Community Foundation awards inaugural county fund grant to Habitat for Humanity

 Photo courtesy Cayce Brown/Habitat for Humanity Archuleta County
The Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado awards the inaugural Archuleta County Fund grant to Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County. Left to right: Susan Buchner, Archuleta Committee chair of the Community Foundation; Leah Ballard, Habitat for Humanity home services coordinator; Kate Crawford, Habitat for Humanity board president; Tracy Pope, Community Foundation deputy director.

By Tracy Pope | Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado

The Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado has awarded its first grant from the Archuleta County Fund, awarding $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County in support of its workforce housing initiatives. 

Fundraising for the Archuleta County Fund was started in 2018 by a Community Foundation committee of local volunteers. After a $50,000 match by the Community Foundation last year, an advisory group was formed to consider the most pressing local issues facing Archuleta County residents currently. Habitat Archuleta’s work to address affordable housing solutions for families who live and work in Archuleta County quickly caught the attention of the advisory group. 

“Our advisory committee met a couple of times to discuss options for this new, unsolicited granting opportunity,” said Susan Buchner, chair of the Archuleta Committee of the Community Foundation. “Affordable housing was an area of interest immediately, and the work that Habitat has undertaken to address those issues was recognized.”

Habitat Archuleta is expanding capacity in an effort to meet the needs of the community. It is finishing up two 2022 builds and simultaneously getting started on three 2023 builds, with a commitment to build 15 homes over five years. This is an increase from one build per year for the last 28 years.

“Contributions to our general fund are especially important to us because flexible donations allow us to allocate funds to any operations gap we’ve identified,” said Leah Ballard, homeowner services coordinator for Habitat Archuleta. 

Part of Habitat’s work is educating the public about the vital contributions its partner families offer Pagosa, especially in terms of vibrant community relationships and economic impacts. These families purchase the homes they help build. They are providing a significant benefit to Pagosa by adding to the workforce housing stock and committing to the deed restrictions attached to the purchase.

Habitat Archuleta also offers Rural Development loans to anyone in the area who meets the income requirements. These loans, which can be used like any conventional loan from a bank, are part of the solution to Pagosa’s workforce housing shortage.

“Being selected by the Community Foundation is an honor because the people who contribute to the Community Foundation know us on a local level,” added Ballard. “It feels like a personal vote of confidence coming from our neighbors, compared with grants awarded from a national level or coming in from Denver.”

The $10,000 unsolicited Community Foundation grant was comprised of $5,000 designated directly from the Archuleta County Fund and $5,000 matched from the Community Foundation’s Open Hand Fund, a donor-advised fund started by a local Pagosa family, increasing the impact of the County Fund’s inaugural grant.

The County Fund’s advisory group of stakeholders includes two local Community Foundation members of the Archuleta Committee, one Foundation staff member and two at-large local community members. 

All grant recommendations are approved by the Foundation’s board of directors. Granting will occur annually, and the Archuleta County Fund continues to accept donations at Click the donate button and select the Archuleta County Fund to help sustain future granting for local Pagosa nonprofits. 

“The Community Foundation has been in existence for more than 20 years serving a five-county region of southwest Colorado,” said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation. “We’ve had a strong connection in Pagosa during my tenure as executive director, with board representation and a local committee in Archuleta County partnering with us for almost 10 years, helping us to increase funding and educational opportunities both donors and nonprofits.” 

The Foundation has awarded more than $150,000 to Archuleta nonprofits in the last seven years through the 19th Hole Concerts, the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) and the Open Hand Fund.

“With the addition of the Archuleta County Fund granting, we are excited to increase our impact in the Pagosa area for the benefit of all who live here,” added Wrinkle. “We are especially excited to add weekly office hours in Pagosa beginning in 2023 where Foundation staff will be available for more in-person meetings, deepening our relationships with area nonprofits, businesses and philanthropists.” 

In addition to the recent Habitat Archuleta grant, the Foundation is also supporting the establishment of the Early Childhood Council of Archuleta County (ECCAC) through a $4,000 CERF recovery grant. The Community Foundation also provides fiscal sponsorship for the new start up. The ECCAC was created by a group of local stakeholders to address critical needs in early childhood resources. The ECCAC’s mission is to foster and sustain a comprehensive, high-quality, accessible early childhood system. 

“The ECCAC appreciates the guidance, financial support and encouragement from the Community Foundation,” said Laura Mijares, director of the ECCAC. “We are a fledgling but important organization supporting the families and institutions serving Archuleta’s youngest residents. The Community Foundation’s backing has allowed us to plan our first year of work strategically.” 

As a community facilitator, the Community Foundation works to increase sustainability and success for nonprofits while maximizing effective grantmaking for philanthropists to make southwest Colorado a better place to live.