The Chaffee’s Got Heart Committee is extremely proud of local businesses and individuals that have gone above and beyond by doing extraordinary things during these uncertain times. From innovating ways to thrive despite trying circumstances to showering struggling members of our community with generosity to prioritizing the health and safety of our most vulnerable, these businesses and individuals, who have been nominated for this honor by fellow community members, have shown what it really means when we say: Chaffee’s Got HEART.


Today, we sat down with Robin Vega of Clean Republic.

How did COVID-19 cause you to innovate the way you do business? 
COVID-19 created a sense of urgency for our business Clean Republic as it’s a COVID killer. We learned a lot of lessons we won’t soon forget and most importantly we’ve got that pandemic pivot on lock. For my other business CAUSE+MEDIC spa we learned that, especially in a pandemic, people need wellness. While the rules fluctuated for spa treatments, it felt really good having a place where people could come feel human and pampered and where they could purchase healthy cleaning products, pretty face coverings, and CBD (which is remarkable for our immune systems). For Coletrain Music Academy, we learned how important both music and technology are. During the pandemic, our school actually tripled in size. We moved all of our students to our Skype program and it worked pretty seamlessly. It’s not lost on us what a blessing it was that our businesses thrived during what was such a dark time for so many. I would say the common denominator of the success we found with each of these businesses during such a volatile time was the people that made up each team. A good rule for any startup is to hire people who can wear more than one hat and who are strong where you are weak, and then to know when to get out of their way. This was most certainly true during COVID-19.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
Because community is everything. And if the pandemic taught us anything it’s that gathering together and being there for each other is vital to our wellbeing. What the Chaffee County Community Foundation was able to raise during COVID-19 is a true testament to how this valley rallies. When everything felt so out of our control, I just wanted to do what I could and what was within my power. Donating my time as well as cleaning and disinfecting solutions was within my power. My partner Coleman offered free virtual music lessons via Facebook live every Thursday for 21 weeks because that was within his power. Buena Vista has some serious magic to it and we hope to always make decisions that are for the greater good of this community.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
Everywhere. From organizations and nonprofits who sprung into action to feed families and help small business owners. I witnessed heart in our county essential workers at the grocery stores, post office, and restaurants and let us never forget the countless selfless front line workers who put their lives on the line every single day. I witnessed heart in my partner Coleman wanting to offer the gift of music because we know music is medicine for many and having a creative outlet while in isolation was imperative for mental health.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
That community is everything and there is simply NO replacement for live music. I also learned that placing a priority on wellness and our immune systems is a must!

Cool Tidbits: What else do you want people to know about you, your business, your contributions to the community, how they can get involved or support you?
I often get asked how I can do so many jobs. I’m a partner and Vice President of Clean Republic, and the Co-Owner of CAUSE+MEDIC Spa located on E. Main. I’m also the other half of Coletrain Music Academy. This might sound crazy to some to have so many business cards and email addresses and some days it’s maybe a little crazy to me. The truth of the matter is, I like to be a part of cool projects and love working with passionate people who are making an impact in this world. Even though I do wear a lot of hats at the core of everything I do is storytelling. That’s why it’s imperative that I find meaning and purpose in my work so that I can authentically tell each story and share the heartbeat of these products and businesses. Knowing we are distributing healthy cleaning and disinfecting solutions that are good for human health and safe for the planet brings me purpose. Knowing we are providing wellness, pain relief, and CBD education to our community and its visitors at the spa fills me up. And nothing brings me more joy than seeing what the gift of music does for our students at Coletrain.



How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business (or change the way you run your organization)?
Our organization worked closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation as well as with Colorado Association of Transit Agencies for guidance in managing our operations through the pandemic.  When the Covid-19 restrictions were first announced there were certain state & local requirements for us to follow which included the use of quarantine for personnel that traveled out of state, thorough cleaning of all shuttles w/ the use of disinfectant, use of masks by all personnel for the safety of our passengers, and requiring our patrons to wear masks and safely social distance our riders on the shuttle.  We also purchased an Electrostactic Sprayer gun to thoroughly disinfect the shuttles after each shift.

We also worked closely with the Chaffee County Community Foundation in creating the Senior Shuttle’s Shopper Program where our drivers’ conducted shopping of household essentials for patrons under lockdown.

In addition, we agree to work closely with Chaffee County Public Health in providing transit services to clients needing to get to vaccination appointments.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
The Chaffee Shuttle felt it was vital to our community to continue operating utilizing safe practices to meet the needs of the community.  Although our ridership was drastically reduced, we thought of creative ways to assist the county through the lockdown.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
The easiest example is the outpouring of generosity from the residents and the businesses of Chaffee County.  “Chaffee’s Got Heart” exemplifies the small-town attitude of being there to meet the various needs of the community during crucial times like the pandemic.  The Chaffee Shuttle recognized that the majority of our patrons were in the high-risk category of contracting the Covid-19 virus and felt the need to step up to continue operating for the purpose of giving back to our community.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
The past year has had its share of challenges and for The Chaffee Shuttle it involved constantly re-evaluating and re-assessing the needs of our community and seeking solutions to meet those needs

Cool Tidbits: What else do you want people to know about you, your business, your contributions to the community, how they can get involved or support you?
The Chaffee Shuttle is a non-profit organization funded through donations and grants – operating under both private and state and federal funds.  It provides transportation for the general public – everyone in our community, including the elderly and mobility challenged individuals.  The shuttle works in the cooperation with other non-profit organizations and our local government agencies to meet current and future needs in our county.


Today, we sat down with Amber Van Leuken, Executive Director for Ark-Valley Humane  Society to find out how the pandemic has changed operations.

