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Rural Philanthropy Days: Archuleta County Veterans Services

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Eve Taylor’s son, James Thode, a Utah National Guard soldier, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo by Nathaniel Wick

Por Kristin Jones

When National Guard soldier James Thode was killed by an explosive in Afghanistan in December 2010, his neighbors in Farmington, N.M. showed up in droves for the funeral, his mother remembers.

But after Eve Taylor buried her son and went home to Pagosa Springs, Colo., her grief outlived her friends’ patience for hearing about it.

Taylor needed a therapist.

She couldn’t get one in rural Archuleta County; the nearest appointment she could find was in Pueblo, a four-hour drive away. It was a problem she had in common with local veterans and their families who needed help with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It took the initiative of a county veterans’ affairs advocate to see a local need for mental health services, and raise the issue at Rural Philanthropy Days, a series of events that connect funders like The Trust with nonprofits and government agencies in often-isolated rural communities.

The Archuleta County Veterans Services Office received one of 10 $5,000 grants The Trust gave out through these events in 2014. The funding allowed the county to pay for veterans and their families to get free local counselling.

The grants also supported, among other things:

  • Two Peaks Fitness, the only gym in Huerfano County. The grant provided inexpensive monthly passes for low-income residents of La Veta and neighboring towns.
  • Trinidad Community Farmers Market, which sells affordable, healthy food to people living in and near Trinidad.
  • The Hospice of Montezuma, which used the grant to organize support groups for caregivers and people dealing with the death of a loved one.
  • The T.A.R.A. Historical Society in Arboles, near southwestern Colorado’s Navajo Lake. The grant was used to install a chairlift, signs and handicapped parking to improve access to the historical society events for disabled visitors.

For Taylor, the counseling sessions offered by Archuleta County have given her a place where she can work through her sadness and remember her son, a 45-year-old police sergeant who was quick with a joke and took a fatherly interest in the home lives of the young men in his unit.

“It has been a lifeline for me,” she says.

Learn about the health equity issues affecting Coloradans at Collective Colorado, a publication of The Colorado Trust.