Article Appeared in Redstone Review
By Kristen Bruckner
Jean Welch had a goal of living 30,000 days. On December 9th, 2014 she accomplished that goal and decided that she wanted to pay it forward. When the incredibly hearty 82-year old resident of Big Elk Meadows realized that it was also “Colorado Gives” day, she seized the opportunity to share her good fortune. Ms. Welch decided that she would donate to the Lyons Community Foundation $1 for every 1,000 days that she’d been on the planet. While she claims her $30 contribution “isn’t much”, her sentiment and generous spirit represent an immeasurable gift. When the flood hit Big Elk in 2013 she had the same resilient, giving attitude. “We all lived through such a horrible experience, but everyone stepped forward and helped each other. We need to keep that spirit going and stay committed to helping our neighbors. People get comfortable and are afraid of stepping out of the box”. As an adult, Ms. Welch had previously lived in a flood-prone area of Texas and was no stranger to flooding. As she describes, “you just have to deal with it, rebuild and move on. We can’t forget the lessons that we have learned about helping others in need”. If an 82 year old can manage to return to her home in the mountains, reach out to other neighbors, donate on-line and share her sentiments on Facebook, others should be so inspired.
As powerful as Ms. Welch’s story is, the efforts of big groups and gifts from unexpected sources are also the heroes to the Lyons Community Foundation in 2014. Cyclists4Community, a nonprofit formed after the floods, raised over $150,000 benefitting flood-ravaged communities around the region. The local contingent of this group, Cyclists4Lyons raised $40,000 during the benefit held on the one-year anniversary of the floods. Scores of volunteers, cyclists, politicians, residents and visitors came together that weekend to enjoy bike races, silent and live auctions, music, food and craft beer in a festive atmosphere in Bohn Park to commemorate Lyons’ progress made over the year. While the event held mixed emotions for many residents, particularly those not yet home, it was a great success in focusing on accomplishments, emphasizing hope, and raising money for rebuilding moving forward.
Emily Dusel, Executive Director of the Lyons Community Foundation reports “We are still seeing people contribute from all over the country. The letters and stories that I read from those reaching out to help are truly heartwarming. Even though the flood is largely out of the media now, the sentiments of locals as well as strangers remain strong. People are incredibly generous and thoughtful and contribute in whatever ways they are able”. One long-time local resident encouraged loved ones to contribute to LCF in his wife’s memory, in lieu of sending flowers. Donations from other former and current residents come in checks big and small with notes of encouragement. Even the jam-band Phish from Vermont gave a $50,000 donation through its philanthropic arm, the WaterWheel Foundation.
Rebuilding and recovery will be part of the landscape here in Lyons for many years to come. Recent efforts funded by LCF and LEAF (Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund) have included hiring a flood rebuild advocate, a displaced resident advocate, and a manufactured home analyst, all designed to assist those residents most affected by the flood.
In addition to the work dedicated to flood recovery, the LCF is proud of accomplishments made in 2014 that speak to its core mission of enhancing life in the greater Lyons area. Through its annual Community Support Grants giving cycle, the LCF has been able to make contributions both large and small. Recent awards have included buying new equipment for the Lyons Youth Baseball and Softball Association, supporting local art and music, and enriching school literacy, math and science programs in Lyons schools.
The importance of providing for basic human needs for our towns most vulnerable remains a key tenant of the foundation’s work. Aided by an LCF grant, the Lyons Community Church basement has been renovated allowing for handicap access in addition to dramatically improved access the Lyons Food Pantry, which is housed in the church. Locals may not realize that the pantry feeds roughly 5% of the Lyons population who are living in poverty every week. Other Community Support Grants assisting Lyons Seniors and the 9Health Fair assure we are addressing the needs of those who need it most.
As we have seen by the amazing examples of Jean Welch, Cyclists4Lyons and others, generosity and perseverance can come from unexpected sources and are critical to the spirit and strength of a community.
The Lyons Community Foundation exists to improve the quality of life, build a culture of giving, and encourage positive change in the greater Lyons area. The LCF is gratefully accepting tax deductible contributions that may be applied to Community Support Grants, Flood Relief/Rebuild Lyons, or Scholarships. For more information or to make a donation please visit www.lyonscf.org or call 720.29LYONS.
Kristen Bruckner is the communications specialist for the Lyons Community Foundation. She lives in Lyons with her husband and three children.
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