While many Salidans associate the Salida Community Center with the annual Community Christmas Dinner, the center provides many more services.

As Executive Director Elaine Allenmang said in the center’s 2020 impact report, “The volunteers at the center are so focused on delivering high-impact, community-building programs at the Salida Community Center, they often don’t stop to tell their story. Here is a description of the major programs and the impact of the volunteers serving the community.”

Allenmang said the mission of the center is to “nourish the people of Chaffee County, listen to the community’s needs and deliver welcoming and engaging community-building programs and activities for all ages and cultures.”

The center recruits and trains volunteers for its programs, works to keep the community center maintained and provides space for the community to use.

While volunteers at the center work with other organizations, such as the Salida Presbyterian Church, the Soup Kitchen, St. Joseph Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, The Grainery and Caring and Sharing, to provide food for the community, the Salida Community Center is the only food delivery program in the county.

Last year 10,800 custom-packed food boxes, containing fresh produce, meat and other groceries, were delivered to economically disadvantaged clients, not only those who live in the county but also those who work in the county but live in communities outside, like Cotopaxi, Howard and Villa Grove.

The center works with the Emergency Food Assistance Program and Commodity Supplemental Food Programs for the food and groceries.

It also received $250,000 in free food from the Caring and Sharing Food Bank of Colorado Springs.

Community center volunteers in 2020 worked 10,500 hours providing in-kind services, the equivalent of 5½ full-time employees.

They also donated $267,000 in financial donations.

Some of the other programs the community center supports include:

• School pantry distribution program – recruits and trains volunteers to prepare six meals and distribute bags with two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners each Thursday to economically disadvantaged students.

• Necessities for Free program – collaborating with Central Colorado Humanists to provide needy families with shampoo, soap, deodorant and other similar items.

• Free pet food – working with Ark-Valley Humane Society to provide free pet food to economically disadvantaged pet owners in the county.

• New Blinkers – with the help of a grant from the City of Salida, the center schedules doctor visits and new glasses for qualified students.

• Front Range Medical Clinic – provide free space for recovery and addiction treatment, currently on hold due to COVID-19.

• Vaccination communication – prepared and distributed flyers providing all vaccination schedules and locations in Chaffee County.

• Colorado Gerontological Society – provides information to seniors for Medicare and other programs, and donates space for services as needed.

• Commercial kitchen program – providing a commercial kitchen for rent to local entrepreneurs.

• Holiday community dinners – last year served more than 600 Thanksgiving and 500 Christmas dinners.

• Community Easter egg hunt – Because the Easter egg hunt at Thonhoff Park was canceled due to COVID-19, the community center offered a “drive-by” egg hunt for disadvantaged children.

• FIBArk Pancake Breakfast – served more than 250 participants.

• Articipate – rents space to the Articipate program for a reduced cost of $500 per month to facilitate art and music programs for local students.

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