When I moved to Carbondale before Christmas 2018, I wanted to send a taste of Colorado back to friends and family in my native Minnesota. One day, while waiting for a table at The Village Smithy, I found a display rack filled with greeting cards, each decorated with a photo featuring the iconic beauty of the Roaring Fork Valley.
That was my introduction to Tom’s Door, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Carbondale resident Rosie McSwain, provides emergency assistance to residents from Aspen to Parachute. With support from its community partners, Tom’s Door assists with basic needs such as food, housing utilities, transportation and medical and mental healthcare expenses.
River Valley Ranch (RVR) resident, and Tom’s Door volunteer, Sidney Poncelet is instrumental in assuring the festive red Tom’s Door makes an appearance at RVR’s Ranch House.
Now in its sixth year, the door, decorated with an evergreen wreath and 35 gift tags, encourages RVR residents to make a gift card donation. Poncelet shared that 25 gift cards are designated for senior citizens and 10 to help families in need. McSwain’s inspiration for Tom’s Door stems from when she and her husband, Frank, lived in Minnesota and attended the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in a Minneapolis suburb.
“The priest there was Arnie Weber. What Father Weber did was tape checks to his door for people who called for assistance, and they called it Arnie’s Door,” McSwain explained.
After moving to Colorado, the McSwains took an anniversary trip to Marble, where Rosie took photos, and “when I came back, a light went on.”
McSwain started making greeting cards with her own photos, and then her friends added their photos to the mix. In those early days, they sat around McSwain’s dining room table assembling the cards. Tom’s Door now partners with the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver Western Slope, Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork Schools, Reach-Out Colorado, the River Center and, their latest ally-in-giving, Stepping Stones. McSwain said, “We decided to meet with the agencies that called us the most and invited them to be our partners.”
Natasha Lucero-Conklin, development director at the Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork Schools, said, “Our decades-long partnership with Tom’s Door is an excellent example of an important community collaboration.” She added, “Since the onset of the pandemic, the most significant increase in requests have been for rent and housing resources.” A registered nurse by training, McSwain said of her business acumen, “I have no business savvy — I’m just heart, passion and a worker.”
However, over the last 20 years, McSwain estimated, “We’ve probably given over a million and a half dollars.” And they run a lean organizational model. McSwain shared, “We spend only about 4% of our revenue on cardstock, postage and miscellaneous supplies. We’ve nipped and tucked and now we have a very efficient, well-run organization.”
With no paid staff, about 100 Tom’s Door volunteers assemble each season’s greeting cards. McSwain said volunteers also replenish cards and swap out seasonal inventories at seller locations. Tom’s Door also counts the support of private businesses. One day, Charla Belinski, an associate pastor at Snowmass Chapel, made a trip to pick-up Christmas card photos from a local photo processing business.
Belinski stood in line behind local professional photographer Bob Boylan, “peeking over his shoulder, looking at these beautiful photos.” McSwain said, “Bob is the kind of guy that you can approach.” So Belinkski told Boylan about Tom’s Door and, as McSwain recalled, “He said, ‘Oh, I’d love to be a part of that!’” He has been contributing ever since.
Kelly Sarno, who worked for Digitech, a former digital imaging and photography firm in Glenwood Springs, now works out of her home taking care of all of Tom’s Door’s photo printing needs.
For more information about Tom’s Door and locations where greeting cards can be purchased, go to: www.tomsdoor.com