Health and the federal government, 11 programs such as the Family Visitor Program were initiated in Colorado. But with decreasing state funds, FVP is the only such program flourishing today.

And flourish it does. Since its inception in 1983, the Family Visitor Program has grown from 70 families to more than 500 families being served annually.

Ninety percent of the families that utilize FVP’s services – an initial Warm Welcome Home Visit by experienced mothers followed by monthly or weekly visits by paraprofessional visitors depending upon each case – are low income, and 70 percent of those families are Latino.

FVP is also involved in several other programs, including Early Head Start, the Teen Parent Program at Yampah Mountain High School, Mom Support and Socialization groups, and a Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.

Much of the reason FVP has been so successful is the local population’s assistance.

“We’ve always received tremendous support from this community,” Swanson said. “From Valley View Hospital and the Department of Social Services to local foundations, businesses and individuals, people really seem to understand the importance of helping babies and their families get off to a healthy start.”

That’s a central reason why Yellico is on the FVP board of directors.

“I’m a father of three, and I see the importance of parenting,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have the resources my wife, Myka, and I do, since both of our parents live in the area. It’s not just about baby-sitting, either. It’s the advice and support we get from our own parents that’s so valuable that many people in our community don’t have. I see that building good parents is vital to the overall community.”

Contribute to Family Visitor Program’s capital campaign can be sent to Family Visitor Program, P.O. Box 1845, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601.

FVP also has a Vehicles for Charity program, where individuals can donate cars and trucks to FVP, which are then auctioned off for cash. For more information on this program, including tax write-off benefits, call 945-1234.


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