Tom's Door Opens to Caring 6

Carbondale Charity Celebrates 15 Year Anniversary

Local student Jesse Case (that’s not his real name) had a rough spring. His mother, Gina, was about to deliver a child and unable to work. His father was not around to help. Jesse was acting out at school and got expelled. Jesse and his mother had not eaten in four days when a Roaring Fork school representative intervened. With a quick referral to the Family Resource Center—a partner of local charity Tom’s Door—help was soon on the way.

Tom’s Door funds helped secure housing for the family for another 30 days. Gina worked with the Family Resource Center to develop plans for moving forward.

Jesse and Gina are typical of the people assisted by Tom’s Door; fortunately, this intervention was a catalyst for the family. Jesse successfully returned to school this fall. He has a new healthy sibling and Gina is currently seeking employment.

“Preventing a family from eviction and ensuring they have food and support during a crisis is why we exist,” explains Tom’s Door founder and Executive Director Rosie McSwain.

Carbondale-based Tom’s Door has been providing emergency assistance to individuals and families in the Roaring Fork Valley since 2001. Three Catholic priests—Fathers Tom Bradtke, Tom McCormick and the late Monsignor Tom Dentici­—were leading local parishes in 2001 and the three Toms became the charity’s namesakes and supporters. The mission of Tom’s Door is simple: Provide emergency assistance to those in need and improve the quality of their lives.

Today Tom’s Door works closely with four other not-for-profit groups: Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork School District; Reach-Out Colorado Inc., located in Rifle; the River Center in New Castle; and Glenwood Springs-based Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, Western Slope. “These partnerships expand our reach and improve our efficiency,” explains McSwain.

Since its beginning, Tom’s Door has provided over $1 million in emergency help to thousands of families in need, working one grant at a time. “People are often surprised to learn we are run entirely by generous volunteers,” states founder McSwain.

Tom’s Door is uniquely funded by a combination of individual donors, a few small grants, and the sale of handmade note cards with archetypal photos from the valley. In 15 years, more than 75 gifted photographers have donated their work to Tom’s Door.

Now, as from the start, a crew of volunteers assembles and distributes the cards to more than 25 local retail outlets and churches that sell them. The cards change with the seasons, with new cards frequently added to the mix.

“Who would have ever thought we would be able to provide over $1 million in assistance? With that kind of success, we decided it was appropriate to celebrate our 15th birthday in style,” said McSwain. And celebrate they did.

On October 3rd, Tom’s Door held a 15th birthday party at the River Valley Ranch Barn. Enlargements of 55 Tom’s Door photos were auctioned to raise funds to help other neighbors in need. Several local vendors donated or provided discounted food and services to support the charity – a sign of how beloved this group has become in the community.

“Our assistance is 100 percent local, helping people from Rifle to Aspen. We are all volunteers, just trying to help our neighbors.” Your child’s teacher, your favorite checker at the grocery, your contractor or your elderly neighbor are assisted in times of dire need. “From a tank of gas to a month’s rent assistance, or covering a medical procedure, the assistance pours out in small doses—just enough to help our neighbors get back on their feet,” explained McSwain.

McSwain maintains a file of hand-written notes received from people Tom’s Door has helped. A recent card from a young girl named Maria reads, “Thank you for paying my dental bill. Now that my teeth don’t hurt, I am able to pay more attention at school.”

“When we receive tender letters like that,” McSwain reflects, “we know we are helping change lives.”

Tom’s Door always welcomes new volunteers, and of course, cash donations are always needed. For more information or to donate, please go to TomsDoor.com.

Author Georgine Garbarini serves on the board of directors for Tom’s Door. Because Tom’s Door keeps its clients’ names confidential, pseudonyms have replaced clients’ real names in this article.