How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business? 
Prior to Covid-19 we were shelter based, before the stay-at-home order, the majority of  animals came into our shelters and stayed there until they were adopted or reclaimed  by their owners. Once the stay-at-home order came into effect, we shifted to a foster  based model of care which is now the standard for the majority of animals in our care.  Another big change was that we shifted to virtual services, we first scrambled to get all  our forms and service information available through our website and made it possible  for people to pay through our website for our services. We now provide counseling and  other types of support by phone or video call in doing that we focus more on services by  appointment although we are still available for emergencies. We really felt that was a  positive shift for the animals because the animals are going to be much happier in a  foster home rather than a kennel which is a silver lining and we are able to give more  focused one on one individual care for our client. Another shift in our way of doing  business last year was to look at what the community needed from us and how that might have changed due to covid-19. We created a Pet Food pantry which is available free to Chaffee county residents that are in need. We also provide hundreds of pounds of  food to the Salida community center that gets distributed monthly for dogs and cats through the food drive. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
Our mission  is to ensure the welfare of companion animals through compassion and care.  Operating an animal shelter is just one of the things we do. The stay-at-home order  affected pet owners in a number of ways. We shifted our focus on improving ways to  reach at-risk pets and keep them in homes rather than see them end up at the shelter.  Such as expanded behavior, spay & neuter, and boarding support for community pets  and established community pet emergency funds.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
The most striking example was our call to action to empty the shelter of animals. When the stay-at home order went into effect, we knew that the safest option for our staff and the community would be to empty the shelter and have our staff work from home as much as possible. We saw that Chaffee’s got Heart when an unprecedented number of people stepped up and adopted or fostered the animals in our care. It was incredible to see over a five day period the entire shelter empty out, there wasn’t a single animal in any of the kennels! 

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
While a shelter building will always  be needed to receive stray animals, the future of animal welfare is about doing whatever  we can to support the human-animal bond. The focus is no longer on animal sheltering,  it is about continuing to adapt our programs and services to increase safety nets that  keep animals in loving homes. It’s about improving the lives of pets who are in need of  our community regardless of whether those animals are homeless or those animals are  in need of other support services.

Cool Tidbits:
What else do you want people to know about you, your business, your  contributions to the community, how they can get involved or support you? We are  continuing our fundraising events this year as virtual events. Donations and fundraisers  make it possible to do the work we do. This spring we will have a virtual Tails on the  Trail event and Good Bad Pet Portrait fundraiser. We encourage you to go to our  website or follow us on Facebook to keep informed of opportunities to  donate and participate in our events. Also, we are always welcoming new foster  families for cats and dogs. Information about all our programs and how to get a hold of  us is on our website!


Today, we sat down with Loni Walton, owner of YOLO, to find out how the pandemic changed operations at her shop. She highlights how special the Chaffee County community is through her drive to keep customers and staff safe while still maintaining a mission to add to the vibrancy of downtown Salida.

How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business? 
Early on, the pandemic pushed us to do more online sales and private appointments. In addition to extra sanitizing, we also keep our doors open and have limited the number of customers allowed in the shop at once.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
We care about our staff and customers. We felt like we wanted to keep everyone safe- this is very important to us. It has been important to do everything that we could to stay open and be viable business, while taking care of everyone in the same process.  For instance, we went down to 25% capacity when we were allowed 50%. Everyone’s sense of 6 ft is different so we wanted to make sure everyone was safe. This was hard for business and some people were mad about the 25% capacity limit. However, we wanted to keep everyone safe. It has only been recently that we have allowed 50% capacity into our shop. Additionally, we take masking up and cleaning surfaces very seriously.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
The locals have been so great. From vaccine clinics to contact tracing, our community has been on it. I am so proud of the Chaffee community. We did not feel like we were getting a push back during the height of the pandemic, so this made it easier for us to stay open and do our part in keeping the community safe. This made us feel good when things were scary.

Additionally, I have heard people say, “I’m going to spend the stimulus check downtown”. I have been a member of community for 33 years now, and WOW this is a great community. Even out of town customers have been our cheerleaders. They have called YOLO to see how we are doing throughout the pandemic.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
I live in an amazing community and I am grateful to be here. I really just want to say that we feel blessed to be healthy and lovingly supported by our community.

Cool Tidbits: 
This is our 15th year so we have seen a lot of change in the community. I am proud to be in heart of downtown Salida because it feels so vibrant. The reason we have made it for 15 years is because of locals shopping year around. They are so kind and supportive.



Today, we sat down with Kemper Isely, Natural Grocers Co-President to find out how the pandemic changed operations at neighborhood grocers. They have taken extra strides to promote a safe and sanitary community environment, while nourishing the people of Chaffee County and recognizing the exceptional work of their staff.

How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business?
We quickly realized that our communities were going to be relying on our stores and good4u Crew more than ever before. Keeping our shelves stocked and our customers and Crew as safe as possible became our goal.

Our stores are neighborhood grocers, which means many of our Crew and customers know one another, so we quickly implemented new policies to help safeguard both customers and Crew. We developed extra cleaning and sanitization routines on frequently touches surfaces, added plexiglass shields at registers, social distancing protocols, Crew health checks and more. We were ahead of the curve on getting our Crews masked – with the reports of mask shortages, our Crew members, some of their family members, and our customers began making masks for in-store, distribution center and bulk manufacturing good4u Crew.

In recognition of the Crew’s extraordinary efforts and commitment to keeping their communities rooted in health, we instituted a hero pay and bonus program, which began in March 2020 and continues into 2021. The incremental cost of these pay enhancements was approximately $14 million as of December 31, 2020, which includes a permanent $1 per hour pay increase for hourly Crew and periodic discretionary bonuses.

Additionally, our free nutritional health coaching sessions became available by video and phone, and we developed a program for virtual nutrition education classes.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
As a company, we’ve always used our Five Founding Principles to help us navigate different situations, pandemic included. We looked at those principles – commitment to community and Crew, to Nutrition Education and to providing quality products at our Always Affordable Prices – and knew what had to be done.
We knew that as the world grappled with the unknown brought by the pandemic that the one thing we could do – as a neighborhood store – was to make sure our communities felt as safe as possible shopping with us so that they could keep their pantries and fridges stocked with everything they needed to keep their families healthy.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
Every day and in so many ways, including:
When our Crew and community worked to sew masks so every Crew member in our stores and distribution centers would have one, making it possible for us to be one of the first national chains to have all of our employees masked up.
Day-to-day support amongst our Crew members to help get through the pandemic together, bonding over their Wellness Wednesday moments as they celebrate wellbeing and each other.
In August 2020, along with our customers we raised over $260,000 for local food banks in communities we serve to help meet the growing needs of community members experiencing food insecurity. In August, as part of our 65th anniversary celebration, we broke our own record for the highest fundraiser in a single month.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
That what we’ve always believed to be true is in fact true – the importance of community and of our good4u Crew. For more than 65 years Natural Grocers has been connecting with community members who believed in our mission and Founding Principles and who want to be a member of our Natural Grocers family and good4u Crew. We were not surprised when Crew rose to the occasion to make sure they were helping to keep their fellow community members rooted in health. They truly are out heroes in capes and face masks.

