Aspen Community Foundation

By Jacquelinne Castro

When the pandemic hit last year, our community realized the difficulty that many families go through, even when emergencies like COVID aren’t exasperating circumstances. For this reason, the Aspen Community Foundation and Pitkin County Human Services saw a need for extra support. Suddenly, many families encountered financial and medical problems and were unable to find the right resources.

One year after the impacts from COVID began, we continue to see repercussions of the virus, including financial hardships. Consequently, the Aspen Community Foundation is connecting people in need with already existing support through a new program. The Bringing Resources Program, temporarily funded by Pitkin County and Aspen Community Foundation’s Rescue and COVID Regional Response Funds, is led by coordinator Joseline Rivas. In essence, the goal is to connect people in disadvantaged circumstances with the right resources while also bringing awareness to choices available to overcome financial and medical needs.

Rivas applied to serve as coordinator for the temporary program back in February. She was born in El Salvador and arrived in the United States when she was seven years old. She grew up in New Castle, Rifle and later on moved to Texas after high school. Eventually, she decided to come back to the valley. Throughout her life, Joseline has sought to help families like her own and she enjoys listening to and meeting people. All of this has led her to pursue a career in service to the community.

Rivas started working for the Roaring Fork School District in 2017 and applied for the Aspen Community Foundation position in search of encouraging more equality in the valley and helping to lift up people with economic needs. When she started working with Aspen Community Foundation, she found it “very heartwarming to hear that people are receiving help…” and in cases where people don’t manage to get the right help, she sees a need to “try and continue to work with them and get them to the right place.”

Rivas explained that the Bridging Resources Program aims to connect people with services across the valley, from Aspen to Parachute. So far, the program has received the most calls for assistance from Rifle, Glenwood and Carbondale. In all, 51 callers have been referred to community resources and agencies, with a majority identifying as part of the Hispanic community.

Nonetheless, according to Rivas, persons of diverse backgrounds are calling. Perhaps the greatest obstacle for some, she shares, is overcoming shame in asking for assistance.

This program covers economic aid, mostly focusing on rental assistance, and also helps with mental wellness, COVID testing and signing up for COVID shots.

How it works

The process to request help begins with calling a navigator (970-456-1091) and leaving a voicemail describing needs. Within 24 hours, the person will receive a return call with suggested resources. Later on, a follow-up email is sent to ask if the person received the help they needed.

Rivas also explained that because the program started only recently, it still faces several challenges and aims to adapt and improve according to each person’s needs. There’s more to learn, yet they envision a program that supports the community in a timely and easy way.

Persons with difficulty asking for help, perhaps feeling a sense of embarrassment, are encouraged to reach out. The program is scheduled to end in December unless high demand makes the need for it to continue apparent.

To contact Bridging Resources, call Fernanda Flesner at 970-456-1091. All information is kept confidential.