Long closed House with the Red Door makes donation to TreeTop Child Advocacy Center | SummitDaily.com

Long closed House with the Red Door makes donation to TreeTop Child Advocacy Center

Father Ron Griffin and TreeTop Coordinator Brooke Turner during a tour of theTreeTop Child Advocacy Center in Breckenridge on Wednesday, August 29, 2018.
Sawer D’Argonne / Summit Daily News

It has been more than a decade since The House with the Red Door officially closed its doors in Breckenridge. But it’s somehow still making a difference in the lives of Summit County residents.

Father Ron Griffin, founder of The House with the Red Door and former priest at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge, left his Tennessee farm for a return trip to Breckenridge earlier this month, bringing with him a sizeable donation for the TreeTop Child Advocacy Center.

“Like all startups, it’s tough to get dollars and cents for the everyday needs,” said Griffin. “People will give you money if you have a program they like, or if they can put some brick and mortar component to it. They want to help buy the building or the equipment, but not the electricity to run it. … I believe that TreeTop has a lot of buy-in from the governments around here, and it’s only a matter of time before it has the capital to fund itself.

“This community is giving, and it has resources that it likes to share. Once its name gets out, and good work has been done, this community will support it. So this is not a gamble, they just need a little bit of help on the front end.”

Griffin, perhaps more affectionately known as Father Ron, started The House with the Red Door in 2000, hoping to create a safe space for young adults and a resource for positive change in Summit County. More than 2,000 young people utilized the organization’s services every year — receiving free meals, along with legal, psychological and other types of assistance. At its peak, the Red Door had more than 80 volunteers and five paid staff members, and it took in over 12,000 individuals in its short seven-year existence.

The House with the Red Door shut down in 2007, citing financial difficulties, though the plan was always to try to reopen sometime in the future. But as time went on, and the prospect of reopening the Red Door became more remote, Griffin decided to invest what was left of their funds into an organization that could still make a difference.

“I had to put The Door into hiatus because it wasn’t generating income,” said Griffin. “Ten years went by, and it was never right. I had the funds for the organization and we were keeping our nonprofit certifications up, but I started saying I need to pay it forward. The funds aren’t doing me any good, and not doing the community any good.”

Griffin reached out to Joanne Sprouse, director of the Summit County Division of Human Services and a board member for TreeTop, and donated the rest of The House with the Red Door’s funds to the TreeTop Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that opened in Breckenridge this June, dedicated to providing a safe and comforting environment to interview children who have faced abuse or witnessed a crime. Griffin and representatives from TreeTop asked to keep the donation amount private for the time being.

Still, the extra funds are expected to make an immediate impact.

“I think it’s going to be really huge,” said Brooke Turner, coordinator for TreeTop. “We’re so grateful, thankful and lucky that we were able to receive this donation. It really will have an impact on the longevity of TreeTop, and where we’ll be able to go. But it will also help us become more established, improve our services and build a better foundation for the organization. We’ve been open just under three months. We’re still brand new, and it will give us that base to continue on.”

TreeTop started off relatively slowly in its opening months. Since opening, the center has only seen about five child interviews. Though stakeholders are unperturbed, noting that further efforts needed to be made not only to educate law enforcement agencies in Summit County of the new resource, but also law enforcement agencies in Clear Creek, Eagle, El Jabel and Lake counties.

“At the moment we’re underutilized,” said District Attorney Bruce Brown, a board member for TreeTop. “There’s a lack of familiarity still around the region with what we offer. Often people use a center not even near them, but maybe they’re comfortable with those resources. Now that we have the center locally we’re trying to get people to use it more frequently.”

That process has already begun. Brown noted that this week he was giving a presentation on TreeTop to law enforcement agencies in Clear Creek who deal with sexual assault crimes, hoping to outline its benefits and services.

It may take a while until TreeTop reaches the point they want to be at. But for now, the organization is OK with a slow start, in part, because it allows them to make tweaks and improvements before they hit full capacity.

“There’s that old saying, ‘If you build it they will come,’” said Brown. “That’s the challenge of our board and the stakeholders is to continue to build that knowledge of this resource’s existence. As we do interview, we also look for logistical improvements. It’s better to have a slow drip to make corrections as opposed to a flood, but I’m confident we’ll get there.”

The organization’s goal is to be utilized once a week by the time they hit the year mark, conducting about 50 interviews a year.

“The way this program is going to succeed is by families spreading stories,” said Griffin. “It’s more than information, it’s about creating a narrative so that whenever it comes up, it comes up in a way that says this is a place a child can get help. All it takes is a few people within the community to begin sharing that narrative.”

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