Cool Tidbits:
We partner with several non-profits throughout the year including local food banks, Beyond Pesticides, and Jack and Jill of America. These fundraisers are an important way to give back to our communities. Our communities always show up to add to the fundraising efforts, and we are so appreciative. We donate 5 cents to local food banks when customers use reusable shopping bags at our stores. Those donations add up – since 2010 we have donated over $2 million to local food banks where we operate stores.


Today, we sat down with Shawn Gillis, owner of Absolute Bikes to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this business while maintaining the drive to give the people of Chaffee County the knowledge of local trail systems, resources to enjoy the trails, and promoting a safe and sanitary community environment for locals and tourists alike. 

How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business? 
It was a big learning process because as we understood more about COVID-19 transmission, the more change would need to occur in order to operate safely and respectfully. Between the beginning of the pandemic until now there has been a lot of new information. Therefore, we have had to constantly change as well. For instance, in order to still be able to interact with customers we put more time into phone conversations. People could prepay remotely, mail-check, and we can set items outside the shop for pickup. We have even delivered items to people’s homes. 

The toughest change for us was how we would talk to people. Some people were sensitive and others didn’t take COVID-19 seriously. We had to ask ourselves, “How do we come up with ways to talk to a diverse group of customers while maintaining solution driven mindset?”. What if someone comes in without a mask? We were able to hand out free masks given to us by the County. This was very helpful. There has been constant cleaning in the store. We had to do a lot more work on our side in taking cleanliness more seriously. 

Also, we had to help customers change the way that they would typically interact in our store. One of our employees started the saying: Hands in pockets looking. As people are walking through the shop, they want to ring all the bells and touch the bikes. We try to encourage the “hands in pockets looking” in order to be more respectful to everyone. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
Several of our programs had to be postponed or we transitioned them into smaller groups. We just did our helmet program. Over the last 13 years it was in fall but it had to take place during the following spring because it would not have been appropriate last fall. 

Salida has been lucky that it already had a great local trail system. It is exciting to notice that the amount of trail users has gone up in the last year and we wanted to support that. We are VERY lucky here in this community. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
I noticed a little over 20 years ago when we moved here- as you walked down the street people would make eye contact and say hello. That goes a long way when you have heart. Even though today we are wearing masks, the eye contact has not changed. This shows a level of respect for others. It is probably something that I have noticed in this town way more than in any other place I lived or visited. The eye contact and saying hey- it’s a sincere friendly. With the masks, it’s even more important now because it’s been a very isolating year. People here really do care and I really think Salida has a lot of heart. 

Being in the bike industry, I have noticed that more families are getting out and doing things together. I have never seen so many families get out have fun together, and biking is a great way to share this time. When other things, like vacations and travel, are eliminated it is nice to see families getting out and being active together. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year? 
The biggest take away is the fact that we all have been constantly learning through this process. Everything was different and unknown in the beginning of the pandemic. Things that took place last March through the summer were much different as compared to now. The more that was learned about this virus allowed us to get into new cleaning, talking, and helping routines. It has been a year of learning and constant change, which has resulted in people coming away with much better habits. Public interactions are taken more seriously and I find that people are much more respectful of that. The public in general seems to be much healthier and hopefully that will continue with the better hygiene habits. This change in public perception has also allowed us to be better. Finding solutions has been collaborative- we have talked to other businesses about how they have approached having to change and we would come together at the end and say “hey, that’s a cool idea”. 

We are very lucky to be in this community where there is so much open space. Talking to friends and family in the city about going on a bike ride- they only have a few places to go which might be okay to get on a couple times out of the day. Whereas, we can just walk out the door and do something active because we are surrounded by public land and in town trails. This is something we don’t necessarily think about, but probably 99% of people don’t have this opportunity. This gives me a greater appreciation for the environment. 

Cool Tidbits: interesting facts/ways people can get involved/anything that can’t fit in the article that you want to include. 
Absolute Bikes gives back to the Community with our youth programs and participation with Salida Racing, our local High School MTB Team, and most recently with our 4th Grade Helmet program. 

We volunteer and support both Salida Mountain Trails and Salida Parks and Open Space and Trails because these organizations have done so much for our riding, running, and dog walking communities! More people have been able to enjoy dirt and paved trails through the pandemic. These are two of my favorite nonprofits! 

For all the dirt and singletrack trails, check out Salida Mountain Trails at: 

For all Salida in town trails, check out Salida Parks Open Space and Trails at: 

I had to ask Shawn, “What is your favorite local trail?” He responded, “One of my favorites is still Frontside because I spent a lot of time building it.” 

Thanks Shawn and Absolute Bikes for everything you have done for Chaffee County! 



Today, we sat down with Pastor Melinda Roberts of the Salida United Methodist Church to find out how the pandemic changed worship for her community and to learn more about how she approached the challenge of the pandemic.

How did COVID cause you to change the way you did things?
When we shut down in-person worship services, we went completely online, which meant us learning a lot about technology very quickly. In summer and fall, we also added a hike church – a modified church service while a group of people went hiking. That was really fun and was a great way to safely see each other while still providing fellowship.
The ministry services we offered also had to change to meet some needs within the community. After the showers at the pool and Presbyterian Church shut down, we were asked to open ours up twice a week. We’ve done that and will continue to do that. We also opened our doors to the women’s shelter and will continue to house it here as needed.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
There was nothing else that we could do. I couldn’t sit here with our doors closed and not help so we just looked for ways we could do things differently, ways we could think outside of the box to help the community. And, we were grateful we had support from the congregation to make those changes.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
I saw it in how our ministry changed; we used to be able to assist 4 families a week with gift cards to Safeway, but because folks were so generous, we are now able to help 10 to 15 families a week. In the past, each person was eligible for 4 cards a year, but because people saw a need and were so generous in response, each person is now eligible for 10 cards per year.
Also, have seen it through donations for the shelter, our shower ministry, and our Samaritan fund from within our congregation and from people outside of our church who heard what were doing. People from all over the community, even those without any connection to our church have given and shown it is a group effort to get all of us through this.
No one person or organization can say we’ve done it all because it’s been a city wide and county wide effort to help.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year?
We can change, and change quickly if we need to. Churches and other institutions are known for being slow to change, but we needed to changed quickly and we did it. This is true of other organizations, institutions and people; they can change to help their community.

