People in need know PPCAA, but not all those who might be donors
New Westside business aided through program
After Hannah Beachy graduated from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, she moved to Colorado Springs, ready to start her own business. What she wasn't ready for was the up-front cost of the variety of herbs she would need for different patients - especially with a student loan of about $100,000 that
still needs to be paid off.
That's where the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency (PPCAA) came in. One of the nonprofit's programs is called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), which help lower-income people with needs such as college tuition, buying a first home or starting a business. Hannah needed to show PPCAA her financial need and a business plan and in turn come up with a $1,000 match. This opened the door to agency advice and a grant of $2,000, explained Michon Lartigue, PPCAA director of development.
Qualifying was pretty easy, Beachy recalled with a smile during an interview this week. “I had no income at that point,” she said. “That's because I was starting a business.”
Opening Springs Com-munity Acupuncture at 2828 W. Colorado Ave. in early July, she's since developed a clientele and is considering a possible expansion. Beachy is also grateful to PPCAA staff for helping her get going in such a timely manner. She said some of her Acupuncture College classmates, now in Albuquerque, are still waiting for grant requests to be reviewed.
“They [the local agency] were very gracious about helping me move forward, not jumping through too many hoops,” she said.
Beachy's story has made her a poster child for the PPCAA, which sports the slogan of “A hand up, not a handout.” Started as part of the War on Poverty in 1964, community action agencies nationwide seek to help people with limited funds become self-sufficient. Government funds (federal, state and local) cover about 45 percent of the agency's funding needs, and the rest comes from private donations, explained Jim Faber, PPCAA CEO.
The staff keeps busy. Faber's year-end report for 2010 reveals assistance of some type for roughly 17,000 people in the Pikes Peak region. Programs such as IDAs are part of that, but the main push is for family stabilization. “Most of our families are otherwise-stable households, working paycheck to paycheck that have suddenly found themselves in crisis for one reason or another,” Faber writes in a PPCAA brochure. “PPCAA steps in to stabilize these families and help them stay on the path toward self-sufficiency, or get on the path, and avoid having to apply for welfare.”
During 2011, the agency has faced financial problems of its own, with demand for its services rising at a 16 percent rate while revenues are 10 percent behind 2010, Lartigue said. That's spelled a shortfall between the two years of about $30,000.
The situation has forced PPCAA to work harder at fundraising. The problem, as Faber outlined it, is that while people in need typically know about the agency - “we collaborate with virtually every other provider in the county” - a lot of community leaders seem to be unaware of its existence. “We're the largest nonprofit doing the most good that no one has ever heard off,” he said, half-jokingly.
The agency operates from four offices in El Paso County, including the Billie Spielman Center at 1616 W. Bijou St. Spielman focuses on family stabilization as well as emergency assistance. Other PPCAA services include assistance with job training and certification; graduating from high school; paying rent and utilities; and handling transportation, medical and counseling issues.
Beachy has clearly taken the PPCAA message to heart. In her own business services, she offers a sliding scale for customers, with the idea of making acupuncture a medical option that's within financial reach of anyone who might benefit from it.
As part of its fundraising, PPCAA sometimes brings potential donors by Springs Acupuncture to talk to Beachy. She doesn't mind at all. “I feel like they [PPCAA} really get it,” she said. “They're really community oriented.”
For more information, Lartigue can be reached at 633-8789, and the website is ppcaa.org.
Westside Pioneer article