DOLORES, Colo. — As any business owner will tell you, the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy. Just keeping doors open is a major accomplishment. So a bakery operating as a nonprofit surviving this pandemic is a huge milestone, but Cultivating Sacred and Three Chicks Bakery need your help.
“Although we had an amazing summer and with people getting out and exploring….it’s just not enough,” said Alana Connelly, the founder of Cultivating Sacred.
Last year, Rocky Mountain PBS profiled Connelly and her nonprofit, which aims to help women who are struggling with housing, domestic violence, substance use and more.
“It could be your neighbor. It could be your sister. It could be your mother,” she told Rocky Mountain PBS last September. “People don’t talk about it, so what we’re trying to do is start small and grow bigger so that people will start talking about it and reaching out and helping each other, not just in our community but other communities like the reservations, or places that go unheard.”
Right now, the nonprofit is able to help women in need through the form of a co-op, art gallery/boutique space, and a bakery. The art gallery, which is run by volunteers, gives space for local women to sell art or artisanal goods. The bakery, called Three Chicks Bakery and Deli, gives employment and support for women who really need it.
“I get calls every week for women looking for places to get out of their house to stay even just if it's temporary,” said Connelly, as she described the real problem of domestic abuse that she hears more and more about. “Everyone thinks that abused women or, you know, women that need help are less than, or somehow […] that you're less than human if you need help, but that's not the case.”
In Colorado, a 2019 report found 36.8 percent of women experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lives. Connelly says Montezuma County, where Dolores is located, really struggles with domestic violence and other life-altering issues.
“It is the poorest county in Colorado. We have one of the highest rates of teen suicides. We have, between here and La Plata County, we have the highest rates of specific STDs and drug use. And that's sad,” said Connelly. “And so we need to expand our reach and be able to help more people; and we can't do that if we don't work together.”
That’s why Connelly is holding a fundraising campaign for her organization right now. She started Cultivating Sacred a couple of years ago with just the art gallery. About eight months later, she tried to open the bakery in March of 2020 when COVID-19 shut everything down. She was finally able to open it last summer with the help of a loan from Onward Legacy Foundation, but now it’s time to pay back that loan.
“We're looking for one thousand people to donate $20 to help get us out of our debt and our loan that we borrowed from our nonprofit board,” explained Connelly. “And I figured that was a fairly easy request, $20 from one thousand people. I think hopefully people have an extra 20.” You’re able to donate through the Cultivating Sacred website.
After she is able to get out of the red with the organization, she hopes to expand in order to provide emergency housing for women in the area. According to Connelly, nine out of 10 of the calls she gets are from women who need help leaving their domestic partner and have no place to go.
“Our homeless shelter in our area … isn't open in the late spring, summer, early fall. It's only open in the winters. And so we don't have a place for those people to go. So it's super important for us to get the funding, to pay back our loan and get funding, to be able to rent a place where we can safely house women, because they don't, we don't have that here,” Connelly said.
She went on to explain that even if she could get a long-standing small block of rooms at a hotel, it would make a huge difference in helping these women. She also hopes the area starts to give more attention to these serious problems.
“I love where we live. It's got this, like, beautifulness to it and the people are amazing. But it definitely needs support,” said Connelly.
One major move for the organization comes in just a couple of weeks. Starting in October, the art gallery will be moving inside Three Chicks Bakery. This will mean downsizing and saving money, but also bringing more people into the bakery and getting more exposure for the artisanal products.
“Since they already use the gallery for events and we do pop-ups, and we do Halloween, and we do Christmas events and holiday events; this will just bring more people to the bakery,” said Connelly. “There'll be more people to shop the gallery items too, especially during the holidays.”
As Connelly gets more experience running this nonprofit, having started it with no prior training, she is still learning what support looks like. That includes changing tactics to helping women in small ways as well as the big ways. She said the organization has recently done things like paid for a trip to the grocery store, covered one electric bill, and purchased school supplies for kids. While she admits it’s hard work and tough to see how much need is out there, every little bit counts.
“It just feels good to help somebody or change, hopefully change somebody's life, you know?" said Connelly. “Just walk them through the process, just so they have someone to talk to is super helpful for these ladies.”
Amanda Horvath is a multimedia producer with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.