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by Maya Darnall May 29, 2024

Vail Daily Article – From food aid to helping businesses, Eagle Valley Community Foundation keeps expanding its work

The MIRA bus saw an 89% increase in visits from 2022 to 2023

By Scott Miller

There’s plenty of need in Eagle County, and the Eagle Valley Community Foundation keeps growing to meet that need.

The local nonprofit is known primarily for The Community Market and the MIRA bus, which provides mobile health services and referrals to the valley’s underserved communities.

Foundation representatives Tuesday met with the Eagle County Board of Commissioners to talk about the group’s work. That work doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Foundation Executive Director Melina Valsecia told the commissioners her group partners with several other organizations, from nonprofit groups to restaurants, hotels and grocery stores to cut down on food waste.

A lot of that food goes into composting projects to keep it out of the local landfill. But Veyra Gamboa, the operations manager for The Community Market, noted that a lot of food goes to school children to get them through the weekend. Working with Food Bank of the Rockies, food boxes are also packed for local seniors to provide variety in their diets.

The Community Market just last week provided food to more than 3,000 local households, Gamboa said. Of that, about 45% was fresh produce.

All that work takes a lot of volunteer effort. More than 1,600 volunteers put in more than 10,000 hours of work in 2023.

“We may have way more than that this year,” Gamboa said.

In addition to food aid, the foundation also operates the MIRA bus, which provides health assistance, education and referrals.

MIRA marketing manager Orlando Ortiz said bringing services to neighborhoods helps eliminate barriers and makes people feel welcome.

According to foundation data, MIRA bus visits increased 89% between 2022 and 2023. Asked about the jump in activity, Valsecia said MIRA is an opportunity to bring people together. That can start with social media and extends to kids. A nutrition and wellness seminar in March had more than 200 attendees, she said.

“We’re in need of connections here,” Valsecia said.

And, Ortiz noted, the community trusts those in the MIRA bus.

Those connections are being built through the Elevar program. That program is working with minority-owned small businesses, meeting twice a month with a group of seven business owners.

In addition to working with those owners, the Elevar program is working to expand minority business ownership. Sofia Fecchino noted that 8% of business owners in Eagle County are people of color, far less than the 30% of the adult population. The current student population in the Eagle County School District is 51% Hispanic.

Work with business owners includes help with financial planning, helping bridge language barriers where they exist with local government officials and more.

“There are opportunities for us to be better,” Fecchino said, noting that plans include classes and training in community leadership.

Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney asked if the foundation’s foundations are changing as the group becomes more active.

“We’re transitioning into whatever is the need,” Valsecia said. “That’s how we’ve found what is our next steps.”

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