Emergency relief funds, mask-making, donation drives all to help Pikes Peak region with coronavirus impacts

Codi Natelli (right) gets face masks from fellow sewer Donna Campbell. Natelli has started a group called Colorado Crafting For a Cause. They are making masks for local people who are at a higher risk for COVID-19. They are making the masks because of a shortage. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Much like the 20th century banding together to help World War II efforts on the home front, a benevolent spirit has erupted across the Pikes Peak region to fight the 21st century coronavirus war.

A cohesiveness pervades the community, from hosting virtual concert fundraisers and toilet paper drives to crafters’ fingers working overtime to make short-in-supply masks for first responders, emergency personnel, medical offices, and adults and children at high risk for contracting the virus.

“We thought why not support our local community,” said Valerie Carricato, manager of First Line band and drummer.

Building on its tradition of performing amid tragedy to celebrate the resiliency of the local community, the show band based in Colorado Springs gave a benefit virtual concert Saturday night online.

“We couldn’t find a good venue, so we set up in my garage,” Carricato said Monday. “We had a whole production, and it went really well and was a lot of fun.”

The concert drew more than 1,300 online viewers and raised a yet-unknown amount of money for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s Emergency Relief Funds to benefit El Paso and Teller counties’ nonprofits. Donations can still be made at https://www.ppcf.org/donate/.

The Colorado Springs Health Foundation, created in 2012 through the city of Colorado Springs’ lease of Memorial Health System to UCHealth to provide grants that target local healthcare needs, has committed to $250,000 to the Emergency Relief Funds, which are activated during a declared emergency.

“It’s during times of crisis that our community stands together to support our beloved city,” Pikes Peak Community Foundation CEO Gary Butterworth said. “There is still lots of work ahead of us.”

The foundation is working with Pikes Peak United Way and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management to administer the fund, which was last activated in 2013 after the Black Forest fire. Businesses and individuals donated $430,000 at that time.

For COVID-19 impacts, the fund has received requests for more than $1.3 million in assistance from 13 nonprofits, Butterworth said. Distribution of funds begins this week to seven applicants, with nearly 20 private foundations and others providing seed money in the past two weeks, he said.

A grants committee has prioritized food, shelter and health care in addressing immediate impacts. Those receiving money this week are: Care & Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, $50,000; Family Promise, $21,000; Fountain Valley Senior Center, $17,000; Status: Code 4, $1,714; Silver Key Senior Services, $50,000; Teller Senior Coalition, $5,000; and Community Partnership Family Resource Center, $25,000.

The grants committee is meeting weekly and all applications will be considered, Butterworth said.

With toilet paper and cleaning supplies the equivalent of gold in coronavirus times, a group of medical students is working with MedSupplyDrive, a nationwide effort, to collect unused masks, face shields, bandannas, non-latex gloves, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and plastic rain ponchos.

Items can be dropped off at local hospitals or at donation drives happening at 5 p.m. Wednesday and noon Saturday at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Health Lane Center parking lot, 4863 N. Nevada Ave.

“Hospitals are running out of personal protective equipment around the nation and are desperate for more supplies,” said Kiley Schlortt, a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences student on track to graduate in 2023 and the organizer of the local drive. “Medical personnel put themselves at high risk when treating patients with COVID-19 due to a lack of personal protective equipment. We are asking individuals and businesses to donate.”

The Alliance for Kids is hosting a drive to collect cleaning supplies, disposable plastic gloves and toilet paper for area childcare centers, including Early Connections Learning Centers and CPCD, the local Head Start provider. Items are being accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at CPCD, 2430 Robinson St.

Colorado Crafting for a Cause, the online Facebook group that formed after wildfires began ravaging Australia, has turned its mask-making efforts to benefit workers at local nursing homes, memory care centers, hospitals, fire departments, doctors’ offices and others in need.

“It’s a nice, refreshing kind of project,” said Codi Natelli, a stay-at-home mom, Scout leader with the Pikes Peak Council of Boy Scouts of America and organizer of Colorado Springs’ efforts of

Those who sew have created more than 300 homemade face masks with a shield of polypropylene that resists water, blood and bodily fluids, and prevents droplets from a sneeze or cough from escaping. The goal: 4,000. That’s the current local need for health care workers, Natelli said, adding that the need is growing quickly.

“I have the fabric and the talent to do it,“ Colorado Springs resident Donna Campell said Monday as she dropped off six masks to Natelli in what she said was her first charity sewing project.

Natelli was collecting not only masks but also donations of materials.

Black Forest resident Karen Garbee made 10 masks on Saturday from leftover fabric she had, after fashioning two prototypes from a pattern posted on the group’s Facebook page. She’s decided to dedicate three hours a day to the volunteer project.

“For my mental health, I can’t do it all day, every day,” she said. “After I’m done sewing, I’m going to do something I want to do. “Otherwise, it can get overwhelming.”

The masks are intended to be given away to first responders and medical care providers, Natelli said, and not sold. Already, scammers are trying to do that.

“Woot, woot. We’re rocking this,” Garbee said as she handed over her masks to Natelli.

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