Hometown Heroes

Hometown Heroes

We have such a wonderful community here in Grand County. Residents, businesses, and public services are the driving forces that have stepped up to help one another through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many selfless people, businesses, and organizations who have proven that they’ll go above and beyond to spread joy and comfort however they can during these tough times.

Town of Granby

Ted Cherry, Granby Town Manager, and his staff have been working extra hard to keep the Town safe and informed. Ted had recently stepped into his new role just before COVID-19 began. He says, “Workload has been strange. In the beginning I was on COVID-related conference calls for 2-4 hours per day on top of trying to stay on top of all of my normal duties. I started my role on Jan. 20th, so I was just getting into the flow of the job when things changed dramatically. I was making sure to check in with staff and trying to have regular phone calls with them. Everyone did a great job on the workload front.”

The town of Granby is working hard to ensure that all public orders from Grand County and the state of Colorado are being followed. Town Hall employees have been working reduced, in-person shifts, and also working from home when possible. Town Hall has also been closed to the public to help ensure minimal spread of the virus from this very public space.

Regarding reopening, Ted says that the town wants to make sure it is done safely. “I would like to see businesses reopened as soon as possible, but it is very dependent on County and State orders in place. It is important to have the business owners, and customers, feel comfortable with any precautions in place. Everyone needs to maintain being respectful to those around them.”

Ted said that he is grateful that there has been so few cases in our area and he expressed recognition and gratitude for all the employees county-wide.

Local Mask Makers

Nancy Barth Eckert from Stanford, Connecticut, moved to Granby around 5 years ago to be near her son and grandchildren. Nancy is technically retired, but she has been working diligently to provide masks to people within our community. She has her own store inside of the lobby at The Inn at Silver Creek, General Store and Handmade Gifts, but her business has been temporarily shut down due to the pandemic. Nancy has friends who are nurses that have asked for her help. She has made masks for hospitals as well as members of the Granby Police and Sheriff’s Department. “You have to give back,” said Nancy. All of her masks for the police and hospital workers are provided complimentary, but you can buy them for $10 at High Country Autumn’s Nest in Fraser as well as a few other locations. Nancy has also been making masks for the staff at Ace Hardware as well as River Run. The masks take her around 30 minutes to make and are machine washable, but you must hang them to dry. You can contact Nancy by giving her a call at (252) 676-2964.

Carrie Valan from Morrehead, Minnesota, moved to Fraser in 2005. She is a processor for a title writing company, and has been using her free time to make masks. Carrie is known to be a great seamstress, and her mask making endeavours started when her friends and father kept calling to ask for her help. She has been making masks for her entire family and close friends around town. Once the word spread, she was able to begin selling them to other people within the community who have expressed interest. “I am very thankful that I have the knowledge base to sew,” said Carrie. “I’m happy to help out the community wherever I can, and this happens to be a way to help out the community.” She got her mask sewing pattern on Pinterest and has had to get creative by using cut up shirts for the ear straps. According to both Nancy and Carrie, elastic has been very hard to find. Carrie has personally made around 100-125 masks, and she is also selling them for $10 each. You can call or text Carrie to purchase a mask at (970) 631-2716.

Cameron Carpitanos-Barnes came from a family of seamstresses who have come together to help those in need. She says “it started when I wore [my homemade mask] for grocery shopping.” People around town kept asking Cameron where she got her mask, and she was always excited to be able to tell them that she made it. So far she has made, donated, and sold over 600 masks! She loves that she is able to contribute and that she is doing something important to help the community. Cameron has been supplying her masks to local banks, restaurants, and front line workers. She says “I think it’s about the bigger picture – being to help the community, and making masks is my way.” To purchase a mask from Cameron, feel free to call or text her at (360) 318-5026.

Although we weren’t able to chat with everyone individually, we want to mention some other members of the community who have also been contributing their time making masks. Thank you to Toni Harms, Kristen Mayer, Missy Quinn, and Jill (last name unknown). All of your hard work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you all for lending a helping hand to get us through this pandemic. You are all appreciated from afar!

