Tri-Lakes Cares maintains its mission as northern El Paso County changes

click to enlarge The region's high cost of living can pose a challenge. - COURTESY OF TRI-LAKES CARES

  • Courtesy of Tri-Lakes Cares
  • The region’s high cost of living can pose a challenge.

Tri-Lakes Cares will turn 36 years old in January, and in its nearly four decades of service, the nonprofit has made life better for countless residents living in the northern stretches of El Paso County. But TLC has a lot of balls in the air and sometimes needs a helping hand of its own.

“We are the only health and human service organization up here so we’re kind of forced to be the jack of all trades,” says Haley Chapin, TLC’s executive director. “We’re a one-stop shop for people needing medical care and mental health counseling, food and clothing, holiday gifts, case management, financial assistance and school supplies. We kind of have to do it all. We try to do everything and do it well. But we don’t have the luxury of other nonprofits and exist in a specific niche.

“We do what we can up here to meet the needs of community members living in northern El Paso County.”

So what’s needed most?

“Housing and utilities remains the highest need,” Chapin says. “Definitely because of the cost, and we can’t get that donated. I can work all day long and get medical care donated, food items and school supplies and holiday supplies — the community jumps all over those very tangible needs.

“Occasionally we work with different providers to get services filled, like a dentist or ophthalmologist,” she adds, “and we have people who help with resumé writing and job coaching — those sorts of things.

“But rent and utilities are still areas where we need grant money, and as the needs increase, we can’t offset that cost through donations.”

Chapin says costs are “astronomical” in the northern stretches of the county.

“We had a client the other day in a case management session. They live in a trailer park and they’re renting the trailer. The rent is $1,500 a month,” she says.

TLC has participated in the Give! Campaign in the past and Chapin says it provides her organization an opportunity to get in front of a potentially younger donor base.

“That’s a huge thing,” she says. “Our donor base is older, so to target a young base that can be a support over the next few years is huge for us.”

And those who want to finance a specific program can consider donating one of TLC’s self-sufficiency classes.

“We run the Getting Ahead Program, which stems out of the Bridges Out of Poverty teaching. It’s a 12- to 15-week program where clients commit to coming once a week to learn about the differences between poverty, middle-class and wealth.

“They learn about how one particular item can be viewed differently by classes, so how values are different and how when they are trying to move from poverty into middle-class, that the norms might be different and what is expected might be different.

“You could take something like food and they’ll learn that in poverty food is, ‘Did you have enough?’ In the middle-class it’s looked at as, ‘Did it taste good?’ In wealth it’s, ‘Was it presented pretty?’

“We look at time, money, food, all sorts of things through those lenses. They learn about social capital and that if they want to move into a different class they need to socialize with those people and mimic those behaviors and dress and speak like those people.”

The program is a little over $1,000 per student (at no cost to the clients), day care is available and they are compensated in gift cards for their time.