Q&A with the new Piñon Project director

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Kellie Willis Enlargephoto

Kellie Willis

Kellie Willis recently became executive director of the Piñon Project.

How old are you and where did you come from?

I am 49, originally from Durango.

What does your job consist of?

Overseeing all our programs and 11 of our 50 employees.

Who did you replace?

Diana Buza, who retired after serving as executive director for three years.

How long have you worked for the Piñon Project?

Five years, three as fiscal manager and two as program manager.

What did you do before that?

I was a controller for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe for six years.

What kinds of things does the Piñon Project offer?

We are a family resource center. We provide early childhood programs, the Treehouse Preschool, literacy classes and the Incredible Years social and emotional curriculum for preschoolers, parenting classes including information on nutrition, family services such as paying utilities and rent to help one avoid eviction and repairing vehicles through the Montelores Emergency Assistance Coalition, helping with sign-ups for Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and youth activities, such as mentoring and restorative justice through the Youth Empowerment Project.

What is new at the Piñon Project? We’re starting an after-school program, an activities class at Cortez Middle School that will run from Nov. 5 to Dec. 14. It will offer unusual games such as mat ball, pickle ball and eclipse ball. We also will offer a horse therapy pilot project at Medicine Horse in Mancos on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. It will run from Nov. 14 to Dec. 12. We will provide transportation for the youth. We are offering an exercise program in all of the local elementary schools, and cooking and light exercise classes for adults.

What are your goals?

In short, strengthening families, making them more resilient and self-sufficient through resume building, budgeting, setting goals and creating a support group around them.

How are you funded?

Through foundations, state and federal grants, city and county funds, and local donations, including our annual fundraiser in February, a comedy club.

How can one get more information?

By calling 564-1195 or stopping by at 300 N. Elm St.