Things were a bit tough for Filiberto Andraca and his family last winter. Andraca, a resident of Silverthorne, found himself struggling under home mortgage payments. Although he and his wife work full-time jobs, the payments were becoming too high for them to handle, and they were in danger of losing the house they’d lived in for 10 years.
As a construction worker, much of Andraca’s work depends on the season and the weather.
“In the summer I’m working a lot, working 12 hours every day sometimes, Sunday to Monday, when the weather’s OK, because I have to do a lot of stuff before winter’s coming, to save money to live in the winter,” he said. “In winter, I try to find a job, but (when) there’s 10, 20 hours, it’s not enough.”
Andraca moved to Summit County from Los Angeles in 1999, with the goal of getting away from the big city and its problems of crime and overcrowding, in hopes of finding a good place to raise his children. He said he loves living in Summit County, with the youngest of his kids currently enrolled in the fifth grade at Silverthorne Elementary School.
And despite the challenges, he also loves his job, which allows him to work in the outdoors, a change from his previous jobs in L.A., which included 10 years at a plastics factory and six more in restaurant kitchens.
“I feel good when I’m working outside,” he said. “It’s different places, working sometimes in Frisco, sometimes in Breckenridge, sometimes in Copper, all around the county, and sometimes in Eagle County. I like it because I see many beautiful places.”
So when the mortgage payments became too much to handle, Andraca knew he needed help. A flyer at the Silverthorne rec center directed him to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.
FIRC’s emergency assistance fund provides temporary financial aid for Summit County residents who are struggling beneath rent, utility or medical costs.
FIRC estimates that more than 97 percent of its clients face financial struggle because of sudden or seasonal job loss, reduction of hours, a medical emergency keeping them from work or the need to get out of an abusive relationship.
“What we’ve seen is a lot of people in Summit County are just a paycheck away from a financial crisis,” said FIRC development director Anita Overmeyer. “Something as simple as ... not being able to work, to their hours being cut last minute based on skier numbers, all of that plays a role and when so many people are living paycheck to paycheck, it really has an impact on their ability to save for emergencies. So when they’re not able to save up and something happens like this, that’s when the fund is so important.”
In order to keep those services alive, FIRC created the Summit County Cares holiday fundraiser, with support from Victims for Advocates of Assault, the Summit Community Care Clinic, the Summit Foundation and social services. Now in its fifth year, the fundraiser is the major source of funding for the emergency assistance program. Last year, it raised a total of $60,000.
“We were able to help over 900 locals with that money — locals that were facing eviction, maybe in need of some urgent medical care or had their heat disconnected and needed help getting their utilities back on,” said Overmeyer.
This year, the goal is to reach at least $50,000. The fundraiser runs until Dec. 31 and has raised around $30,000 so far.
“It’s a unique fundraiser in that none of it goes towards administrative costs; it’s really going to these bills,” Overmeyer said. “If someone’s looking for their money to go the furthest and make the biggest difference, this is the way to help Summit County.”
According to a recent FIRC survey, 82 percent of people who received housing assistance have since moved from a critical or vulnerable situation into a safe or stable situation.
This is true of Andraca, who was able to overcome the financial difficulties related to his mortgage through FIRC’s assistance. Talking with a professional not only helped him work out his finances, but also wade through stacks of complicated and intimidating paperwork.
“Now I feel much more comfortable,” he said of his family’s stable financial position. “We can enjoy Christmas.”