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United Way of Southwest Colorado starts year with thousands in funding to area nonprofits

Rare grant opportunity allows funding for operational expenses
Housing Solutions for the Southwest held a grand opening in October 2021 of the Espero Apartments in Durango. The nonprofit that built the Espero Apartments received $25,000 in funding from United Way of Southwest Colorado this year. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango and United Way of Southwest Colorado provided thousands of dollars to 28 local nonprofits this year, including Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Club of La Plata County, Manna soup kitchen and Housing Solutions for the Southwest.

Out of 31 applicants, United Way fully funded 13 agencies and partially funded 15 programs, according to Elise Savastano, the area United Way vice president of operations.

At Tuesday’s Durango City Council meeting, she said the nonprofit had one less request compared to last year, but the proposals totaled $407,600, an uptick of 12%, from last year. The nonprofit declined to fund three more proposals. The volunteer committee that reviewed requests determined those requests were not the best use of limited funding.

The city of Durango provided $265,000 to United Way, with $15,000 for its administration fee and $250,000 to be distributed as the nonprofit saw fit, she said.

Housing Solutions for the Southwest received the largest slice of funding at $25,000, according to a balance sheet of funding requests and approved grants. An additional $15,000 was granted to Housing Solutions on behalf of the Espero Apartments, a 40-unit affordable housing project targeted to residents who earn 30% of the area’s median income or below.

The next largest donations include the Durango Adult Education Center and the Volunteers of America’s Colorado Southwest Safehouse and Durango Community programs, which each received $20,000.

United Way’s grant is one of the few that can be used for operational expense. The nonprofit received more funding from the city this year than in 2022, but it still wasn’t able to fully fund all requests. Savastano said the nonprofit could still use more funding.

The nonprofit can fund each approved request with an additional $157,600, according to the balance sheet.

“(Operations funding) is hugely critical for these organizations, because you can have all these wonderful programs,” she said. “But if you have no money to keep your lights on, (you) can’t do it.”

She said the nonprofit is “super grateful” for increased funding for 2023 but can always use more.

“The need is always great, so any increase would be helpful,” she said.

Mayor Barbara Noseworthy said unrestricted funding is the hardest to secure but likely the most valuable. She is interested in learning more about United Ways’ needs and invited Savastano to request additional funding later in the year with the city manager, although more funding isn’t guaranteed.