Cool Tidbits:
Salida United Methodist Church is always accepting donations for its Samaritan Fund, which provides Safeway gift cards to families in need. Drop a check in the mail to PO Box 945, Salida, 81201 or learn more with a visit to:

Interested in volunteering? The Church is in need of volunteers to manage their shower ministry on Mondays and Thursdays. To learn more or volunteer, email
To support the shelter, please visit:



Today, we sat down with Ryan McFadden, owner of Simple Eatery to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this casual restaurant, artisan bakery, and frozen yogurt establishment committed to offering a fresh, natural, relaxed dining experience. 

How did COVID cause you to innovate the way you do business? When the shutdown first happened, I made a commitment to our staff that we were not going to lay anyone off. This is our town, we live here, everyone employed lives here and I couldn’t walk around with that. So, we decided if we weren’t going to be open, we were going to take the opportunity to do other things. We remodeled the inside, started delivery, opened the grocery store and made meal kits. My staff was totally into it and did an amazing job. 

When we were able to reopen, even at 25% capacity, we were so busy that it was awesome we had our whole staff on board to handle it. We even opened up a pop-up pizza kitchen inside that gives a preview of the Italian restaurant we are opening down the street. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
I live here. This is my town so the last thing I wanted to do was make people collect unemployment or shut our doors. We just made a call to keep everyone working and to stay open in whatever way we could. We were (and still are) committed to doing whatever we need to do survive even if it involves stepping outside our comfort zone. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
Most of the locals have been very supportive of us and the regulations to keep people safe. The fact that we never got shut down completely in this county was a testament to the fact that people were doing their part and that residents are full of heart. We saw another example in our staff of over 50 people; we asked them to watch their behavior outside of work since we were all depending on each other to stay open. They took it to heart. And, with care and commitment to the regulations and a little luck, we stayed healthy and could stay open. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
The biggest thing I learned is that we are all pretty adaptable and willing to try new things. I wasn’t sure how things would go or if we would make it at limited capacity, but we learned what works, what doesn’t and rewrote our thoughts on how to do business. This made us more efficient and creative with avenues of revenue and we’ve been successful as a result of our adaptability. 

Cool Tidbits: 
For a month every fall, the Simple Eatery gives back and takes care of the Buena Vista business community by providing lunch for a couple businesses a day. 

Check out their menu, specials, order online and stay up-to-date: 


Today, we sat down with Pastor Tom Abbott of Salida’s First Presbyterian Church to find out how he tackled the challenge of keeping his parish connected during the pandemic. 

How did COVID change things for you and the people you work with? 
The biggest change at church involved getting our services online. We upgraded technology and learned to do a lot on Zoom to make this happen. Another way it changed things was financially. Since people weren’t in the building as much, we were a little “out of sight, out of mind” in terms of donations. 

On the flip side of that, we saw a huge increase in donations for all of our outreach ministries serving people in need, including the food pantry, SOS Emergency Assistance, and Stone Soup Café. There was a huge outpouring of generosity from the congregation and the community through donations to our LOVE fund, which helps fund all of these efforts. 

And, through my role as president of the board for Chaffee County Hospitality, which manages the emergency winter shelters, we’ve also seen enormous generosity from the community to support that effort. It’s been a huge blessing and fun to see that happen. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
I’m actually not doing anything out of the normal. It’s been a way of live for me to be engaged in the world around me and to figure out ways to address the needs that exist in the community. First Presbyterian has a long history in the community of being a place people can get help so being able to plug into that just a year and a half ago was a huge gift. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
First, the generosity I’ve witnessed from the community to help feed the funds at the Church and also help with the winter shelters has really been astounding. 

Second, the overall interest people have in providing housing for the homeless. There is an incredible desire in this community to make sure people aren’t outside in winter overnight and the way members of our community have supported this process financially and/or with their time has been a definite show of heart. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from the past year? 
That the people in this community are committed to making sure that everyone, that each of their neighbors get through this crisis. The fact that so many have been willing to give, to share their resources with others in this challenging time shows the real heart our town has. 

Cool Tidbits: 
When Pastor Abbott arrived in mid-2019, he quickly realized that housing was a difficult issue here. Within a couple days, he got involved in homeless issues and is now chairing the Chaffee County Hospitality, Inc effort. After that first year of having the men’s shelter at the Lighthouse and providing hotel help for women and families, Tom helped raise $75000 to run separate shelters for men and women through April of 2020. 

To donate to the General fund, please visit: To give directly to the LOVE fund, which helps community members in need, please send a check to 7 Poncha Blvd, Salida, CO 81201. 

To support the shelter, please visit: 

To volunteer or bring a meal to the shelter, please email Pastor Abbott at: 


Today, we sat down with Julia Makowski, Youth Services Coordinator for the Buena Vista Public Library to find out how she took on the challenge of reconnecting families to the library in a safe and meaningful way during the pandemic. In the words of the library’s Director, Cecilia LaFrance, “Julia is a local hero in the time of the pandemic, supporting the mission of the Library to inspire discovery and growth in the community’s youth.” 

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business? 
I joined the library in July 2020 and the director tasked me with getting our programming up and running within the regulations our county had in place. So, in September, I launched our robust “take and make” program, which provides weekly activities connected through a monthly theme. All materials are provided and activities go beyond reading to included science experiments, math skills, and arts and crafts. We also offer ways to encourage continued exploration and curiosity in kids beyond just the activities provided. 

We wanted to support parents by promoting early learning and literacy and also wanted to give families an opportunity to still be connected with the library even from a distance. It was extremely successful and we got great feedback from parents. We were surprised to find out that we were giving them time together in a shared experience, or at least they were using it that way. We hadn’t anticipated that, but it makes sense since connections are what people are missing right now. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
I don’t think it’s above and beyond. I think it’s what we are supposed to do. It’s the purpose of our library and though we needed to pivot and change how we approached our mission, we still wanted to meet community needs. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
I’ve seen this by watching our parents handle this situation. They miss us and want to be here more, but they have been very understanding and patient. In trying to make those connections with friends, family and the community in different ways, they have all been very respectful with each other because they know this isn’t just about them. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
That I am incredibly fortunate and lucky to live here and be part of this small community that is so supportive. I can’t imagine what this past year would have been like in a larger city. 

Cool Tidbits: 
Each month, Julia designs monthly themed take and make kits to provide a new opportunity to interact, explore and learn each week. Between September and December, the Library distributed over 800 kits to youth ages 0 – 5th grade. Examples of work may be seen at the youth page on the Library’s website. 

Sign up for take and make kits through the website. 

Register for Play, Learn, Grow: An Early Learning Zoom Workshop Series supported by Colorado State Libraries. 

