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Beverly Van Campen, creator of Chaffee County Women Who Care, is moving to Michigan, but the work of the loosely organized group of women who have been helping local nonprofit organizations since October 2018 will continue. 

Marilyn Bouldin will lead Chaffee County Women Who Care as Van Campen steps down. 

Chaffee Women Who Care’s story began in 2018 when Van Campen approached Bouldin and asked her if they could get a group going. 

She told Bouldin about a similar Michigan organization named Tri City Women Who Care. That group had about 260 members. Van Campen hoped to get 100 in Chaffee County, but Bouldin said she was not sure they would attract that many. 

Van Campen said they set up 75 chairs at the Salida Rotary Scout Hut for the first meeting but then decided to take 25 of the chairs down so it wouldn’t look too sparse. 

In the end they had to place additional chairs back into the space to accommodate the 62 women who attended the first meeting.  

Since that time the organization reported it has given donations to Planned Parenthood-Salida, Imagination Library, Alpine Achievers Initiative, Ark Valley Helping Hands, ElevateHER, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Achieve Inc., Chaffee County Hospitality, Full Circle Restorative Justice, National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI Chaffee County, Jane’s Place and Peak-to-Peak Pickleball.

Eunice Collette, NAMI Chaffee County, said the money provided by Women Who Care was used this year to hire a consultant. 

The consultant “helped us establish our goals and be sustainable into the future.” Collette said. “The goal is to broaden our impact in the community by building community relationships, increasing awareness and outreach about mental health resources and the programs we provide.”

April Obholz Bergeler, Ark Valley Helping Hands executive director, said “the donation in 2019 from Women Who Care was instrumental in getting AVHH up and running as an independent nonprofit in the community with a focus on local leadership and volunteers.

“That was the year that AVHH separated from Denver-based A Little Help,” she said. “More specifically, the funds were used to fulfill their mission of serving Chaffee County’s aging population.” 

Shelley Schreiner, executive director of The Alliance, said the program helped the sexual assault response team add additional sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANEs. 

“Specifically we used the funds to pay for training – 64 hours of online training and 36 hours of in-person training,” Schreiner said. 

SANEs care for the assault survivor’s needs and collect evidence that can be used for prosecution, should the survivor decide to pursue it. They also provide prophylactic treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. 

Donations made by Chaffee County Women Who Care since its inception total $126,265. The group has only missed one meeting since inception and that was due to COVID-19. Since then they have had to conduct meetings on Zoom and plan to hold their next as a hybrid in-person and Zoom meeting. 

Today, the meetings attract more than 100 women from around Chaffee County. 

One aspect of the organization is that the group is loosely organized – it is not a nonprofit group and has no elected officers or board. 

Members meet quarterly on the second Tuesday of that quarter, alternating between Salida and Buena Vista. The next meeting is Jan. 11. Their meetings start at 5:30 p.m., but for a half hour before the meeting they socialize, sharing snacks and maybe a glass of wine. 

Van Campen said this is a social aspect for many of the women. Each woman is asked to stay with the group for one year and donate $100  at each meeting. 

During the meetings members place the name of an organization into a hat. Names are drawn and the organizations that are randomly chosen give a presentation. 

There is one caveat: Presentations must be made by a member of Women Who Care.  

Members learn about the individual organizations and are welcome to ask questions of the presenters. 

At the end of the meeting the group votes for the organization that they want to receive the pot of money.

Van Campen said some women also donate to the other organization after the vote because the presentations are convincing. 

In return, the organizations who receive the donations are asked to return during the next quarterly meeting to make a presentation and tell the Women Who Care how the money was used. 

Those who receive funds then have to wait two years before their organization can be placed back in the hat. 

Chaffee County Women Who Care is one of 850 similar clubs in the United States, and all share affiliation under the 100 Who Care Alliance. 

Guests are welcome to come and see what it’s all about, Van Campen said. She said they want other women who might be interested to attend the meetings, and they would entertain a man attending a meeting if he were interested in starting a men’s group. 

For more information about NAMI Chaffee County, visit namichaffee.org or call 970-823-4751

For more information about The Alliance, visit alliancechaffee.org, or call 719-539-7347

For more information about Ark Valley Helping Hands, visit avhelpinghands.org or call 719-530-1198

For more information about Chaffee County Women Who Care, call Bouldin at 719-239-1031 or check out the group’s Facebook page.

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