Because of the generosity of several interior designers, five young moms brought their newborns home to new nurseries.
Because nearly 30 businesses, churches and nonprofits contributed funds, provisions and volunteers, 10,000 Colorado Springs students started their school year with backpacks brim full of school supplies.
And because local businesses love Colorado Springs, they are being invited to partner with local nonprofits on a new initiative called Lift Southeast.
All of these efforts are spearheaded by COSILoveYou (pronounced “Cause I Love You”), which mobilizes volunteers who contribute their skills, as well as money and materials, to produce successful community projects.
COSILoveSchools was one of the initiatives COSILoveYou launched in the pre-pandemic days, back when teams of volunteers from businesses and nonprofits were able to go into schools and do projects such as remodeling a special needs classroom and spiffing up a run-down teachers’ lounge.
This year, COVID-19 forced some changes in the way COSILoveYou delivered its gifts to the community, but it couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants, who were even more determined to make a difference in people’s lives.
“We build teams to address practical needs,” said Stu Davis, who founded COSILoveYou three years ago. The organization brings businesses and nonprofits together with the local faith community to address issues and develop projects that an individual employer or a single church couldn’t pull off alone.
And through skills-based volunteering, it provides ways for businesses to make small contributions that can result in big changes.
HELP FOR NEW MOMS
A young woman in Southeast Colorado Springs was facing the impending birth of her baby without a proper space for the infant.
“Her husband was in the military,” said Lydia Andrews, owner of Maple & Moss Staging and Design. “She was by herself, and they really didn’t have the funds to get a nursery started for themselves. There’s a lot around the birth of a new baby that as a mom, you want to provide.”
COSILoveYou connected Andrews with the expectant mom. Andrews, a mom herself, talked with the woman about the dream nursery she wanted for her baby; together they pored over pictures on Pinterest.
With a budget provided by the organization and some of her own money, Andrews came up with a concept and ordered furniture, paint and other materials.
With the help of a small team of volunteers, Andrews directed a one-day makeover that transformed a bedroom in the mother’s home into an animal-themed nursery where her baby could get a great start.
“She went into labor very soon after, so she had the nursery set up for her,” Andrews said. “To be able to help do that for someone was really special.”
Andrews said she was on board immediately when she and a couple of other designers were invited to work on the nursery projects, especially because she was asked to contribute her skills.
For businesses who may be cash-strapped because of the pandemic, volunteering their time and services can be just as effective as giving money.
“I believe it’s even more effective, because you build relationships,” Andrews said.
“Just because we’re physically divided doesn’t mean that we can’t build a strong community and make connections. Rather than having that focus of, ‘I need to look out for what I need,’ we can shift that focus onto our community around us. If this business across for me fails, then I will fail too, because we’re all in this together.”
Over two days in August, COSILoveYou pulled off a huge event it called the Backpack Bash, even though COVID-19 threw a giant curve ball.
“We started planning about this time last year,” Davis said. A number of businesses wanted to be part of it. But when the COVID shutdown occurred, pretty much all of them had to pull out.”
But less than 90 days before the event was schedule, he got a call from a friend at Nunn Construction who wanted to help. As word spread that the event was going forward, several more calls came in. Swire Coca Cola, Walmart, Keysight Technologies, Rampart Supply, Creative Consortium, Checks Unlimited, Mountain View Electric Association and others came on board as primary partners, and others followed.
“There were some simply wrote checks, and almost everybody contributed something in kind,” Davis said.
Each of the eight local Walmarts contributed at least $1,000 in school supplies. Checks Unlimited provided warehouse space where the backpacks and supplies were collected and assembled.
Creative Consortium made signs and did design work. Nunn Construction loaned construction cones for traffic control during the drive-through events, which were held in five different locations on Aug. 1 and 8.
And everyone provided volunteers to stuff the backpacks and give them out.
Nunn Construction had helped with a previous COSILoveYou project — a renovation of a classroom for special-needs students at Holmes Middle School over the Christmas holiday last year.
For Nunn, the backpack project was a part of the Gratitude Challenge, a fundraising effort the construction company put together earlier this year.
“So many of our small businesses were having to shut down,” said Andrea Slattery, business development director at Nunn. “We were one of the lucky ones” that were considered essential and allowed to stay open.
“So we wanted to think about what we could do to give back to the community, because we knew not everyone was in that position,” Slattery said. “We came up with the Gratitude Challenge.”
Nunn challenged the community to contribute funds that would benefit COSILoveYou and an organization called Educating Children of Color. Nunn committed to matching every dollar donated to the two organizations, up to $10,000.
The fundraising effort was even more successful than Nunn had hoped. By the time the campaign ended on Aug. 1, 51 participants had made donations to COSILoveYou ranging from $25 to $1,000 totaling $5,209. Nunn donated $5,000, for a total of $10,209. With those funds, COSILoveYou was able to purchase and fill 2,042 backpacks.
Nunn also collected in-kind donations at its office and at several of its job sites.
Giving back to the community, even a small investment, “can make such a big difference when you’re putting it in the right hands,” Slattery said. A company may not be able to contribute money, but could give time or perhaps “an excess of some product that you have.”
Slattery pointed out that COSILoveYou leverages small contributions to get large results during its annual CityServe Day, which mobilizes thousands of people for a day of service. This year, on Oct. 3, CityServe Day drew 2,215 volunteers who contributed 6,6400 hours at 72 project sites around the city.
That kind of giving not only makes a huge impact on the community but can also bolster the businesses that participate, Slattery said.
“Even a small investment can reap rewards in terms of raising awareness of who you are in the community and raising awareness of your business,” she said.
In the coming year, Davis said, “one of the things we are working on is an initiative called Lift Southeast. We are trying to build more partnerships around organizations that are doing good work in the southeast part of the city.”
That includes expanding the COSILoveSchools program in Harrison School District 2 and also supporting and partnering with organizations like Solid Rock Community Development Corp., the Thrive Network and the RISE Coalition.
“We’re looking at trying to do more to highlight their work and partner up organizations, especially business partners, who could contribute real expertise to things like job growth and community development efforts — everything from grassroots efforts like local food pantries and health care access to really macro-level efforts like education, housing and homelessness and some of those kinds of issues that are present in the southeast,” Davis said.
“For organizations that are interested in being a part of that, we’re going to be getting pretty aggressive about this Lift Southeast initiative in 2021,” he said.
Davis said he will be looking for a key partner to help Solid Rock stand up a family resources center that will function as a community hub and for business owners who want to do mentorship of entrepreneurs with the Thrive Network.
What he’s seeking is “skills-based volunteerism,” Davis said.
“An accountant who sweeps up a trail may have a good feeling about helping somebody. But what they’ll get really excited about is working with a family who’s trying to figure out how to set up a family budget for the first time,” he said.
Businesses and individuals who’d like to learn more about Lift Southeast and other service opportunities can find information at cosiloveyou.com.