After a year of strategic discussions, the Southeast Regional Council decided last December to allocate 50 percent of its annual funding towards organizations that support youth mental health and resiliency. Huerfano County Youth Services, otherwise known as the Sangre de Cristo Center for Youth, was selected as one of four grantees in this new focus area. The organization will receive $50,000 over two years to support preventative programming for youth.
Sangre de Cristo Center for Youth was started in 1999 as a branch of a national mentoring organization called Partners and has since evolved into an independent organization that empowers youth to become community leaders through positive youth development activities. Activities include early intervention and prevention programs, tutoring, life skills and health training, outdoor exploration programming and field trips.
During the first year of funding, the organization received $25,000 to support food for program participants, funding youth program facilitators, field trips, college tours and community service opportunities. Notably, funding also supported the services of a local counselor, who provided her services to program participants after one of the children who attended the Center passed away. The counselor led group sessions to help children cope with the loss of a classmate, friend and family member. In a presentation to the Council, the organization noted that this opened doors for children to have conversations with a trusted adult about grief, further illuminating the need for youth mental health support and hopefully leading to more trust in mental health professionals in the future.
Serving more than 150 youth, the Sangre de Cristo Center for Youth operates out of a 700 square-foot building along Walsenburg’s main street. The Center provides innovative programming outdoors or out of the center to accommodate the many children who participate. The staff is so committed to the youth they serve, they have pledged to work on a volunteer basis if ever deemed necessary. Executive Director Kathy Harmes noted, “We have to stay open because if we don’t, I don’t know what will happen to the kids.”
The persistence and dedication of grant partners like Sangre de Cristo Center for Youth are the lifeblood of the Regional Partnerships program, and especially the Southeast Regional Council and its focus on youth mental health and resiliency. By partnering with organizations working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of youth in rural communities, El Pomar’s mission to enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado extends across the state. Listening to those who are doing the work and bolstering their efforts is the best way to make an impact on rural communities, and the Southeast Regional Council is proud to partner with Sangre de Cristo Center for Youth and other entities that strive to turn the tide on youth mental health in southeastern Colorado.