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OWN appeals to Westside residents to help keep summer picnic going

      
Welling Clark speaks at the annual Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) town hall in March at the Cucuru gallery/restaurant. He has been president of OWN since 2006.
Westside Pioneer photo
The Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) is asking for a little help from locals for its free summer picnic.
       The 16th annual barbecue, called the Westside Neighbors Picnic, will take place in any case Saturday, July 16 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Westside Community Center, according to OWN President Welling Clark.
       On average, 150 or more people attend the outdoor gathering, which typically includes live music, BBQ'd hotdogs and/or brats, various side dishes and lemonade.
       The question is whether OWN, a city-recognized, long-time Westside advocacy group, can keep it going in the future.
       Clark, who has been OWN's president since 2006, said the overall cost comes to about $600.
       “What's happening is that we've been drawing down our cash reserves,” he said, when asked to elaborate on OWN's financial situation. “We'll be putting the picnic on this year, but there could be a point in the future where we won't be able to.”
       From 1978 to 2014, the volunteer group received funding from Colorado Springs, using pass-through federal community funds to support neighborhoods with blight issues. These were called neighborhood strategy areas (NSAs). Part of the city goal was for groups in those neighborhoods - such as OWN in the Westside NSA - to help the city communicate with residents and direct the funds effectively.
       OWN used most of its funding to print a free quarterly newsletter, raising additional money by selling advertising. It went out to addresses in the southern portion of the 80904 zipcode, which includes the Old Colorado City area, and part of 80905.
       But starting in '14, the city began directing more of its federal funds toward homeless initiatives, which brought an end to the NSAs - along with OWN's newsletter.
       Now OWN runs mainly on any outside help it can get.
       For the picnic, OWN board members routinely ask for gift cards from local restaurants and grocery stores. But so far this year those requests haven't been as productive as in the past, Clark said.
       That's why the volunteer group is appealing to residents who might be going to the picnic this year.
       “Anything is welcome,” Clark said, referring to donations of money or food. He also noted that Westsiders “are generally pretty good about that” [helping out].
       People wanting to chip in can do so at the picnic or by mailing a check to OWN at P.O. Box 6651, Colorado Springs CO 80934-6651. Contributions are tax- deductible, OWN being a non-profit, Clark said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/20/16; Community: Neighborhoods)

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