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DAR presents Community Service Award

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution established the Community Service Award in 1995 to recognize worthy individuals or groups for outstanding voluntary service unrelated to DAR activities.

Although this award is given by individual chapters, the nominations must be approved at the national level which first requires approval by the state and division chairs. The recipient must have contributed to his or her community in an outstanding voluntary heroic, civic, or benevolent manner or have participated in or organized community activities. This year, the Sarah Platt Decker Chapter, NSDAR of Durango selected Mary Kay Carpenter and Janet Nordmann of Pagosa Springs to receive this award.

Mary Kay and Janet are the co-founders of a unique new charitable fund-raising event in Pagosa Springs. Art in the Garden was developed as a way to increase funding for the Community Assistance Fund of the Community United Methodist Church. The first event was held in 2008 and was a great success raising $8,000. In 2009, the two women met their goal of increasing proceeds by 50%.

The Community Assistance Fund provides financial help with rent or mortgage payments, utility costs, gasoline, prescription vouchers, and many other basic needs. The recipients are provided with vouchers for the goods or services needed, cash is never disbursed. The majority of the funding for this program comes from donations made by the 160 members of the Community United Methodist Church. However, true to its name of “Community” Assistance, the recipients are not required to be members of the Methodist Church, or even to have any religious affiliation. Assistance is provided to all who are in need.

Donations to the Community Assistance Fund in 2006 and 2007 were approximately $19,000 each year with donations in 2007 about $500 less than the prior year. The local economy in Pagosa Springs is dependent on tourism, real estate, and construction of retirement and second homes, all sectors hard hit recently. Requests for assistance were increasing at a time when the supporters of the program were not able to substantially increase their donations. And in fact, in 2008, donations to the fund were continuing to decline. Mary Kay and Janet looked for a way to find a new source of funding that would involve the community outside of the church. The idea they came up with was “Art in the Garden.”

Art in the Garden takes places on a summer afternoon. For a $30 admission ticket, attendees have an opportunity to see local artists at work, drawing, painting and sculpting; musicians, vocalists, and poets perform throughout the event; and elegant and delicious food is served. Art work is also on display and for sale. All of the participating artists donate 30% of their sales to the Community Assistance Fund. A special festival poster is for sale, and this year sets of note cards featuring the beautiful setting of the event were also sold. By bringing together over 100 volunteers (musicians, artists, cooks, servers, ticket takers, traffic control, valet parkers) and soliciting donations of money and equipment, the cost of producing the event is kept low and they are able to maximize the donation to the Community Assistance Fund. After only two years, Art in the Garden is already regarded as one of the highlights the Pagosa social calendar.

The inaugural event in 2008 was planned for 200 attendees and was a sellout. Almost $8,000 was donated to the Community Assistance Fund to supplement the $17,600 raised through donations to the church. For 2009, Mary Kay and Janet set their sights even higher. The event moved to a bigger venue. They printed 400 tickets and set a goal of raising $12,000. Once again the event sold out. Not only were they able to donate the target amount of $12,000 to the Community Assistance Fund, but as a result of the increased awareness of the fund, regular donations through the church have increased as well.

This year, they are applying for tax exempt nonprofit status through the IRS and operate independently of the church, although the proceeds from the event will continue to be donated to the Community Assistance Fund. There are many organizations that would like to be a part of this effort but are restricted by their bylaws from doing so while the event operates as part of a faith based organization. By becoming an independent nonprofit, Art in the Garden will be able to continue to grow.

The Sarah Platt Decker Chapter, NSDAR is proud to recognize Mary Kay Carpenter and Janet Nordmann with the Community Service Award. Their creativity and outstanding energy and enthusiasm have resulted in a major increase in funding to provide much needed financial assistance to those in need in Pagosa Springs. These two women provided outstanding leadership, inspiring others to join them to make their dream a reality and provide help and hope to those less fortunate in our community.

The 2010 Art in the Garden is scheduled for Aug. 21. If you would like to volunteer to help with this year’s event or would like to make a donation to the Community Assistance Fund, contact the Methodist Church at 264-5508.

The Sarah Platt Decker chapter, organized in 1917, is one of 40 chapters in Colorado. Meetings are held once a month from September through May in Durango. The 80-member chapter includes women from Durango, Pagosa Springs, Chromo, and Bayfield. The DAR promotes historic preservation, education, and patriotism. Membership is open to any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a Patriot of the American Revolution. Members of the chapter are willing to provide guidance and assistance in the preparation of your application. Those women interested in membership can find information on the chapter’s Web site, or by calling Sandy Howe, Chapter Regent, 731-1274.