‘CARES’: catch word for charity, OCC Art Walk

       Through June, publicity about each First Friday Art Walk in Old Colorado City will include the word “CARES.”
       The resulting monicker, “ArtWalk CARES,” is a deliberate take-off on Westside CARES, an interfaith emergency food program that operates out of Bethany Baptist Church.
       Stephen Brown, executive director of the agency by that name, doesn't mind a bit. In fact, he's quite happy about it.
       “It helps us be more visible in the community,” he said. “You can't put a monetary value on those relationships.”
       The feeling is mutual with the proprietors of the roughly 15 Old Colorado City art galleries that organize the monthly “walks” between April and December, at which visitors can typically find openings of exhibits, demonstrations or signings by artists, live entertainment and various refreshments.
       The next such event will be Friday, May 1 from 5 to 8 p.m.
       Art Walk participants are urged to bring non-perishable boxed or canned food as the “price of admission” to be donated to the Westside CARES food bank.
       “When the Artwalk committee got together in January for its first planning meeting, the idea was to find a way to give back to the community in a way that would involve not only the galleries but our entire community without placing a large burden on any one individual or group,” explained Sharon Wolff, a lead organizer of the event.
       She added: “There are a lot of needy families living right here on the Westside - some may even be your neighbors. If every person brought one item, it would satisfy a lot of hungry bellies.”
       Seeing a growing increase in people seeking help (up 20 percent in 2008), Brown is eager to see how the new effort will grow. During the first ArtWalk CARES in April, “not a lot of food came in, but it was just the first time,” he said. And, in any case, “there's at least a dual benefit. One is name recognition; the other is food. Whatever comes, in whatever measure, we'll be grateful.”
       Owned by a consortium of more than 20 churches and helped by numerous volunteers, Westside CARES has been serving the Westside's poor for 25 years - having incorporated after the closing of the longtime County Poor Farm in Bear Creek Park in 1983.
       While most recipients live in the Old Colorado City area, the agency's geographic area is much broader: west of I-25 and Highway 115, south of the Air Force Academy, east of Teller County and south to the westward extension of Academy Boulevard. “CARES” is an acronym for community action, resources and emergency services.
       The entity also was the chief beneficiary from the week-long Old Colorado City Charity Fair, organized in March by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group. That event, in which participating merchants donated part of their proceeds to different community organizations, carried the slogan Old “Colorado City CARES.”
       The Charity Fair total for Westside CARES came to “about $600 to $700,” Brown said. “We were pleasantly gratified by that.” Better still, “I can then take that [as matching funds] to other philanthropic organizations who are very interested in a diversity of funding streams. It gives us validation, that we're seen as pretty good folks.”
       Westside CARES agency representatives will also be collecting food at the Eighth Street Wal-Mart and Westside King Soopers stores May 1-2. Contributions can be left with any ArtWalk CARES participant throughout May and June, Wolff said.

Westside Pioneer article