Summer Reading Program plans are shaping up for in-person, outdoor activities including a variety of animals and fun. Learn more or volunteer by emailing Julia. 



Today, we sat down with Donna Cole, owner of Kaleidoscope Toys, to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this shop full of unique toys, games, books, arts and crafts, jewelry, candy, and novelties. 

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business? 
When all non-essential businesses were shut down last March, we pivoted to doing phone and online orders for curbside pick-up and delivery. We focused on the safety of our employees and customers with extra cleaning, We focused on stay at home activities to help parents who were having to work from home and teach their kids. 

During our busy Christmas season, we had 2 teams that worked different days so if anyone tested positive, the other team would not have had contact and could keep the store open. And during the summer, we had a chain across the doorway to let people know we were serious about limiting the number of people allowed inside to meet regulations. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
My staff and I have been passionate about keeping our community safe – including kids, teachers, pregnant moms, grandparents, health care workers and customers with health issues. We wanted the kids to be able to go to school in person, if they felt comfortable to do so. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
Chaffee’s Got Heart is great campaign to remind everyone to keep doing the things that have helped mitigate the spread of the virus in our county. I see Chaffee’s Got Heart signs in most businesses that are enforcing compliance. I think so many people in our community have big hearts and have helped support each other and local businesses throughout this past year. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
I’ve learned that we have a very resilient team that can adapt to changing circumstances and that we have a very supportive customer base that stepped up to help us through a crazy year. I’m reminded every day of how grateful I am to live in this wonderful community. Keep up the good work! We’ll get through this together. 

Cool Tidbits: 
Kaleidoscope toys delivered 100 Easter baskets to various community members to bring some light to at the beginning of the pandemic 

They are still asking everyone to follow the same rules as last year: 

  • Everyone 3 years old and up must wear a mask 
  • Use hand sanitizer before coming inside 
  • We limit our small space to no more than 8 people at a time, so you may have to wait outside for a few minutes 

They still offer curbside pickup and can deliver toys in the Salida area and still offer private shopping from 10-11am. 

You can use your Discovery Pass for $5 off a $30 purchase. 

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram or sign up for our monthly email newsletter. 


The Chaffee’s Got Heart Committee could not help support the work of Chaffee County Public Health without generous support from local businesses and organizations.
Today, we sat down with James Bove, Marketing Director for High Country Bank, our most recent sponsor, to find out how the pandemic changed operations and to discuss why High Country Bank, dedicated to “Building Futures Together,” decided to sponsor this important work.

How are you supporting the Chaffee’s Got Heart Campaign?
As a business, we are following every single rule that comes with the HEART campaign, but we’ve also gone beyond that to be super proactive with our paid leave and sick time to encourage anyone feeling sick to stay home. We’ve gone above and beyond with disinfecting, cleaning, signs, social distancing and mask wearing, and if our employees can’t make it for a free test through public health, we will pay for their test. We have made sure to follow every bit of what the HEART campaign stands for, and we’ve also tired our best to donate to Public Health in different ways to support the team in letting the community know what’s going on during the pandemic.

Why did High Country Bank decide to sponsor the Chaffee’s Got Heart Campaign?
High Country Bank is community-focused so our main goal is to help the community succeed and get through tough times. Each year we set up a program to determine our donation budget, but this year completely changed events and sponsorships. We had to act on our feet and see where support was needed most. By supporting the Chaffee’s Got Heart campaign, we can help the community get through this. Whether it’s supporting CCPH with advertising dollars so they can get information out or it’s providing lunch to CCPH staff so they can work all day testing or vaccinating our community members, we feel it’s imperative to help CCPH since their work is critical to getting our community through this tough time.

What would you say to other businesses looking for a way to support this work?
This community is why our businesses thrive, so if the community is having a tough time getting through, it is going to impact our businesses. It’s been a tough year, but if you can spare a little to support the entity trying to help us get back on our feet, it’s a good place to start.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share with the community?
First, we want to thank CCPH. We know you’ve gone through some really tough times dealing with everything and you’ve worked so hard to put the community first, and to put the sake of everyone else above your own. Second, we want to thank all the essential workers who have helped keep restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and all the other critical services open, clean and going over the past year.

Learn more about High Country Bank’s extensive contributions to our community:



Today, we sat down with Jenna Pfingston, owner and founder of jalaBlu Collective Healing to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this yoga studio in Buena Vista that welcomes all levels, supports your journey wherever you may be, infuses the curiosity within self-discovery, and holds the intention to discover the power of you.

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business?
Though challenging, this was a beautiful invitation for all of us to look at our businesses from a different perspective. When COVID first hit, we flipped to an online yoga studio. A dear friend helped me completely change our website and set up an online platform for practice. The progression of getting everyone – teachers and students of all age groups – dialed into zoom took some time and individual troubleshooting, but we did it together.
I also took this as an invitation to lower our prices way down so we offered an unlimited monthly option. Our community was so committed to seeing jalaBlu make it through these challenging times that we had remarkable online attendance through spring. We weren’t brining in the money foundation we needed to, but it was more important to keep people in their practice, to keep people in balance with their emotions and all they were facing.
When we could re-open the studio, we did so in a way that kept the community safe. We followed distancing, masking and capacity limits, invested in an air purifier and shifted to doing all business online, including registering and paying. We used to have 16 classes per week, but now only have 6 per week. We still have a higher online attendance, but also know that some people need to come in person for that energy and human contact so we allow 9 students in the studio per class and I also offer private one-on-one yoga sessions.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
There was no question in my heart that the priority was keeping the community safe. jalaBlu is a profound and significant place for people to be who they are, and to heal, so we wanted to make sure it was a safe, healthy one.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
In the way the community reached out. They made it apparent how much they needed jalaBlu to survive. I received so many beautiful cards, emails, and bundles of abundance from the community that helped keep me and jalaBlu going. I don’t think jalaBlu’s doors would still be open without all the generosity – from grants to individual generosity – it was unbelievable to me. I never imagined how many people would donate and it has helped tremendously. That’s the sweetness of being in a small community like Buena Vista.
I also need to give a huge shoutout to my teachers who really stuck with me! It hasn’t been easy and it’s not like they make a ton of money, but I would not have been able to do it without the solid core group I have by my side.

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020?
It’s ok to be human. We are all humans and this has not been an easy ride for anybody. We don’t always have to have it all together. We can be messy, but sometimes we feel the grace. This year a lot of people have recognized the beauty of simplicity in their lives. It’s illuminated that we need to let things unfold. We may not always have the answers, but we have to have faith and trust anyway.

