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United Way honors contributors at Breakfast of Champions event

Volunteers, businesses receive awards

United Way of Southwest Colorado honored several Montezuma County volunteers and businesses at the annual Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday.

The nonprofit group recognized people who contributed time and money over the past year, while also kicking off the next fundraising campaign. Several United Way members gave updates on the state of their organizations and encouraged businesses to provide incentives for their employees to donate time and money to the cause. Representatives from Southwest Health System, the Bridge Emergency Shelter, the city of Cortez, the Colorado State University extension office and several other agencies attended the event at The Farm Bistro in Cortez.

Most of the awards went to businesses that donated money or held fundraisers for United Way in the past year, but community engagement coordinator Alex Prime also recognized a few individuals at the event. The Volunteer of the Year award went to Jay Wood, former president of United Way’s board of directors, who still volunteers extensively for the organization.

“(Wood) has spent hours out in the cold parking cars, reviewing anything that has to go to print for events.... He is our volunteer of the year, and actually of many years,” Prime said.

Wood said volunteering with United Way has been “a real blessing,” and encouraged others to sign up for volunteer work as well.

The Spirit of Giving individual award went to Chuck and M.B. McAfee, who have also been involved in the organization for many years. Chuck McAfee said he’s seen the Southwest chapter grow significantly since it started.

“United Way is always changing and getting better,” he said. “They are becoming more and more vibrant in the community.”

He asked business owners to encourage their employees to get involved with United Way, a theme that was echoed by speakers throughout the morning. Lynn Urban, CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado, gave a presentation before the award ceremony on strategies for businesses to get involved with social work.

Prime recognized several businesses for their donations, including Axis Health System, Southwest Health System, Vector Bank and First National Bank. The award for the most volunteers at an event went to Community Connections Inc., which brought about 10 volunteers to a United Way event in Dolores this summer.

In addition to the awards and Urban’s presentation, the breakfast was an opportunity for members of several partner agencies to give updates on their work. Laura Lewis Marchino, executive director of Region 9 Economic Development District, presented the latest data on funding for nonprofits in Southwest Colorado, and Vangi McCoy, of Montelores Early Childhood Center, spoke about Team UP Southwest Colorado, a “collective impact” initiative started by several United Way partner organizations last year.

Laurie Knutson, executive director of the Bridge, spoke about her plans to build a new shelter and transitional housing facility in Cortez next year. The shelter is close to reaching its fundraising goal for the project, she said, having received about $2.1 million in community donations over the summer. Knutson is still in the process of applying for several state grants, she said, but she hopes to have the new building on North Park Street finished by fall 2018.

United Way of Southwest Colorado is a nonprofit dedicated to raising money for a wide variety of community services in the region. Its headquarters is in Durango, but some staff members work out of Cortez to serve Montezuma and Dolores counties.

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