Silver linings playbook

DU alumni find resilience—and even hope—in the midst of a pandemic

THE GIVER: Joseph Teipel (BA ’07)

For the two-year-old Chaffee County Community Foundation in southern Colorado, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to raise the organization’s visibility and let people know just what kind of a role a community foundation can play in times of crisis. One of 1,200 such organizations in the country, the Chaffee County Community Foundation seeks to increase philanthropic and technical assistance resources in Buena Vista, Salida, Poncha Springs and other towns in the county.

Led by alumnus Joseph Teipel, the foundation is using its donation-supported emergency fund during the crisis to aid local nonprofits and to give direct cash assistance to those in need.

“We have a pretty good understanding of both community and nonprofit landscapes and needs,” says Teipel, who co-founded the Re:Vision nonprofit in Denver before returning to his home county last year to run the community foundation. “There’s no one else in the county — and very few others in general — giving out direct cash payments as a form of relief during this time. Folks who aren’t financially impacted by COVID have really wanted to help their friends and neighbors and community. This has given them a tool to do that in a way they know they can trust.”

By mid-May, the foundation had distributed more than $150,000 of direct payment assistance to more than 220 households, partnering with the county’s Department of Human Services to review applications. Teipel is starting to look beyond the crisis to a future where the foundation’s role is clearer and more visible to the organizations and individuals it supports.

“A silver lining in all of this is that as a young organization, very few people knew about us,” he says. “Folks were asking, ‘What’s the point of a community foundation when we have a Boys and Girls Club that’s doing a great job with the kids, and these other organizations are already here?’ This has really been a chance for us to showcase what a community foundation can do and the value we provide. The boost that we’re getting from this will help us launch some of the other things that we’ve been starting to work on as well, and give them more validity.”

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