Cool Tidbits:
“We need jalaBlu now more than ever,” says Jenna. “If you are still in a place of struggle, please join us.” jalaBlu is recognized for having such amazing yoga instructors, who don’t only hold space for the physical body and move you into shapes, but who also hold space for the emotional body, too.

Follow on Insta at: @jalablu_yoga and learn more at:

Private yoga or Primal Embodied Wisdom Sessions are available online or in-person. Learn more:

Jenna never wants money to be a barrier to practice. Email her to inquire about an energy exchange that works:




Today, we sat down with Salida’s Kimi Uno, owner of Howl Mercantile & Coffee, to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this experiential retail environment offering small batch artisanal goods and a home to an intersectional creative community.

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business?
In the 4 years since we opened, we’ve been building our Instagram platform so by the time COVID hit, we had a wide, loyal customer base that wasn’t only in Salida. When we were closed for 45 days in the beginning, we relied on those customers. This meant working hard on our website, adding photography and content, and implementing a new online ordering system so people could order from afar/the safety of their homes. Once we reopened in May, we kept doing online, but also shifted to systems that allowed us to handle as many customers outside as possible. We set up an outdoor pay, and offered pre-ordering, sidewalk pick-up, and delivery. All these options were extremely helpful for sales, especially in December, when we actually ended up breaking our all-time sales record!

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
On March 16, we were one of the first businesses to close. We had been in Denver that weekend and were amazed how many people were coming up to the mountains despite the pandemic. We knew that by remaining open, there would be a reason for people to be out and about
spreading the virus, and we wanted to help our community flatten the curve to keep pressure off the hospital and health care system. Keeping our staff safe was also at the forefront of mind, as was instilling a sense of respect toward people who work in the service industry.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
I’ve seen it in so many of our local businesses, like restaurants innovating to get customers outside and implementing online ordering. There are some that do such a good job, like Moonlight, who accommodates customers in such a safe way that you can tell they care. It’s obvious there are some businesses that really care about our community and others that don’t.

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020?
This is something I’ve always lived by that got reinforced this year: you’re only as strong as the people you surround yourself with. Having staff that value caring for our community and are willing to follow through with the expectations that I’ve set to keep them—and the community—safe has made all the difference. My staff matter and we should treat all members of the service industry with respect and a sense of gratitude.

Cool Tidbits:
Kimi prides herself on carrying products she believes in and cultivating strong relationships with the people that make these products. “We envision our space as a marketplace for artists and makers trying to bypass modern day capitalism and financially support themselves through their passion and small businesses.” Howl partners with the Ark Valley Equality Network to further the work of anti-racism in our community and to focus our energy into the education, healing, and fundraising that the community will need to ensure Salida is fair, equal, and welcoming to all people. Learn more at their website: or on Instagram @howlmercantile.


Today, we sat down with Kathi Wardlow, founder and director of Children’s Discovery Ranch, to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this early childhood center located on the historic Hutchinson Ranch.

How did COVID cause you to innovate? 
We adapted operating procedures so they aligned with the guidelines to prioritize health and safety. The changes we made included creating consistent pods so groups weren’t mixing, physically distancing while sending a message that we all are still connected, and adding in a ton more cleaning and sanitizing. We also reduced capacity by just running two of our three classrooms. We kept the same number of staff, however, so that we don’t have to stress and can support each other if one of us has to stay home with our own kids who are sick or in quarantine. As a nature-based, play-based program we have acres of outside exploration space and are already typically outside a lot. We increased our emphasis on being in nature. The space to get out in the woods, rivers, fields was really helpful, supportive and healing for all of us. The best part is that the kids adapted so easily and quickly to all of the changes. Better than we did! 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
We recognize how important being part of our school family is for the health, well-being and development of kids, and how essential it is for our kids and families to have a space away from home where kids feel safe and nurtured. All the effort and stresses to reopen with a little risk as possible were worth it when we saw how happy the kids were and how appreciative the families were so they could get back to work themselves. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
In addition to all the businesses and individuals who have shared their services, knowledge, and expertise for the greater good, I want to mention the collaboration between several local schools. We are fortunate to work with the Salida Early Childhood Center, Son Shine Inn and Poncha Springs Schoolhouse. Together, we’ve waded through the guidance, which has continually changed since the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve been able to reflect on our collective knowledge of best practices for young children and families, and to share ideas on what adaptations need to be made to minimize risks and keep our schools open and as safe and healthy as possible. In addition, the Salida School District, Chaffee County Public Health, Chaffee County Early Childhood Council and our local SBCC have provided invaluable resources and support to help get us through to the other side of these challenging times. So many people have stepped up for our community! Chaffee definitely has huge heart! 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
We are all essential! Everyone brings their unique talents, knowledge and passion to the table to make our community vibrant. This creates a wonderful place for our children to grow and thrive. 

Cool Tidbits: 
Discovery Ranch has been serving our community since 2004. 

Families associated with Discovery Ranch has always been supportive when the school has needed to grow and expand – either through monetary or in-kind donations. Kathi explains: “Our hard work and determination to keep it going through COVID is a way to give back to our community that has given us so much.” 

It was important to the school to maintain a connection while they closed in April and May so they distributed activities to families and created story time videos that were posted to a private Facebook page. 

To learn more, follow them on Facebook: 



Today, we sat down with Executive Director, Brian Beaulieu of the Boys & Girls Club of Chaffee County to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this non-profit created “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as caring, productive, responsible citizens.” How did COVID cause you to innovate? 

We had to be flexible and respond to daily changes to meet the needs of our working families. We’ve always been a facility-based, face-to-face organization, so we had to change how we connect. Plus, we had to step up to a big challenge since we say: “whenever school is out, Boys and Girls Club is in.” We did a lot of work to offer a safe place for kids to come when schools went remote. We reconfigured programming at both facilities (Avery-Parsons in BV and BGC in Salida) to create 3 safety zones where kids could spread out and work on their own, with staff roaming to help kids learn. We stand ready to open for safer learning if needed again, and when schools are open, we continue to offer our regular after-school program. 

