REGIONAL (December 5)—In the beginning, it was one man’s dream—when Frank and the late Mary Koenig started the Montrose non-profit Sharing Ministries 16 years ago, it was a natural continuation of Frank’s life work as a minister. Today, that dream is a vital reality, providing meals to more than 5,000 people each month. And while Frank Koenig, now 93, no longer drives the donation van or volunteers himself, he still visits the non-profit organization on a regular basis, notes Office Manager Jennifer Pelligra.

“He comes in a couple of times a week,” she said. “When we had our 15th Anniversary Celebration, he sat outside and welcomed people.”

Tis the season…for sharing! Above, Montrose residents gather under the Christmas tree moments after the lighting ceremony on Nov. 23. Photo by Dave Bernier.

Koenig’s generous legacy can be seen in the more than 150 volunteers who rotate through the facility each month, bringing food and hope to those whose lives and meals are uncertain. Community support for Sharing Ministries continues to grow, but so does the need for more resources.

“We always need more volunteers,” Pelligra said. “And we can use food items, holiday meal items that people may not be able to afford, things like peanut butter and cereal.”

Personal hygiene items also make excellent donations—however, the most useful donation for this holiday season is cash.

“We always need cash,” Pelligra said. “It allows us to purchase more items from Food Bank of the Rockies.”

Contact Sharing Ministries at 970-240-8385.

Cash is also of key importance for Voices for Children-CASA of the 7th Judicial District, the nationally affiliated local organization that provides court appointed special advocates (or CASAs) for children who are victims and abuse and neglect and caught up in the court system.

“We’re only able to serve 30 percent of the current caseload. We need more funding to provide training and resources so that more CASA volunteers can help more children in need,” said CASA Development Director Stacey Ryan.

According to statistics cited in the Denver Post last month, a Colorado child dies from abuse and neglect on an average of every 30 days—and most of these children were already in the child welfare “system.” More than 40 percent of the children who died of abuse and neglect in the last six years in Colorado had families or caregivers known to child protection workers who could have saved them, according to the Post.

A statement drafted by CASA in Colorado (the state level CASA organization) in response to the recent Denver Post articles notes that, “One of the primary roles played by Colorado’s network of CASA programs is to recruit, train, and supervise volunteer advocates for children and youth who have come into the court system because of allegations of child abuse and neglect. Under the direction of the presiding judge, formally trained CASA volunteers engage with the child or youth and their network of caregivers, such as parents, foster parents, teachers, doctors and therapists, case workers, Guardian ad Litem attorneys, and others. CASA volunteers provide additional eyes and ears to the cases on which they serve. Volunteers participate as independent child advocates and formalize their observations and recommendations in written reports used by the courts to assist in the complex and difficult decision-making process directly affecting the child or youth.”

Here in the Seventh Judicial District, Voices for Children works closely with county health and human service departments and other child advocacy groups to ensure that no child falls through the cracks.

“It is not that our social workers are not doing their jobs—they are,” Ryan said. “It is that the system is truly overwhelmed.”

“A CASA volunteer assigned to a child’s case makes sure that the child’s interests are not forgotten,” she said. “In fact, a CASA provides a voice for a child who would otherwise go unheard. Becoming a CASA volunteer is a powerful way for concerned citizens to make a difference in their communities.

“Our approach works,” she added. “When we can reach a child in need, his or her life changes—for the better.”

For opportunities to volunteer, donate, and for more information about Voices for Children, please call (970) 249-0337.

For Volunteers of America Home Health, an organization that provides support and community for those who need it most throughout Western Colorado, volunteers top the 2012-2013 wish list, according to Director of Outreach Eva Veitch.

At Dream Catcher Therapy Center in Olathe, volunteers and community involvement are the top items on Santa’s list this season. Bill and Kathy Hamm’s non-profit organization gets horses involved in the healing process through hippotherapy. Founded in 1996, Dream Catcher Therapy Center’s mission is to “foster an environment to effectively rescue and rehabilitate horses and empower people with physical and mental health challenges through interaction with horses in a unique, clinical setting.”

The Hamms also operate End of the Trail Horse Rescue, a non-profit horse sanctuary.

“We are actually over budget, which is a nice thing,” said Kathy Hamm. “But Bill (57) is going overseas again (Hamm serves in the National Guard). So we really need community involvement—quality, dedicated volunteers to work in the office or around horses.”

Dedicated non-profit board members are also welcome, she said.

Reach Dream Catcher Therapy Center at 970-323-5400.

In Ridgway, a group of dedicated locals have banded together as the Ridgway Chautauqua Society to save the historic Sherbino Theater (604 Clinton Street) as a venue for community events.

“We have a $25,000 match grant that ends Dec 31st…so donations are our wish!” board member Brian Scranton said.

Contact the Ridgway Chautauqua Society at 970-201-8570.