Grand County Schools

Maggie Michaelowski, another local mask maker, is also a teacher at Middle Park High School. Maggie says that she is “far from a hero,” and that she has made masks for a local tourism company. She is originally from Gary, Indiana, but has lived in Colorado since 2003.

In our opinion, however, Maggie is a hero. She has a Masters in statistics and teaches students who are struggling in math and science. Maggie is the creator of an alternative learning program known as the Crew Program. She started this program seven years ago and has been continuing it while teaching from home. Maggie has been enjoying video chatting with her students and she says that she is “happy to provide online meetings while in-class learning isn’t an option.” She regularly uses coping and meditation tools to help her students, but said that she’s found extra importance in facilitating these learning opportunities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, Maggie has been able to provide her students with counseling through Mind Springs and that the Crew Program has grown from there. She has consistently been able to connect students with internship opportunities and on the job training within the community. Through her program and teachings, Maggie encourages emotional wellness and wants to help students learn about themselves while figuring out what’s important for them to pursue after graduation. The Crew Program is sponsored by social services and is accessible to students all over Grand County. For more information about the Crew Program, feel free to email Maggie.

Additionally, East Grand schools have committed to providing students with free grab and go lunches on a weekly basis. You can pick these lunches up at various locations in Fraser, Granby, Grand Lake, and Hot Sulphur Springs. The school district has been great at providing updates through daily as well as weekly emails and East Grand has even made it a priority to provide WiFi to families in need through hotspots and Comcast. The district has also been doing an excellent job at providing on-going distance learning opportunities on a classroom by classroom basis.

City Market and Dollar General

Both of these businesses have really stepped up in keeping our community stocked on goods and essential items. Their staff members have been practicing social distancing and have also been more than accommodating to residents and seniors throughout this pandemic. Both stores have updated hours and their staff members are committed to cleaning, sanitizing, restocking, and keeping the shelves organized. They are also offering isolated shopping to the elderly and customers who are immunocompromised during their open early hours. Employees at both of these stores have been wearing masks and are taking extra precautions to keep us and themselves safe. City Market has even set up one-way ailes and has installed sneeze guards near the cash register.

Middle Park Health

Middle Park Health has always been dedicated to keeping our community healthy and safe. They are committed to helping their patients with or without the presence of a global pandemic. Healthcare personnel have been diligent at providing care to those in need while keeping the community updated on COVID-19 information. They are consistent in keeping patients safe by providing masks and hand sanitizer to everyone that walks in their facilities. Workers are staying safe by the proper use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) gear. Staff members continuously make cleaning and sanitizing the facilities a top priority. The Middle Park Health organization has been great at keeping the community updated through emails and Facebook. You can call the office and chat with a nurse anytime during regular business hours. For facility and contact information, click here.

Mountain Family Center

Mountain Family Center (MFC) is a family resource center located in Granby that has a “mission to build strength and self-reliance for individuals and families through responsive and collaborative services.” They are a community-based organization that helps provide food, shelter, and clothing to families in need. Now more than ever, MFC sticks to this code of service by continuing to help families during the COVID-19 crisis.

MFC has been working hard to keep the food pantry stocked. This has created an increase in need for food storage. Local restaurants and resorts have been donating frozen food items to Mountain Family Center, but they’ve had to stage deliveries due to limited freezer and dried goods storage space. MFC is plowing through their current funding that helps keep their food pantry shelves stocked. They are also quickly depleting funding that provides housing assistance as well as keeps their other programs operating, like the Senior Transportation program. Their driver teams deliver groceries and pharmacy prescriptions to senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and other high-risk or vulnerable populations within the community. To donate to MFC, click here.

Mountain Family Center has been working with the local community as well as regional and state partners to help incorporate services to ensure that there are no food insecurities or displacement from housing within Grand County. MFC defines their success by “ensuring everyone in Grand and Jackson Counties have access to groceries and that the organization continues to identify and address needs surrounding food insecurities.”

Since March 1st, MFC has exhausted a majority of its 2020 direct client service and grocery budget. Additional funding is necessary to continue to provide resources to these rural communities. Mountain Family Center will continue to assess areas of need and will try to step in where the organization has the capacity to secure additional resources or to expand current resources by making them last longer. MFC is dedicated to working with as many partner agencies as possible to continue to drive change and gain matching contribution dollars whenever possible.