How did partnerships play into your success? 
This may not have been the challenge we were looking for, but because we live in a place where so many people have a high dose of common sense and know how to get things done, we were able to pivot and do what needed to be done. We used parks, spent more time outside, took advantage of environmental education programs, but it was all due to a team effort. We have the best program staff in our history and we are very fortunate to have such great partners. We worked closely with Public Health, both school districts and rec departments, superintendents, Chaffee County Community Foundation, Alpine Achievers Initiative/Americorps, and GARNA to make it all happen. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
We—my board, leadership team and program staff—are all very prototypical kid nuts. Our motivation really was missing kids. We love working with them, we get energy from them and we take particular pride in changing the trajectory of their lives so it was all about: how can we reach out? How can we stay connected? We would do whatever it takes to make sure kids are still safe, happy and learning. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
I see it every day in small gestures, and feel like it’s not just heart, it’s also common sense and people wanting to help others. Our phones have been ringing off the hook since Spring. People have always wanted to help our kids, but there have been so many more inquiries about how the kids are doing, and how people can help to make sure kids are safe, happy and their basic needs are being met. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
I gained a great sense of pride in our mission to serve kids who need us most. Working families have always had challenges and needs, but this year, it felt like we were built for times like this. This year proved we have the right staff, right mission and right partners. In some crazy way, we are spoiled in Chaffee County to have a fighting chance to do things well in the most challenging times. There’s no other place I’d want to be during something like this because our community is so vibrantly helpful and up to the challenge. 

Cool Tidbits: 
Chaffee Boys & Girls Club has been open since May 26 . It may look a little different, but they want everyone to know they are here for those who need them. If school is closed, they’ll work with kids and families to stay on track. If you need anything, or want to contribute, call: 719-539-9500. 

Our small club has produced award-winning members like the Southwest Region Youth of the Year, Athena Kintgen, and First Place National Fine Arts winner, Devyn Grundy. 

To stay up-to-date visit: or follow on Facebook. 



Today, we sat down with Brian England, CEO and owner of Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery to learn how the pandemic changed things at this communal gathering place in Buena Vista.

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business?
We’ve been working on developing our company culture and values for a long time. As a result, we’ve always been forward-looking, innovative, a leader in the community, doing what we can to set ourselves apart. So, while this was forced upon us, we were able to adapt very quickly because of these values. Our main goal was and continues to be: providing great customer service and great quality food at a value. To this end, our biggest innovations were integrating an online ordering system, changing our menu to include take-and-bake specials and foods that would travel well, and adding take out drinks that included not only beer, but also wine and bottles from Deerhammer Distillery. We added in a bodega so people could get products that were tough to find at the grocery store, and got creative to provide fun take-home projects like Mother’s Day Brunch Kits. Everything we did was aimed at working with what customers could do at home and adding value to their lives.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
One of the reasons we moved to Buena Vista is because of the community here. Looking at how the pandemic has ripped across globe and talking to other people, we are so fortunate to live where we live. The people here are what makes this place so special and we wanted to take extra measures to keep our customers and employees safe. To do this we had to make some sacrifices – like closing the Taproom – but we feel businesses should always put their best foot forward and as a leader in the community, we felt driven to set a high standard.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
We saw our community step up right away in so many ways. The community here is selfless and they’ve proven again and again that no matter what happens, we are going to do what is pragmatic, and what is right for the greater good even if it’s inconvenient for one. We are going to protect each other and rally around each other to get through this together.

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020?
We are fortunate to live where live. 2020 has confirmed that beyond a doubt for me and my family. BV is an amazing place to be. The community is amazing. Not only can we survive, but we can thrive through the most difficult times and that speaks volumes to the people that live here. Another big takeaway is that even though it may seem difficult, we need to stay diligent now more than ever. We need to wear masks, keep our distance and be patient. In Chaffee, it’s easy to feel safe, but we need to keep up safety measures for a while longer so that hopefully later in 2021, we can return to a level of normalcy.

Cool Tidbits:
If you’ve taken the Chaffee’s Got Heart Pledge and received a free Discovery Pass as a result, stop by Eddyline for your free chips and salsa. Tight on time or staying extra safe? Place your order online for pick-up.
For the latest brews and news:
Eddyline is expanding its branded merchandise line. Available online soon or stop 926 South Main, Buena Vista to check it out.


Today, we sat down with Elaine Allemang, Director of the Salida Community Center, to find out how the pandemic changed operations at this organization driven by a mission to nourish the people of Chaffee County by providing food programs and activities, and by promoting a safe and sanitary community environment for all ages and cultures. 

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business? 
The Salida Community Center has always had the needs of the citizens at heart. We started the food program several years ago when we realized there are people in this county that are in need of food. We always helped around 200 to 300 people, but when the pandemic hit, we immediately saw an increase and as of now we serve over 800 people. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
We knew how many people were affected by Covid-19 and we wanted to step up and help as many as we could. We joined forces with several non-profits to help the people of Chaffee County not only with food but necessities such as shampoo, soaps, toilet paper, dog food and other needs that might have. Our Community Center always relied on rental of the facility in order to bring in funds to keep our doors open however since our water pipe broke, we have now had to rely on the help of donations from the citizens of the area. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
The residents of Chaffee County have proven they “Got Heart”. There are so many caring and selfless people here in the area. We have so many volunteers that step up to help. They donate time and money in order to help our neighbors in this area. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
The most valuable thing that I have learned from this pandemic is the huge number of selfless and caring people that reside in this area. When caring people come together, we can accomplish anything. 

Cool Tidbits: 
The Salida Community Center has provided food/meals to over 800 families every month this year! 

Want to get involved? Visit: Here you can either donate or enter your email to get notified of volunteer opportunities. 

To stay up-to-date on events and volunteer opportunities, follow the Salida Community Center on Facebook: 


Today, we sat down with entrepreneur, barista and coffee connoisseur, Phillip Benningfield, who co-owns and operates Café Dawn with wife Dawn Heigele, to learn how the pandemic changed things at their community-minded, environmentally conscious coffee shop. 

How did COVID cause you to innovate or change the way you do business? 
As a restaurant, we already take safety and health quite seriously so COVID just caused us to up our “serious factor.” Fortunately, we have one of those businesses that stayed open the whole time, but at the beginning, when people were really afraid and staying at home, we only allowed take out and even did some delivery for a couple months. When things started to re-open and we could again allow seating, we continually monitored it to be sure that our seating remained safe; it was a constant fluctuation between allowing it and keeping the level of exposure as low as possible. More recently, we have added heaters so people can stay comfortable outside. 

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community? 
Because we care about our community. We give a damn about the people that come into our business. Of course, we want to give them great coffee, but more than that, we want to give them a safe environment. And in turn, we expect them to be respectful of our safety measures so we can stay open. 

