Valley-Wide Health Systems President/CEO Gigi Darricades talks about successful partnerships involved in the annual “Share the Magic” fund-raiser. La Puente Director Lance Cheslock is at right.
Courier photo by Ruth Heide
ALAMOSA — For those who enjoyed Adams State University’s opening night of “Robin Hood” last November, the event was a fun night out.
For the recipients of that “Share the Magic” fund-raiser, the night was a lifesaver.
Valley-Wide Health Systems yesterday presented a check for $53,582 from the annual “Share the Magic” event it hosts with Adams State to benefit La Puente shelter home and associated outreach services.
“This community rocks,” said La Puente Director Lance Cheslock.
He said La Puente could have no better partners than Valley-Wide and Adams State in providing such support as the annual “Share the Magic” fund-raiser, which in recent years has incorporated a play at the ASU theater.
“We are truly grateful,” Cheslock said.
Valley-Wide Health Systems President/CEO Gigi Darricades, who presented the money to Cheslock on Monday, said, “This is really a fun partnership with all of us here. I think we are all so committed to making this work.”
Adams State University President David Svaldi added, “We enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”
Darricades specifically thanked Jackie Scheidegger at Valley-Wide and James Trujillo at Adams State for their efforts in putting the event together.
She said she also appreciated the SLV Development Resources Group for processing enterprise zone contributions.
“They are part of the partnership that makes it so successful,” she said.
Members of La Puente’s leadership team shared with Valley-Wide and Adams State representatives what the “Share the Magic” event meant to them in terms of how it helps them assist members of the community who are in need. They thanked the sponsoring organizations and told them about some of the needs in their programs they hoped their share of this funding would assist.
For example, PALS Director Tim Dellett said he hoped the children served through PALS would be able to make a CD this year. The CD could be used as a fund-raiser and thank-you gift. PALS (Positive Activities Lead to Success) currently serves 20 children. Most of those kids have had a rough start, Dellett explained. He spoke about one preschooler who recently entered PALS after being thrown out of three other programs because of behavior problems. So far, he has been doing well with PALS, Dellett said.
His story, like many others in the PALS group, “is pretty rough,” Dellett said.
He said Alamosa County has one of the highest reported rates of child abuse, neglect and mistreatment, and PALS addresses the effects of those dire cases. It also assists youngsters who are staying at La Puente, Dellett explained.
In addition to the CD project, Dellett said the PALS program needs new flooring and a new van.
Dellett thanked Adams State for the support it gives year round to PALS. For example, PALS youth enjoy the climbing wall, and many athletic teams are sharing their time with the kids, like the volleyball team that will be spending time with them next week.
Leaders of La Puente’s other services shared their needs and gratitude as well:
• The outreach program, which assists with emergency needs, had to turn away 258 requests recently for energy assistance, 180 for rental assistance and more who had other crisis needs. The money from “Share the Magic” will help prevent evictions and provide a match for a grant for energy assistance.
“Everything you do makes such a difference in the lives of the community members we serve,” Outreach Service Director Mary Jane Cisneros told Valley-Wide and Adams State representatives.
• La Puente shelter home is not only a homeless shelter where 55 people stayed in the 45-bed facility nightly in January, but it is also a soup kitchen that served 3,775 meals to La Puente guests, travelers and community members in January, Shelter Director Tona Ruybal explained.
“We are a living room and a dining room and a coffeehouse,” she said.
She said the shelter’s part of the “Share the Magic” funds would assist with such basic needs as mattresses. The wear and tear at the shelter requires special mattresses that run about $200 for full size.
“We are in need of those right now,” Ruybal said.
Another urgent need is a freezer, she said.
On behalf of staff as well as those who come into the shelter to find a warm place to sleep, she thanked Valley-Wide, ASU and others who made “Share the Magic” successful.
• Food is another basic need that will be met through the magic of the annual fund-raiser. Mary Ellen “Mel” Huss, the only paid staff member for the 13 food banks in the San Luis Valley, said the need for emergency food for Valley families continues to grow. The number of food bank clients increased 8 percent between 2011 and 2012, she said, with 13,200 residents, or 27 percent of the Valley’s population, receiving food assistance. That is one in four households in the Valley, Huss pointed out.
Huss said her goal is to acquire quality food at good prices, not just a bunch of cheap noodles but also low-sodium canned corn and tuna packed in water, for example. She operates on a budget of $40,000 a year for food and makes every penny count.
• “Share the Magic” is an example of how generous our community is,” Jeff Owsley said. Owsley oversees the business enterprises of La Puente such as the Hunt Avenue Boutique, Rainbow End stores in Alamosa and Monte Vista and the Milagros Coffeehouse.
Owsley said one of the new and exciting ventures La Puente is undertaking is helping people start their own enterprises. The primary focus is Adelante participants, those coming out of homelessness into self sufficiency.
• AmeriCorps volunteers will also benefit from “Share the Magic.” Amy Scavezze, volunteer coordination director, said four cars used by the volunteers are currently inoperable, so the group of AmeriCorps volunteers who help keep things running at La Puente need to be able to keep running themselves. There are 23 full-time AmeriCorps volunteers and three other full-time volunteers in the Valley as well as four AmeriCorps volunteers in Grand Junction and two in Cortez under Scavezze’s coordination.
“We have a lot of people volunteering and without Share the Magic we wouldn’t be able to support that community,” Scavezze said.
• “You share the magic with us,” Dores Jay-Pang, Adelante coordinator, told the sponsors who put on the “Share the Magic” event.
She said Adelante and other La Puente programs depend greatly on that “magic” every year.
One of the goals of those going through Adelante is to earn degrees, enter business or obtain employment that will help them become self sufficient, Jay-Pang explained. Adelante is helping one mom earn her ADN (associate degree in nursing), for example. Adelante is also helping families start their own businesses.
Jay-Pang summed up La Puente leadership team’s gratitude by saying, “I am really happy we have this opportunity, and thank everybody who put this together for so many years and for the last year … Thank you very much.”