Despite Crisis, Local Seniors Adapting to Emergency Scenario
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
While the coronavirus has crippled local business, with the mandatory shutdown of area eateries, casinos and theaters, a major nonprofit in southern Teller is booming with activity and requests.
Only one problem, the center can’t employ some of its hardcore senior workers and volunteers due to the fear that they may catch and spread the deadly pandemic.
Regardless, the Aspen Mine Center, which has gained a growing niche as the central service hub for southern Teller for 15-plus years, and is considered one of the region’s best post-gaming success stories, is bustling with action. And with the Stay-at-Home orders, its importance to the community has escalated.
On the upside, the center has reaped the benefits of a phenomenal level of support in the form of food donations and money. But like most nonprofits in these times, it must brace for the worst, due to an expected decline in state assistance from grants, tax revenue and gaming impact monies.
“Our emergency food boxes have increased dramatically,” said Ted Borden, the executive director of the Aspen Mine Center.
He noted that the Aspen Mine, through its pantry services, often provided maybe 10 boxes of emergency food rations. Each box is equipped to last for a family for three days. In their most recent allotment, the center nearly hit the 60-box mark. “We are actually a small food pantry,” admitted Borden. “But this is a dramatic increase for us.”
He expects their commodities and senior boxes, now being handled on a drive-through basis, to also experience big increases.
In addition, the center is seeing a huge hike in service requests. And with the closure of local casinos to extend through at least the end of April, unemployment applications are expected to explode. However, Borden says most local casino companies have responded to the crisis quite well, working with their employees by giving them partial paid leave and allowing them to have health insurance through April. Nevertheless, the closure of the casinos will have a big local impact, as the industry employs nearly 2,000 individuals. The center’s Pikes Peak Work Force hub, located upstairs, can assist individuals with unemployment applications.
Borden also stated that two casinos, Bronco Billy’s and Century, have stepped up to the plate in giving the center 4,000 pounds of food. Area schools, meanwhile, have provided the Aspen Mine with 2,000 pounds. In addition, the center has received more financial donations.
A Challenging Time for the Region’s Prime Service Center
But the Aspen Mine Center faces major challenges with a reduced work force and an explosion in requests.
“The next week is really going to be crazy,” said Angie Treistad, client services director of the Aspen Mine Center.
“Child care is really going to be a big problem. That is huge. Parents now need to be home,” she related.
Cabin fever also could emerge as a continual concern.
With so many home-bound residents, the area could get hit with more domestic violence cases, according to Treistad. This has always been an issue in southern Teller due to economic pressures and the high transition rate in the community, along with drug addiction woes. But under the reign of the coronavirus scare, this trend could escalate further.
However, both Borden and Treistad are optimistic about the resilience of area seniors, who have responded to the crisis amazingly well.
“They are much calmer than I would have expected,” said Treistad. In fact, the Aspen Mine operators have not detected any sense of panic or paranoia among the hordes of seniors that frequent the center, or that receive services. “They are handling this quite well,” said the client services director.
The biggest impact for the Aspen Mine Center, when it comes to seniors, is this has been the core group of their volunteers. As a result, more of their workers are staying at home because they are vulnerable to the pandemic.
But Teller County is a region that is well-versed in natural disasters, such as the Hayman, Waldo and Four Mile area fires. Long-time residents are familiar with evacuations and the need to help their fellow neighbors during a crisis scenario.
But no event has impacted the region and nation like the CORID-19 crisis. The Aspen Mine Center operators are struggling with the same lingering question as local business owners: When will the epidemic end? “Nobody knows what is going to happen,” said Treistad, in outlining their struggle.
Borden admitted the center may have to prepare for an expected drop in the sales tax revenue it receives from the city and dwindling grant dollars from the state. As a result, the center may have to rely more on donations.
The Aspen Mine Center is currently in need of canned food, non-perishable items and meat; and of course, financial donations.
More importantly, the client director wants to see more young people stepping up to the plate during this difficult period. “We need to get more young people involved in volunteering,” said Treistad. In the past, the Aspen Mine Center and other nonprofits in the area have survived largely based on the hundreds of hours of volunteer service by those between the ages of 60 and 80.
However, with the coronavirus scare, these folks are now sidelined as these are individuals considered the most vulnerable. “This is a great opportunity for parents to teach your kids about your community,” said the client services director.
The Aspen Mine Center is still open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for essential services. Officials caution that the center can’t permit social visiting and must comply with the social distancing requirements with visitors staying six feet apart. And please stay out if have a temperature, cough or difficulty breathing.