Southeastern Conference football, tailgating and Tiger Stadium - these are three things that describe the community of
Baton Rouge, La. These are also three things I have been lucky enough to experience during the last three years at
Louisiana State University.
I love school and the South, but I am so happy to have returned to Durango for the summer. I am a Durango High School
graduate and have been fortunate to receive a summer internship at United Way of Southwest Colorado working in public
In the last three weeks, I have learned more about Durango than I did in seven years of living here. Durango is more
than just the great views, the mountains and the skiing. It is a community that comes together to help one another.
After speaking to several nonprofit organizations that United Way funds, I realize what an amazing place Durango
truly is. There are many organizations that are making a difference in this small town.
I spoke with Michael Rendon, mayor of Durango and director of Sexual Assault Services Organization, and learned about
the many programs SASO offers men and women who have been sexually assaulted. It offers a 24-hour hot line, and at
least one staff member is always on call to listen to a victim or to proceed to the hospital for a recently assaulted
victim. SASO is dedicated to its victim-support services.
SASO has also implemented a few prevention programs such as Child Assault Prevention Program. This program teaches
children their rights to be safe, strong and free. Another prevention program for middle and high school youths is
the Bystander Intervention Facilitator. This program is focused on intervening effectively as bystanders. SASO is a
phenomenal organization that is helping keep community members safe and supported.
Another organization United Way supports is Girl Scouts of Colorado. When most people think of Girl Scouts, the first
thing that comes to mind is cookies. This might have been the case 20 years ago, but today, Girl Scouts is about the
three C's: courage, confidence and character. After speaking with Karen Rose about the Girl Scouts of Colorado, I
learned that members focus on many aspects of life including living healthy, going green, gaining confidence and
taking an early interest in science, technology, engineering and math. In today's society, young girls need programs
like these more than ever to help them learn and grow.
The final organization I spoke with was Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County. Tracy Cornutt explained to me that
Habitat does not give homes away but instead requires homeowners to work for their homes. Homeowners contribute
between 350 and 500 hours of "sweat equity" before they move into a home. They also take classes about homeowner
education, budgeting and maintenance. Habitat believes in giving "a hand up, not a hand out." Habitat is making
families' dreams come true by allowing them to be homeowners in La Plata County.
After recognizing how many great organizations are located in this small town, it makes me proud to call Durango
home. Some might say Durango is just a tourist town, but for me, Durango is a community of people who care for one
another and help make the city a better place.
Katie Thompson is a Durango High School graduate, attends Louisiana State University and is an intern at United Way
of Southwest Colorado.