A Christian Action Guild food pantry volunteer prepare food boxes in November 2021. CAG's food pantry has seen a 40% increase in demand over the last few years.

Thanks to Golden voters and lodging tax payers, the city and its partners have been able to help dozens of local households in need during 2023.

However, the number of Goldenites needing assistance with rent, utilities, food and other essentials is rising. For instance, in the last few years, the Christian Action Guild’s food pantry has seen a 40% increase in demand, and the Salvation Army Golden Service Extension Unit has helped almost 100 households through October and already has requests for November.

These organizations and others said the city’s Thriving Communities grant program has helped them address these increased needs, and they hoped to continue that work into 2024 as the city prepares for another grant cycle.

The Salvation Army Golden Service Extension Unit shares how it used its $40,000 Thriving Communities grant from the City of Golden to help 40 local households with rent and utilities. In total, through Oct. 15, the Salvation Army Golden SEU has helped almost 100 households totaling $85,000. Credit: Courtesy graphic

Golden’s Thriving Communities grant applications are due Nov. 7, and the 2024 recipients will be announced in January, city staff confirmed. The city will have $500,000 in grant funds to award in 2024.

The Thriving Communities grant program is funded through the city’s 6% lodging tax, which voters passed in November 2021.

For the 2023 cycle, the city received requests totaling $744,868 from 22 applicants. Every application was at least partially funded, Thriving Communities Director Sarah Vaine said. In total, $480,100 went to recipients’ projects or programs, and another $40,000 helped vendors run 13 events within the city.

To qualify, recipients’ projects or programs had to be within city limits or directly serve the Golden community on a not-for-profit basis. The recipients and their projects spanned from basic needs to history, arts and culture.

2023 grant dollars at work

During the Oct. 24 City Council meeting, Vaine invited all the 2023 recipients who received $20,000 or more to share their stories with the councilors. However, only a few could make it. Most of the presenters described how they’ve used their grant funds to help with Goldenites’ physical and financial needs.

Hunger Free Golden shares demographic information on those who’ve visited three local food pantries during 2023. Roughly half of food bank visitors are 35 years old or younger. Credit: Courtesy graphic

Hunger Free Golden, as an example, used its 2023 funds to help support four local food pantries, hire a food navigator and complete its 2023-25 strategic plan. Also, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, Chair Bethany Thomas said the food insecurity-focused collaboration served 1,839 individuals among 767 unique households.

Additionally, Thomas said, the Golden Mobile Market launched a long-wanted site in the Golden Terrace mobile home community. While it only operated six days this fall, it served 52 residents in that time.

For the Salvation Army, Thomas said the Golden-area unit received $40,000 in Thriving Communities grant funds. With that, it assisted 32 households with rent and eight with utilities.

Similarly, The Action Center received $20,000, which it used for rental assistance. Laurie Walowitz, director of programs, said it started a new coaching program this year to help households become more self-sustaining.

The Christian Action Guild shares information on its services and programs in 2023, including its food bank and crisis fund. Over the last few years, CAG representatives said they’ve seen a 40% increase in food pantry demand. Credit: Courtesy graphic

Meanwhile, the Christian Action Guild hired a new executive director, Britni LeRoux, two months ago and was excited to hit the ground running with her. Its thrift store, which helps support its food pantry, is also growing more popular as more people opt to thrift their clothes.

Overall, Golden’s nonprofit leaders said, they see “the need growing in the community every day.”

Vaine also shared a letter she received from a rental assistance recipient, who’s lived in the community for decades and has a child at a Golden school. Despite having a perfect credit score and no debt, the resident was afraid an impending rent hike might make their family homeless, and didn’t want to have to leave a community they were so invested in.

Vaine said the city and its partners were working with the resident, but emphasized how frequent requests like it have become.

Councilors’ comments

The councilors thanked everyone who presented and those “working to make our town a better place,” as Councilor Rob Reed said. None of this would be possible without voters passing the lodging tax in 2021, Councilor Paul Haseman emphasized, adding how much he appreciated having a process like this.

The Salvation Army Golden Service Extension Unit shares how it used its $40,000 Thriving Communities grant from the City of Golden to help 40 local households with rent and utilities. In total, through Oct. 15, the Salvation Army Golden SEU has helped almost 100 households totaling $85,000. Credit: Courtesy graphic

Councilor Don Cameron, who’s frequented the CAG thrift store, noted that patrons have the option to “overpay” and help support CAG’s food pantry. He also emphasized how savvy local nonprofits are with their funds, saying, “They know how to use the money.”

In addition to the grant program and its recipients, Mayor Laura Weinberg commended the city’s Thriving Communities department and fund, which was formed after the lodging tax passed in 2021. She said it’s become a good place within city government to refer people in need, adding, “We didn’t used to have that.”

Overall, Weinberg believed the Thriving Communities grant program was “going in a great direction,” and was excited to see how the 2024 recipients would use their grant dollars.

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