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.

CAFE DAWN

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: https://www.facebook.com/cafedawn 

LITTLE RED HEN BAKERY

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: https://www.facebook.com/littleredhensalida/

CHAFFEE COUNTY COMMUNITY FOUNDATION (CCCF)

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 https://www.chaffeecommunity.org/invest-now. 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: chaffeecommunity.org.

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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: health@chaffeecounty.org.

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