New community fund aims to shore up utility bill assistance
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new community support fund kicked off this month to help Routt County residents who could find themselves on the cusp of having their lights or heat turned off due to insufficient payments.
The new Community Utility Support Program, or CUSP, established as a tax-deductible donation fund through Yampa Valley Community Foundation hopes to fill an ongoing funding shortage in the community.
The new fund was created through the initiative and challenge funding of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors and was the brainchild of longtime local real estate agent Glenna Clark-Olmsted. The broker said she was moved to help create the fund after talking with and later donating to a local family struggling with paying utility bills this winter.
“Utility assistance is a pressing need for many Routt County residents every year,” explained Sue Fegelein, executive director at LiftUp of Routt County, in a news release. “We are truly grateful to the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors for creating the CUSP fund, which will help provide sustainable support for our neighbors who are struggling to pay their utility bills.”
Funds raised for utility bill support will be funneled to two local nonprofits, LiftUp and Community Budget Center in Craig, which offer assistance for Routt County residents in need by issuing partial or full payments directly to the client’s account at utility companies.
“It’s amazing how the community pulls together when other people are struggling,” said LaDeana Cook, office assistant at the Community Budget Center, of the new fund.
Community Budget Center leadership reported increased funding during the pandemic from agencies such as Energy Outreach Colorado and Yampa Valley Electric Association’s COVID-19 relief fund; however, social service agencies historically struggle to meet all assistance requests in Routt County each year.
Olmsted said real estate agents supporting housing utility needs is a good fit for the association, which donated $5,000 in seed money. Some individual real estate agents have already pitched in for the challenge, too.
Organizers hope the endowed fund can raise at least $40,000 each year in community donations to work to meet the estimated annual support shortages. More information is available at yvcf.org/cusp.
“It’s just a perfect fit for us to be able to help our community in this way. It’s a housing need,” said Olmsted, who has been in real estate in Steamboat Springs since 1979. “Everyone in our realtor community seems to be so excited about it.”
Helen Beall, YVCF community impact manager, said the utility assistance fund is a first of its kind at the philanthropic foundation, which manages 200 funds that support the community with a wide variety of needs ranging from education and environment, to arts and culture, to health and human services.
The real estate association also supports local student scholarships and the annual community Christmas dinner. Olmsted started the holiday dinner 33 years ago when she was a single mom, and the free meal has since grown into a community effort that served 600 to-go meals in 2020.
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