Tech Gives Back, a fundraising effort, raised $300,000 for the Community Emergency Relief Fund’s efforts to combat food insecurity and support youth employment at local nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Those of us working in the tech sector appreciate being in Durango, where we can work hard, play hard and raise our families,” said John Witchel, former GitPrime president, in a news release. “We are honored to give back to a community that has been so supportive of our business endeavors.”
Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, which oversees CERF, said the $300,000 donation is a “great milestone” and will “enable us to support the nonprofit community in new and creative ways.”
The foundation disbursed $100,000 to about 30 organizations that support food security and distribute locally sourced perishables. Focusing on locally sourced food items also allowed the foundation to support local agriculture businesses and nonprofits.
Youth employment was a focus because “opportunities for teens to work largely dried up due to the pandemic,” Wrinkle said.
The foundation disbursed $100,000 to Southwest Conservation Corps, 11 nonprofits with AmeriCorps members and Sonlight, a youth employment program.
With the funding, Southwest Conservation Corps’ high school conservation crews will get hands-on conservation experience and learn about teamwork, leadership and work ethic.
SCC Youth Programs Manager Teresa DiTore said the feasibility of youth crews was uncertain because of COVID-19 adaptations needed to ensure health and safety.
Crew sizes were reduced from 67 to 39 and fewer crew members could ride in each vehicle. Costs associated with adaptations were major challenges, and the foundation’s grant helped to pay those costs.
Roseann McDermott, SCC’s grants and agreement manager, said they had 100% retention this summer and members put in 5,200 hours of service work.
Sonlight, a nonprofit that runs summer youth camps in Pagosa Springs, employs college students in a variety of positions. Sonlight’s website reported that the foundation’s grant supported half the salaries of Sonlight’s college-age staff members.
The remaining money, earmarked for general operating support for nonprofits, is being held for future use in the fall and winter.
Wrinkle said the decision to hold the money was because of the uncertainty of “what will happen with COVID and knowing where the money will be needed most.”
Over the next few months, the foundation will reassess the community’s needs and will look toward human services organizations first when making decisions about funding.