Home Therapeutic relationship La Plata County Commissioners Approve ARPA Funding for Social Impact Projects – The Durango Herald

La Plata County Commissioners Approve ARPA Funding for Social Impact Projects – The Durango Herald

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$3.5 million will fund 13 projects addressing issues ranging from food security to therapeutic intervention with youth

La Plata County donated $800,000 to address county food insecurity on a systemic level. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

La Plata County announced Oct. 28 that it will be awarding the final $3.5 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to 13 different projects throughout the county.

County commissioners have earmarked $3.5 million of the $10.9 million in total ARPA funds to address the social, health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects will receive grants ranging from $25,000 to $800,000.

The county awarded a $60,000 contract to the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado to review the proposals and make the designations. The foundation began its review in early July and submitted a recommendation to the commissioners within about three weeks. About 60 proposals were submitted to the county, but not all were submitted by an eligible nonprofit. The Community Foundation received approximately 15 proposals for consideration.

“There was a lot of reading, highlighting, and reconciliation,” said Community Foundation executive director Briggen Wrinkle. “And then we talked to every organization that was given to us by the county and said, ‘Is this a viable project? Can you really do this? »

Commissioner Matt Salka said the awards were all intended to fund long-term projects that already exist but are looking to expand. The funding helps ensure that their reach extends beyond the current generation. He called the opportunity to provide this level of funding “once in a lifetime”.

“The county’s goal was to do a legacy-type generational change,” Wrinkle said. “You can’t do that if you ask for $100,000 and I give you $5,000. The Community Foundation team was very strategic in giving almost 100% wherever we could.

Salka said the money is being used to address some of the most talked about issues facing voters, including food insecurity, homeless families, mental health support, libraries and education.

Some of the projects he is most excited about include the expansion of library services in rural areas, the continued growth of food safety awareness services offered by Pine River Shares, and the new water filling station that La Plata West Water Authority will install on the dry side of the county. .

“Currently, as it stands, the closest is Durango,” Salka said of the station. “Now they don’t have to go far if they want to fill a water tank to bring water home.”

The top award went to a coalition of organizations that each submitted proposals to address the county’s food security needs. In an effort to encourage collaboration and stretch every dollar, Wrinkle said the foundation chose to award $800,000 to the cause, but did not specify how much money each organization would receive.

Rachel Landis, director of the Good Food Collective, said organizations dealing with food security have unified under the La Plata Food Equity Coalition and hired a facilitator. The coalition is in the process of resubmitting a collective proposal for its projects, which will be done by early December.

“I strongly believe that synergies only materialize when you’re all in the same room,” Wrinkle said. “I wanted these guys to build the relationship, see how they could work together, see how they could maximize effort and dollars, instead of me just spending money on a siled project here, here and here. . I think the community will benefit much more from the collaboration of these partners. »

Funding for the American Rescue Plan Act in La Plata County
Organization Funds allocated
Food Security Proposals (including Manna, La Plata Family Centers Coalition, Old Fort, Good Food Collective, Durango Food Bank) $800,000
La Plata Youth Services $625,000
Pine River Stock $390,000
Southwest Conservation Corps (with Great Old Broads, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Mountains Association) $350,000
United Way $350,000
Resilient Colorado $300,000
Ignacio Community Library $190,000
La Plata Food Equity Coalition $115,000
La Plata West Water Authority 100,000
South West Housing Solutions $55,000
Oak Tree Youth Resources $40,000
La Plata County Collaborative Management $25,000
First local foundation $25,000

The La Plata Food Equity Coalition will tackle food insecurity at a systemic level, Landis said.

“It’s all about systems,” she emphasized. “We are not trying to put our fingers in the dam even though we realize there is a hunger crisis at the moment. This crisis is going to continue unless we can really change some of the background on this.

The coalition’s approach will cover several elements of the food system, from the social stigma surrounding food insecurity among young people and support for local production of healthy foods, to the development of infrastructure to improve food processing and improve the food bank’s distribution capabilities.

Landis said that while the $800,000 is a welcome resource, the whole plan is expected to cost $2.62 million. According to Feeding America’s “map the gap” tool, it would take an annual investment of $3.5 million to eradicate food insecurity in the county.

Pine River Shares plans to use the $390,000 it will receive to invest in the Farm to Fork program, which works with Pine River Valley residents to grow, harvest and store healthy food.

“It’s a multidimensional plan, because the food system has many stages. So we’ve been working quickly in that direction for a long time,” said Pine River Shares Managing Director Pam Wilhoite. “It gives us a big boost on some infrastructure like tractors and grow domes for each community. These are expensive. We set one up here on our campus last summer – it’s a $30,000 structure and it allows us to produce year-round food that we share with the community.

Jason St. Mary, executive director of La Plata Youth Services, said the organization plans to extend the $625,000 grant over the next three years to fund the Therapeutic Hub program, which caters to young people who do not succeed in a typical school setting.

La Plata Youth Services responds to the needs of young people in the community who are having trouble at home, at school, or with the law. Hub offers free therapeutic interventions for students struggling in school, social-emotional skills building support, and structured community-based extracurricular activities such as martial arts and music lessons.

The three-year program is run in partnership with the 9-R School District, La Plata County Social Services, and the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office.

“My intention is to budget these funds over three years to really ensure the sustainability of the Hub,” St. Mary said.

The program serves approximately 100 students.

“Low (student-to-adult) ratios are our saving grace so that we can provide this individualized attention and support to young people who have significant needs,” St. Mary’s said, emphasizing quality of care rather than on the number of students served.

Including many in-kind donations of unpaid labor, St. Mary’s estimates the program’s annual budget at $1.5 million to $2 million, meaning the ARPA award has a significant impact on well-being. funding for the program.

Three projects will receive funding before the end of the year: the La Plata West Water Authority filling station, the La Plata County Collaborative Management project to help stabilize families who once camped at Purple Cliffs, and the Local First Foundation to encourage health insurance literacy. The rest of the funds will be distributed in early 2023.

“This $3.5 (million) will do a lot of good and benefit us locally and in La Plata County,” Salka said.

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