Youth and Family Services finds new ways to support Summit County kids during pandemic

Children and mentors wear masks at a Mountain Mentors gathering. The program has had to be creative to continue offering services to youths and their families.
Photo from Robin Albert / Summit County Youth and Family Services

FRISCO — As with any organization, Summit County’s Youth and Family Services department has had to get creative in order to continue supporting local kids.

At a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday, Aug. 18, Youth and Family Services manager Robin Albert presented on the department’s adaptations to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The department, which functions as a part of county government, runs programs to help children, teens and families overcome barriers to succeed. In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it has found new ways to keep up with a steady demand for its programs. 

Despite being down two staff members, the department continues to serve more than 100 children in its Mountain Mentors program, which pairs adult mentors with children ages 8-16. 

“Thankfully, surprisingly, we had eight people sign up to be a mentor at the end of May,” Albert said. “Even in the middle of COVID, people were like, ‘I want to volunteer.’ So that was really awesome.”

When public health orders were more stringent, department staff delivered supplies to the mentors and children in the program so that they could do activities together virtually. 

“Some of our families are really having some tough issues, so our staff are making sure that they’re following up with the families that have been in crisis and don’t have the resources to provide for their kids at this time,” Albert said. 

Now that public health orders allow more in-person activities, the department is working to create neighborhood pop-up activities through the Mountain Mentors program. The goal is to bring the families together for games in their neighborhoods while remaining physically distant, Albert said.

In years past, the Mountain Mentors program has received donation funding at events like Music on Main, the Colorado BBQ Challenge and Taste of Keystone, all of which have been canceled or gone virtual this year. Previously, Music on Main brought in about $3,000 for the mentors program. 

Albert said the department is going to work on creating an online auction for the Taste of Keystone event this year to help raise money. People can also donate to the program on the Youth and Family Services website. 

The Youth Empowerment Society of Summit also has worked hard to keep its program growing despite the pandemic. The group, which comprises local high schoolers aimed at creating change in the community, hopes to open the Teen Center in Frisco on the days when school is online.

Students will be able to sign up for slots at the teen center, which will be able to provide up to 13 people with access to Wi-Fi and tutors during their online days, Albert said.

“The high school kids are really dedicated to making sure there aren’t kids falling behind,” she said. “They want the school year to be good for them, and we want to help kids who don’t have Wi-Fi access.”

The success of the programs depends on the department’s ability to secure grants, however. Albert said the department is actively applying for grants from The Rotary Club of Summit County, the Anschutz Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to open the teen center. 

Commissioners were excited about the new developments in the department. 

“Incredible work,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “I’m just so impressed with all of the creativity.”

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