Family and Intercultural Resource Center celebrates 25th year helping Summit County’s working families | SummitDaily.com

Family and Intercultural Resource Center celebrates 25th year helping Summit County’s working families

Family and Intercultural Resource Center executive director Tamara Drangstveit speaks to a crowd of supporters during FIRC's 25th anniversary open house, Thursday, March 7 in Silverthorne.
Deepan Dutta / ddutta@summitdaily.com

The Family and Intercultural Resource Center has been serving Summit County’s working families for 25 years, and one of the county’s most well-known nonprofits celebrated the milestone with an open house and breakfast party Thursday morning.

FIRC is Summit County’s largest nonprofit dedicated to helping working families build a foundation in Summit County, serving as a vital first point of contact for those new to the county or struggling to get by. FIRC serves as a one-stop shop for the most critical needs Summit families face: housing, health care and child care.

While this week’s avalanche chaos made travel hazardous, many supporters and staff still made it to the open house and gathered over coffee and pastries at FIRC’s main office in Silverthorne. Patrons celebrated the success of an organization that has gone from serving 200 residents when it started to 4,300 today.

FIRC executive director Tamara Drangstveit, who has been with FIRC for 10 years, said that while much has changed about Summit, many of the core problems remain the same as they did a quarter century ago.

“Those needs have changed in magnitude, but they haven’t changed in terms of what they are,” Drangstveit said. “It seems there’s always been that balance between what people earn and what it actually costs to live here.”

When FIRC started up in 1993, Summit County was quite a different place. Informational material provided by FIRC explained that a typical Summit family back then earned a monthly salary of $2,873, with expenses including $400 for housing, $460 for child care, $600 for food and $436 for health insurance. That left $937 left to work with for the rest of the month.

Today, the average family makes about $4,166 a month, with 93 percent of the workforce making $50,000 a year or less. Of that, $2,300 goes towards housing, $1,300 for child care, $1,000 for food and $450 for health insurance. That leaves the typical family with a deficit of $884 a month. FIRC estimates that 13,500 Summit County residents are on such precarious financial footing that they are just one crisis from being forced to move away.

Barbara Gibbs, vice president of FIRC’s board of directors, said that FIRC’s main purpose is to help working families stay here, which is critical as working families are an integral part of maintaining a community in Summit County.

“For me, what makes this community special is the people that live and work here,” Gibbs said. “If working families can’t live here, it would make a huge difference in the community; it just wouldn’t be as great a place. We need to do what we can to help them keep working and living here, since it’s so hard to do so these days.”

Fellow board member David Preaus said that he had the same growing pains when he came here that many Summit working families face today. That is why he also supports the organization and believes in its cause.

“As a small business owner, I experienced the same issues like how much it cost to be self-insured, and how trying to offer insurance to my employees was very difficult,” Preaus said. “Experiencing that side of things was the primary reason I got involved with FIRC.”

One of the purposes of Thursday’s open house was to also bring attention to FIRC’s attempt to get a matching grant of $25,000 with $25,000 of donations from the community. Drangstveit said that community support was FIRC’s backbone and hopes that it comes through for this current donation drive.

“That first year we saw 200 people, and we’re getting closer to 5,000 now,” Drangstveit said. “I think we’re working really hard to help a lot of people, but we couldn’t do that without support of community.”

For more information about FIRC, and to make a donation, visit their website at SummitFIRC.org.


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