Everyone within the community is eligible to elicit help from MFC, and there are no requirements. They are offering a drive-through service for food pantry visitors, and people can come as many times as they need. Rent and utility assistance is available, but is only provided on a single-use basis to ensure that they can help as many people within our community as possible. Rent and utility assistance can range from $150 to $1,500 for one month.

Here are some current statistics regarding Mountain Family Center. These numbers reflect dates from March 1st, 2020 through June 15th, 2020.

    • Total households within our community: 2,500+
    • Individual food pantry visits: 5,500+ people
    • Children served with totes: 7,200 children
    • Senior citizen assistance with pharmacy pickup, grocery, lunch delivery, or transportation to medical appointments: 400+ people
    • Rent and utility assistance: 310 families

In all of 2019 there was a total of 101,000 pounds of food delivered to Mountain Family Center. Since March 1st, 2020 MFC has received 40,000 pounds of donated food. Since March 16th, 2020 MFC has also provided $175,000+ on rent and utility assistance for clients and community members. This number includes rental assistance from the Grand County Emergency Fund housed with the Grand Foundation.

Grand Foundation

The Grand Foundation has been a vital helping hand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation “seeks to improve the quality of life in Grand County by proactively addressing current and future needs in areas or Health and Human Services, Arts & Culture, Education, and Amateur Sports and Environment.” They have been active for 23 years while granting over $11 million dollars to those in need. Over 1,000 total grants have been provided to our community through the Grand Foundation. Most recently, the Grand Foundation has created the “COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.” This was established to create support for our county’s vulnerable and high risk populations, and 100% of the money donated to this program’s funding will be given right back to the community. You can find donation information or apply for a grant by clicking the link above.

Incident Management Team

We were able to chat with Schelly Olson, Assistant Chief of Administration and Community Risk Reduction. She has been appointed to this role to help spearhead the success of Grand County’s Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT is a task force that was assembled with the intention of keeping the county safe and informed. These types of teams are assembled when local resources and capabilities are stretched too thin.

Usually, Schelly’s main job title is Public Information Officer/Wildfire Mitigation Specialist. She, as well as many other members of this team are continuing to work their full-time “9-5” jobs while also attending meetings and making informed decisions regarding COVID-19 and our community. There are so many members on this task force, and it is impossible to list every single one of them. But, there is truly a small village of people within this community who are going above and beyond to help out during these uncertain times.

The IMT consists of individuals who work for different government organizations all across Grand County. This team has been tasked with tackling objectives regarding coronavirus and have been working diligently since this all began.

The Incident Management Team has been setting up mobile testing facilities while continuously trying to minimize the local transmission of the virus. They have been dedicated to helping maintain and support essential Grand County services. The IMT is aiming to have the quickest possible return in social, economic, and productive normalcy within Grand County, but they are committed to keeping us safe while doing so. This team is continuously looking at this situation from every angle possible while adjusting day to day and reevaluating their strategies when necessary.

They aim to inform decision-makers as well as all members of the community about the scope of this disease and the effectiveness of the policies and practices that are in place. The IMT is also helping local healthcare organizations by attempting to minimize disruption. One of their main objectives is to reduce a possible surge in patients needing care from local hospitals and emergency services.

This team plans to stay active until testing, treatment, and monitoring fall within the capabilities of Grand County’s Health Organizations. They will continue to help the public understand and navigate the distress of the coronavirus and the different impacts of this pandemic.

Fraser River Valley Lions Club

The Lions Club paired up with local restaurants to offer free meals to members of the community. They dedicated an entire week of serving meals by curbside pickup on a first come, first serve basis. Thank you, Lion’s Club, for continuing to serve our community through these tough times. The use of your free meal programs really made a difference in this community’s time of need.

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As you can see, Grand County is made up of wonderful people, businesses, and organizations, who have jumped in to offer assistance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Times like these remind us how important it is to be there for one another during moments (or months) of uncertainty and how lucky we are to call this place home. Together, we are Grand.