Nonprofit Spotlight: Reach Out Colorado Connecting residents in need with services that help
Post Independent Contributor
The nation’s economy may be showing signs of improvement, but for some Colorado River valley residents, gainful employment remains elusive.
According to Dave Bottroff, director of Reach Out Colorado, a lot of folks are in need, particularly in Parachute. “There’s no work in Parachute since the gas rigs pulled out,” he explained. “And there’s no public transportation from Parachute to Rifle or Parachute to anywhere upvalley.” For some, no car means no job interview. No job interview means no work, and we all know what that means: Overdue bills. No food. Possible eviction.
So, Bottroff and his wife Jeanne started Reach Out Colorado, an organization that connects those in need with those who can help.
In other words, Bottroff is a services broker. He works with Catholic Charities, Feed My Sheep, Early Childhood Network, Salvation Army, LIFT-UP, and Tom’s Door, among others, and takes referrals from the Department of Human Services. “When something happens, people don’t know where to go for help,” said Bottroff. “We get agencies together to [provide assistance] so people aren’t on the street.”
Even Bottroff himself has provided transportation to doctors’ appointments and job interviews. He drove a man around for six hours the other day. “He applied for several jobs and went to the [Department of Motor Vehicles],” explained Bottroff. “He didn’t have any money and had six kids at home and a seventh one on the way.”
Bottroff, a semi-retired pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rifle, was inspired by Lee Price, who runs a similar organization in New Castle called the River Center. “I’ve always wanted to do something in town, and Lee didn’t have the resources to go beyond Silt,” said Bottroff, who set up shop at 111 E. Third St. in Rifle about 15 months ago.
The ROC, funded by grants and private donations, offers emergency assistance, senior assistance, a Latino outreach program, and an Angel Tree during the holidays. But the organization’s crowning jewel, said Bottroff, is the Totes of Hope program, which supplies food to elementary school children in the Re-2 school district. “Teachers discovered that when kids go home for the weekend, they’re not getting good nutrition at home,” he explained. And on Mondays, the kids come to school too hungry to concentrate. “We send home food in bags on the weekend that parents can incorporate into meals,” he added.
Totes of Hope (TOH) is organized in Colorado by the Food Bank of the Rockies. Each week, more than 15,000 eligible students around the state receive a bag of food to supplement weekend meals.
Families enrolled in Headstart or the Free or Reduced Lunch Program at Highlands, Wamsley and Graham Mesa elementary schools can apply for the TOH bags through school guidance counselors. The ROC distributed close to 240 bags weekly during the 2012/2013 school year.
Rifle resident Kim Regan runs the TOH program for the ROC out of a small space in the basement of Rifle’s Seventh-day Adventist Church. She and regular volunteers pack totes every Tuesday night for distribution on Thursdays. Each bag contains 8–9 pounds of nonperishable goods, including canned fruits and vegetables, pasta and sauce, and snacks for the kids.
The food arrives monthly from the Food Bank of the Rockies on palettes, she explained. Volunteers get it off the truck and carry it down 14 stairs to the basement of the church. Every Tuesday night, they pack totes for the week and carry them back upstairs when it’s time for delivery. And, said Regan, there’s a lot of paperwork involved. “Since it goes through the [Food Bank of the Rockies], we have to account for all the food,” she said.
TOH provided 70 bags a week this year for summer schools and 60 bags a week for other local educational programs. Guidance counselors from the elementary schools served by TOH were not available for comment, but Regan said kids love the totes.
Both she and Bottroff agree that volunteers and businesses make the ROC rock. Regan said without Rifle Truck and Trailer, the TOH program would not exist. “No matter what, they donate time every week to pick up the food at the [Garfield County] fairgrounds and deliver it to the church.”
Bottroff says Columbine Ford in Rifle has fixed four vehicles for free in the past year for people in dire straits. “It makes me cry just to think of it,” he said.
Bottroff plans to expand the TOH program to Rifle Middle School this fall, and that means more food to store. He hopes someone will step up with about 1,000 square feet of donated space — preferably on the ground floor — so the ROC can continue to do what Bottroff calls “God’s work.” “The apostle James said ‘true religion is to help widows, feed the hungry, and care for the fatherless,’” said Bottroff. “I feel real good about what I do.”
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