Tom’s Door offers a lifeline to those in need
High Country RSVP
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“What do I have to do?” the man asked Rosie McSwain. She had just filled his car with gas. To McSwain, he looked like he was holding his breath, hoping there would be no strings attached to the gift he had just received from Tom’s Door.
“You can help someone else,” she replied.
Who is behind Tom’s Door? McSwain, a board of directors, and 75 volunteers who work passionately to provide emergency assistance for those in need to improve the quality of life for residents from Aspen to Rifle.
McSwain and her husband, Frank, came to the valley in 1999. In the community where they formerly resided, their priest, Father Arnold Weber, had a simple program for helping others. Someone would ask for assistance and the priest would tape a check to the door of the church for him or her. It became known as “Arnie’s Door.”
“When I moved here, I was so taken by the beauty of the valley,” said McSwain. “I was a retired nurse, and I was restless. I didn’t want to get a job in the hospital, but the grace instilled by Father Weber found an outlet, a way to combine sharing the beauty of our valley with helping others.”
She had an uncomplicated idea: take photos, create note cards, sell them in local retail establishments and use the proceeds to help others.
Working though St. Vincent’s Church in Basalt, remembering Arnie’s Door, and encouraged by Father Tom Bradtke, Tom’s Door was born. It became a non-profit in its own right in 2001.
Charla and Tim Belinski, Bob Boylan and many others are also behind Tom’s Door.
Tim Belinski offered photographs and drew the logo. When Charla Belinski went to Digital Dimensions to pick up the first batch of photos, Boylan, a well-known nature photographer, was also there reviewing his own photos.
They got into a conversation about Tom’s Door. Amazingly, Boylan knew and had been mentored by Father Arnold Weber, the same priest who inspired McSwain to start Tom’s Door. Boylan is now one of the main contributors of photographs for the Tom’s Door note cards.
Behind Tom’s Door are local businesses, including Digital Dimensions and Basalt Printing, providing discounts for supplies and printing, as well as photographers who contribute their art at no cost to the agency.
Each card is a tribute to where and how we live. The cards share the beauty of each season, the vistas, the wildlife, the wildflowers and the celebrations.
In 2010, Tom’s Door published more than 15,000 cards and brought in revenue of $18,350. Thirty-five retail outlets between Aspen and Rifle sell the cards. Cash donations are also necessary to carry out the agency’s mission.
“We would never be able to get along with just card sales,” McSwain said. “The note cards keep us in the public eye, but donations are the lifeblood that keep Tom’s Door growing and helping people in need.”
Tom’s Door serves everyday people who have encountered a bump in the road. The program helps those who are working hard to help themselves.
It has helped local residents by purchasing prescriptions, filling refrigerators, paying pre-school tuition – so a mom could go to work, purchasing tires, providing dental care for children, helping with medical bills and travel costs to funerals.
The calls for assistance often come from other agencies but also from individuals who read about their program. The board of directors field the calls and jointly agree to provide assistance.
This year, Tom’s Door celebrates its 10th birthday, and will be celebrating with a party for donors and businesses supporting their work.
There are many ways to join others behind Tom’s Door. Purchase their cards, send a donation, and if you are a photographer, offer your favorite photos of the Roaring Fork Valley.
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