On Friday, Dec. 18, Trinidad’s Phil Long Toyota brought a truck load of 50 gifts to members of The Youth Club of Trinidad and were greeted with smiling, excited faces awaiting a gift with their name on it.

This was all thanks to a “giving tree” that had been put up in the dealership earlier in the month with envelopes instructing the taker to purchase a girl’s or boy’s gift.

Even though no specific names were put with each child, several children could be heard exclaiming, “this is just what I wanted!”

“We’re really thankful for the Toyota team bringing gifts to our members,” said club President Carlos Lopez. “You can tell by the excitement that their generosity made these kid’s day.”

Adding to the joy of the season, recently the club has done some major improvements to their outdoor space, including finishing out their greenhouse, adding fencing effectively giving the kids more room to play, and a freshly installed playground that the club’s director, Sadie Brown said came together thanks to a community effort.

“We had an anonymous donor for the mulch and Kayvan Khalatbari, Wally Wallace, Curtis Wallach, and other local business newcomers volunteered their time and donated materials to finish it up,” said Brown. “They bought the edging and put that in and got the mulch spread out.”

Once erected, club members wasted no time in testing out the new equipment, which Brown explained received their approval pretty much immediately. Unfortunately, when snow falls it puts a bit of a damper on the kid’s time outside.

“They can’t wait to get back out on the playground,” said Brown. “It’s covered in snow at the moment, but they love playing on it.”

The purchase and installment of the playground was made possible thanks to the state of Colorado and Las Animas County Department of Human Services (DHS) as part of their DHS Colorado Works grant.

Additionally, The Colorado COVID Relief Fund recently awarded the club $25,000 of grant funding to help respond to area students’ remote learning needs in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, a need arose for a full-time program for the 2020-2021 school year to support the children learning remotely.

“The Youth Club of Trinidad, Inc. is honored to receive this grant award and put it towards helping the children of our community succeed academically,” said Brown. “We upgraded our internet to help the students that are remote learning. Our schedule includes outdoor activities, arts & crafts, music, and STEM activities. We also provide meals and snacks to the children each day. We believe Operation Remote Learning Support will significantly impact Trinidad children’s remote learning success.”

Brown said they’ve been averaging about 16 kids each day other than Friday, which has seen higher numbers ranging from 20 to 25. Even with kids ranging from five years old up to 14, the club has been fortunate enough to not have any positive COVID-19 cases among youth or staff.

“We do some arts and crafts and a few different STEM activities,” said Brown. “Thanks to a grant we got from Bar NI, we were able to get a few different things like geoboards and straw constructors, magnet tiles, domino runs, and those sort of things. They love playing with the magnetic tiles and straw constructors. Right now, that’s their favorite.”

Right now, Brown said they have been spending a lot of time working with members to get their schoolwork completed and working through technical challenges with so much being done online.

“I help them get logged in and if they have trouble getting online or have difficulties with assignments, we help them out,” Brown explained.

With schools closed, childcare facilities such as the Youth Club have found themselves helping the most with keeping kids on track with their studies giving parents the ability to continue working.

“It’s a new level of challenges for parents who aren’t used to this and have other levels of stress with their work and daily lives that are now compounded upon by having to be a teacher in some ways, too,” said Lopez. “The people who want to be teachers become teachers and love children and educating them. We’re trying to be supportive and make sure we’re here for the community in whatever capacity we can be to make sure the kids are getting the things they need as well as their families.”

Being in the red level on Colorado’s COVID-19 risk dial, that has also impacted the amount of kids who have been coming into the club. Brown attributed some of this decline to the fact that some members may live with grandparents or may have other high-risk family members that makes leaving home for anything, much less to be around so many other kids, a risk in itself.

“Right now, the majority of the things we’re concentrating on is staying safe, staying open, and providing a great, quality service for the families and children of Trinidad and the surrounding area,” said the club’s president and founder, Carlos Lopez. “We’ve been very careful and we’re happy to have our team that comes in around 6 every morning and cleans for us every day before the kids even come in.”

Lopez expressed that feedback has been largely positive and appreciative regarding them continuing to stay open as allowed by the state. In many cases, parents may not have any other options but our facility.

With the city renewing their lease a few months ago for another four years, Lopez and Brown look forward to continue being here for local youth and giving them a safe place to learn and grow.

“We really want to thank everyone in the community for being supportive and we look forward to continuing to be here for the kids and families of the community for many years to come,” said Lopez.

For more information regarding programs and space available, give The Youth Club a call at 719-422-8090.

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