Nonprofit partnership raising funds for expansion
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On any given day, dozens of people go in and out of the small blue house at the corner of Oak and Fifth streets.
It is often a first stop for those in the community most in need or newcomers who face language barriers.
Between the two nonprofits housed within its 114-year-old walls — Routt County United Way and Integrated Community — the house is a place where people can either get their needs met directly or get connected to the best resources available in Routt County.
However, the needs of the two organizations have far outgrown the 1,850-square-foot space.
With an ambitious plan to renovate and expand, they have already reached nearly 80% of their $950,000 fundraising goal.
Plans call for a 2,166-square-foot addition that will be attached to the existing building through a breezeway and is designed to blend aesthetically. A garage will be demolished to make space for the new building, with historic preservation-approved limited renovations to the existing house.
“With 20 years of close affiliation between the two organizations that exist to provide assistance to all residents of our local communities, I dreamed of a community-owned facility where anyone could walk in the door and receive the assistance that they need or be professionally referred to the agency appropriate for their needs” said Millie Beall, board president for Integrated Community.
Beall has also served as executive director for United Way.
When they moved in, Beall explained, Integrated Community had three employees. They now have six and, along with interns and clients, are crammed into several small rooms at the top of a narrow staircase. One employee has a desk tucked behind a door, while the director’s office also acts as a kitchen, with a small refrigerator and microwave squeezed in under a window.
Clients frequently come with children, for whom the tiny hall space at the top of the stairway doubles as a play area.
Downstairs, United Way has added one employee in recent years, and the two groups share the small conference room.
Integrated Community has grown dramatically since it started in 2004, Beall said.
“The needs of the immigrant population have exploded,” Beall explained.
The organization has approval from the Department of Justice to assist immigrants with documents, she said. In addition, Integrated Community provides interpreter services to individuals, businesses, city agencies, law enforcement and anyone who asks, providing language translation for people from 37 different countries.
Beyond feeling cramped and congested, one of the greatest needs, according to Beall, is for the space and rooms to ensure confidentiality for the people they serve.
“When folks learn we exist, they come here and share their innermost fears and innermost needs,” Beall said.
As is, it is very hard to find a quiet place to talk one on one and comply with privacy laws.
“Both organizations have grown,” said United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak. “We see a need for expansion, which will help each organization flourish and serve more clients in the community.”
United Way supports more than 25 other local agencies and more than 40 programs. And because they both serve as a conduit to other resources, Nowak described the continued partnership as “a very nice complement” to each other.
The goal is to break ground in April or May, Beall said, and get started on construction as soon as weather allows. They’ve already got the design and floor plans, donated through many hours of work by Ken Kruse.
The house at 443 Oak St. has a significant place in Steamboat Springs history.
Built in 1906 by George and Archibald Wither, the house was sold to County Judge Charles Morning in 1919, after which it was referred to as the “Morning House.”
In the 1950s, Morning sold the house to Dr. Frederick Willett — known far and wide across Northwest Colorado as Doc Willett or “The Country Doctor.”
Willett is known for his decades of service to Yampa Valley residents, often traveling by horse and wagon on house calls to deliver babies, set broken bones and treat the ill. The beloved physician and surgeon owned and operated the town’s hospital from 1914 to 1950.
Willett resided at 443 Oak St. until is death in 1970.
With its long and rich history also come some logistical challenges, Beall said. They’ve had to shore up the foundation, repair the roof, and the upstairs is always too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.
The building was repurposed into office space in the 1970s, and about five years ago, both United Way and Integrated Community lost their donated space in a church and bank and needed a place to call home. Together, with the help of a group of anonymous donors, they purchased the building that had come to be known as the Doc Willett house.
The two groups own it and operate it through a 50/50 partnership, and its purchase came under the agreement that it will always remain a community building.
In the event one of the operators wants out of the contract, it must remain a community building, Beall explained.
The most pressing goal is to raise about $38,000 by March 15, which will secure a $100,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. Since January, they’ve already raised the challenge’s first $62,000.
Beall is optimistic, already including the matching money in the overall total — the majority of which came from anonymous donors. Beall is also working on applying for additional grant opportunities.
The new conference room will hold 25 people, and Beall is excited about offering it up for use to other local nonprofits when it is available.
She is also very eager to have a building that is Americans with Disabilities Act — also known as ADA — compliant.
For the two organizations, the people they serve and the entire community, the expansion is “critical,” Beall said.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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