Stepping Stones tops capital campaign goal, remodel of Carbondale youth center under way |

Stepping Stones tops capital campaign goal, remodel of Carbondale youth center under way

Carbondale Middle School students Fabricio Orenana, Luis Santos, Martin Camaho and Fabian Lujan play a game of Jenga on a recent Friday afternoon during after school time at the Stepping Stones youth center in Carbondale.

A Carbondale organization that helps keep kids on track will be stepping into some newly remodeled digs in the new year, thanks to a successful recent capital campaign.

Stepping Stones, which provides youth center activities and mentoring programs for youth and young adults ages 10 to 21, is in the midst of a $450,000 renovation.

The project involves a remodel of the 5,000-square-foot commercial building at 1010 Garfield Ave. in Carbondale that Stepping Stones acquired two years ago.

The 2,500-square-foot adjacent house that has been part of Stepping Stones since its formation six years ago is also being remodeled.

The renovated facility will include a wellness center aimed at improving the social, emotional, mental and physical health for the more than 260 youth served (2019 annual report) by the various programs.

Also in the works is a large commercial kitchen capable of accommodating the usual 6,000 meals per year that are normally served, said Kyle Crawley, executive director for the nonprofit organization.

That and other programs have been impacted this year due to the Covid-19 health concerns, which also delayed the capital campaign, he said.

But, it’s full steam ahead after a $10,000 donation from FirstBank’s Giving for Good campaign in October put Stepping Stones over the top in achieving its fundraising goal.

“With the remodel we hope to have more of a connection, or campus feel,” Crawley said.

The remodel includes new furnishings through, more interactive spaces and rooms for one-on-one or small group meetings.

The space between the two buildings will have a firepit, recreation amenities and an outdoor “lounge” space.

The kitchen can also be used for teaching basic survival skills and the culinary arts, Crawley said. There will also be space for various community partners, including Carbondale Arts and other nonprofit organizations, to be able to teach classes.

Over the top

FirstBank’s Giving for Good effort involved a partnership with the Dos Gringos Burritos and the Carbondale Creamery and Cafe, which donated a portion of purchases on certain items to the campaign.

Unfortunately, the Creamery, which had rented space in the northwest corner of Stepping Stones’ building, closed in mid-October.

Stepping Stones is now using that space temporarily while the renovation project is ongoing. Crawley said they hope to rent it out again soon, as the income helps support the youth programming.

“We are deeply grateful to both the Carbondale Creamery and Dos Gringos Burritos for their willingness to support FirstBank’s efforts to do good in our community,” Dave Portman, FirstBank Roaring Fork Valley market president, said in a news release.

“I personally am saddened to see the Creamery close up shop, which has been a pillar in our community for the past four years,” Portman said. “But with their help, we are fortunate to be able to make this contribution to Stepping Stones.”

Other major campaign donors included Stepping Stones founder Kristin Nelson, plus Alpine Bank, the Aspen Community Foundation, the Barr Family Fund, Daniel’s Fund, the El Pomar Foundation and the Gates Family Foundation, just to name a few.

When the pandemic hit last spring, Crawley said the capital campaign was suspended $150,000 short of the goal. It was renewed mid-summer, “and in three short months we were able to reach our goal,” he said.

Stepping Stones was founded by Nelson in 2014 to help serve ages 15 to 21 and focusing more on crisis intervention. It later added programs for the 10-14 age group, with an emphasis on helping youth form positive relationships with adults.

“The program has grown over time, as we’ve been able to keep pace with demand,” Crawley said. “For us, this (renovation) has been a dream for a long time of creating a space that’s specific to young people’s needs, and what we can provide to them.”

A group of middle school students occupy themselves at the Stepping Stones youth center with games and a movie during after-school time on a recent Friday afternoon.

Covid challenges

When the pandemic hit in March of this year, as with every other organization, “it did cause a major shift for us,” Crawley said.

The Stepping Stones youth center normally operates on a free drop-in basis, where kids can come in any time they’re not supposed to be in school.

“We did move to a cohort model with assigned times and days, and with assigned staff at those times,” Crawley said of a model now used by elementary and middle school to keep students in closed groups as a way to prevent against disease spread.

“When schools were closed and there were no sports, kids really needed a place to go,” he said. “We opened back up in May and were able to help fill that void.”

Stepping Stones is now operating at about 85% of its normal capacity, and it’s still about developing those positive mentor relationships, Crawley said.

“We also emphasize to the kids that this is their space, and that they have ownership in that,” he said. “Our model operates more like a home environment, so it’s very much like a family life dynamic.”

By building that kind of a relationship, if a youth does find himself or herself in a crisis situation, it’s often that trusted mentor who they turn to first, Crawley said.

During the Covid emergency, through some of the same donors, Stepping Stones was able to provide more than $100,000 in assistance for the families it serves, for things like rent and utilities, he said.

When the local schools were in 100% distance learning to start the school year, Stepping Stones was also able to provide a place for small groups of students to do their online learning, and offer academic assistance.

Crawley also thanked FirstBank for its contribution.

“These funds will impact and empower hundreds of young lives at our remodeled facility in the coming years,” he said.

For more information about Stepping Stones, visit

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