When pandemic disrupted operations, Colorado Springs nonprofit goes innovative

When pandemic disrupted operations, Colorado Springs nonprofit goes innovative

By Erin Prater erin.prater@gazette.com | January 23, 2021

The sole mission of CPCD is to prepare disadvantaged Colorado Springs little ones for success in life — by plugging them into quality preschool programming, and their parents into better jobs.

It’s a two-generation approach to poverty that leans heavily on in-person services, including home visits and goal counseling for parents, provided at no cost to families.

When COVID-19 tore through the globe last spring, shuttering schools and businesses worldwide, its employees could have given up, contending that their mission was no longer realistic.

Instead, they chose to innovate.

The Colorado Springs nonprofit took its programming virtual, and its wrap-around services that help lift families out of poverty hit the road.

Moving school for young ones, especially infants and toddlers, online was a “huge challenge,” said Marty Kemmer-Contreras, director of community realizations for Community Partnership for Child Development — not only from a curriculum standpoint, but from an access standpoint. Many of the nonprofit’s families didn’t have devices or internet access at their homes.

So, they developed the “stability bus,” which delivered Chromebooks and “learning lab” kits, and essentials like diapers and formula, to its families.

The work brought with it both satisfaction and a sobering realization: Families were struggling to make ends meet.

“We realized there were rents that couldn’t be paid, utilities, that kind of thing,” Kemmer-Contreras said. “The job loss was big. So many of our families work in the gig economy, many in hospitality.”

The organization used COVID relief funds to set up a fund of its own, to which its families could apply for help in covering the basics. Nearly 150 families received rental and utilities assistance.

Through it all, the nonprofit’s donors remained faithful, regardless of personal struggles they may have been experiencing.

“It’s unbelievable how Colorado Springs heeded the call,” Kemmer-Contreras said. “Our donations have been fantastic. People are seeing the need.”

The organization’s goal is to “break families out of the cycle of poverty — and something like the pandemic nips that in the bud.”

Being able to “go forward with strength and resolve is what we need to do,” she said — and the nonprofit can only do so with continued community support.

For those with generous hearts, “supporting a campaign like Empty Stocking Fund or an organization (like CPCD) is the way to go.”