We’re also motivated because of our commitment to our employees. My wife (Dawn) loses sleep over this all the time. If we are safer, we are not sick, we are always open and our team stays employed. 

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’? 
The best example is the way so many of our businesses have approached this. Innovating to provide services and take care of those who are sick or can’t get out. The effort and patience businesses have shown to make changes that protect their customers and employees – that to me shows our county has heart. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020? 
Love. Family. Empathy for others. These are the important things and what we need more of. It’s important as a business to put these first, to be willing to make a lot of changes, to stick to your guns and be as safe as possible. 

Cool Tidbits: 
Look Before You Drink! Café Dawn baristas are extensively trained to properly extract espresso, steam milk and create latte art so be sure to check out the work of art in your cup before diving in to your delicious drink. 

If you’ve taken the Chaffee’s Got Heart Pledge and received a free Discovery Pass as a result, Café Dawn offers $5 off a Survival Kit, which includes 6 bagels and a bag of delicious coffee. 

Tight on time or staying extra safe? Call ahead (719-539-5105) for pick up. For the latest menu and hours: 


Today, we sat down with owner and baker Emily Walker of the Little Red Hen Bakery in Salida to learn how COVID changed things just a year after she and husband, Andrew (owner of Salida’s 7000 Feet Running Company) took over the reins.

How did COVID cause you to innovate?
The biggest change we made was putting our line outside. We never would have considered this if not for COVID, but we tried to pick something early on that would go above and beyond no matter what rules came into effect so we could get back into a rhythm that would allow us to focus on outstanding customer service and creating a delicious product. Plus, we gave people a place they could socialize safely from a distance.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to keep our community safe?
I take my commitment to employing members of our community very seriously. Our employees and customers depend on us to be here for them so I wanted to make sure we could stay open. To do that, we needed to design a system that would provide peace of mind – for the 20 people on my team and for the customers – no matter what might happen. And it paid off. When we had an employee COVID scare back in October, it was really comforting to know that our customers had nothing to worry about because of the distance we placed between us and them. Out of an abundance of caution we closed for a few days until we all tested. As a small business, it was terrifying, but we knew it was the right thing to do and the feedback we got from the community was a hundred percent positive. It made people trust us even more and they came back in full force when we reopened.

Where do you see examples of the idea that “Chaffee’s Got Heart”?
From the very beginning of the pandemic, what blew us away was that our customers weren’t just coming to us for food, they were coming to us for comfort and that was super powerful. They sent such a strong message: you need to stay open because we need you, we rely on you and at the same time, they made it clear that they were going to be here for us, a definite sign of our community’s heart. We used to be so much friendlier and welcoming than we are now, giving samples, having kids play inside, chatting with customers – and it’s been scary to let go of that to be safe. We weren’t sure how people would react, but they’ve been amazing. We can’t wait until we can welcome people back into the store, but we know that the Little Red Hen will be ok until it’s safe.

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020?
I learned what we mean to this community. This was a scary year for a new business owner like me, but feeling this supported made me realize I want to do this for the rest of my life – run this bakery, here in Salida. We matter here, which is a lot of responsibility, but it’s also gotten me through the tough bits of 2020 and it made our team so much stronger.

Cool Tidbits:
Quarantined or staying extra safe? LRH offers free delivery after 4 PM within Salida. Call (719) 539-2401 to schedule your delivery.
If you’ve taken the Chaffee’s Got Heart Pledge and received a free Discovery Pass as a result, LRH offers unlimited coffee!
Through their Community Account the LRH accepts donations for the Salida Grainery. Stop by the Little Red Hen at 302 G Street in Salida to donate.
For the latest menu and hours:


Today, we sat down with Executive Director of the Chaffee County Community Foundation, Joseph Teipel to learn how COVID changed the approach taken by this nonprofit founded in 2018 with a mission to act as a catalyst to inspire positive change through the power of philanthropy to enrich the lives of all people in Chaffee County.

How did COVID cause you to innovate?
COVID forced us to research, design and implement new ways of doing what we do, which included things we had never done before. Overall, it caused us to innovate in 3 big ways:
1. We had never given direct cash assistance to individuals, but COVID shifted our focus to the Emergency Response Fund (ERF). Within just a few weeks of the shut down, we worked with DHS to offer assistance that would meet the community’s immediate needs.
2. By June, we created a group-based grant program for food access organizations that was new to our organization. We wanted it to be innovative and forward-thinking so we modeled it around the idea that the grantees would work together to increase coordination and collaboration to meet immediate community needs and ensure all Chaffee families and individuals had access to nutritious food.
3. Due to COVID, we had to grow our capacity very quickly. For 2020, we had a planned budget of $80,000. Over the year, we actually ended up passing $1.8 million through our organization. The sheer volume of dollars, transactions, grants…it all required we innovate, figure out how to do more with such a small staff, and lean on our board of directors.

Why did you decide to go above & beyond to contribute to our community?
This is our mission and who we are, but we were also driven to do more by nudges from community leaders who recognized a gap that we could fill. We were asked to step up to the plate by these other stake holders and we did.

Where do you see examples of the idea that ‘Chaffee’s Got Heart’?
The easiest example is the outpouring of generosity from across the county in response to COVID. It was clear that hundreds and hundreds of people understood the traumatic impact of the shutdown on other community members and they stepped up and got involved financially. We had 780 individual donors contribute to the ERF, many of whom had not donated to us before, for a total of $400,000 that went straight back to our community.

What’s your biggest takeaway from 2020?
On community level, I learned that Chaffee residents have a deep desire to support each other. On a pragmatic level, I learned that it’s possible to get so much done without being around other people and that’s surprising.

Cool Tidbits:
CCCF is always trying to raise and elevate the idea of philanthropy and giving back. With new stimulus checks going out, CCCF is urging those who don’t need those stimulus dollars to leverage that money by donating it to the ERF at Over the year, a total of 1.1 million came into the ERF through grants, individual donations, etc. Approximately $700,000 went back into the community through grants to individuals, small businesses and non-profits. The rest is being held in reserve in anticipation of needs in 2021. Learn more:

Stories of Chaffee County individuals and businesses rising to the challenge abound. We will be shining a light on those doing extraordinary things for the community throughout the upcoming months. Visit our websites (Chaffee’s Got Heart or CCPH) or follow us on Facebook (@COVID19ChaffeeCounty) to see more. Know a potential candidate, or are you one yourself? Send nomination ideas to:

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