Building Hope, Rotary Club of Summit partner to bring community together | SummitDaily.com

Building Hope, Rotary Club of Summit partner to bring community together

Members of the 2018 Rotary Club "passion project" pose in front of the Building Hope Faces of Hope banner in an undated photo. Pictured from left are Carolyn Maessen, Catheryn Carlson, Jen McAtamney, Alex Rae Cooper, Laura Johnson and Lynne Parrish Baer.
Courtesy of Building Hope

FRISCO — The newest members of the Rotary Club of Summit County are partnering with mental health navigation nonprofit Building Hope to bring the community together this fall.

The Rotary Club will be sponsoring a month of Building Hope community connectedness activities in November, a month that can be especially tough on Summit residents struggling with isolation and financial difficulties ahead of the holidays.

Alex Rae Cooper, 26, is a member of the 2017-18 Rotary Club of Summit induction group. The new members were given some money to find their first “passion project” to work on as part of Rotary Club’s mission to community service.

Cooper, who grew up in Summit County, knew the struggles young adults may face when they come to the mountains, often without any community or resources to turn to when times get tough.

“I really see the importance of mental health in Summit County; I know it’s wonderful and beautiful, but it can also be isolating,” Cooper said. “It can be hard to find people to talk to or connect with.”

Cooper threw an idea into the mix about partnering with Building Hope, Summit’s local mental health navigation nonprofit that has grown into one of Summit County’s primary touch points for people looking to get behavioral health resources or to just link with a community that cares.

Building Hope was created two years ago to stem the rising tide of suicides in the county, where the suicide rate was among the nation’s highest with 13 in 2016.

24-hour crisis help
  • Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • For life-threatening emergencies, call 911

Those struggles hit close to home again recently. On Friday, June 28, 26-year-old Eagle County Sheriff Department deputy Tayler Esslinger was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his truck at a campground in Garfield County. Esslinger, who also was a volunteer firefighter, was a lifelong Vail local.

Given how tough it is to get people struggling with their mental health to come out of isolation and reach out to others, Building Hope has provided programming that brings the community together, creating dialogue that can break the stigma of talking about mental health as well as to direct people to the mental health resources they need.

Surrounded by fellow young Rotarians who also were aware of stories like Esslinger’s and other people over the years, Cooper’s passion project idea won out. The group connected with Building Hope executive director Jennifer McAtamney and program manager Betsy Casey to figure out how they could help. McAtamney was eager to join forces.

“This creative alliance will help reduce mental health stigma, increase participation in and connecting around our community wellness events, and bring a larger part of the community together around issues that affect us all,” McAtamney said.

After discussing possible ways to work together, McAtamney said the new Rotarians specifically opted to fund and participate in community connectedness activities in November.

That month, typically still in shoulder season, can be very tough on seasonal workers who may have their hours cut or jobs lost, with no loved ones around who can keep them from falling.

“It’s kind of that time when holidays are starting, so it can be an incredibly lonely time for people who don’t have those connections,” Cooper said. “The idea was well received by the group because we all understand the importance of good mental health and the need for connection, and because we saw how it could be a deep and ongoing partnership. We didn’t want to simply hand over a check and then walk away.”

While the details of the programming haven’t been finalized, McAtamney said Building Hope will be deploying all of the assets it has available to connect people to each other. That will include mental health education workshops, yoga, cooking classes, athletic pursuits, art exhibitions and other ways to bring individuals together and make them feel less alone.

The Rotary Club will be providing $2,000 for the project, and the Cooper’s group also won $2,000 more from the 2019 Hayes Family Mental Health Award, which recognizes a new Rotarian project in the area addressing depression, anxiety and addiction.

McAtamney said Building Hope plans a significant public information campaign in the coming months promoting November’s activities.


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