With a new $2.1 million endowment program, Frasier Retirement County aims to help fill unmet needs for low-income seniors in Boulder County. Credit: John Herrick

Manufactured homes damaged by fierce Marshall Fire winds in need of repair. New hearing aids and eyeglasses. Raised vegetable gardens. Access to recreation center programs.

These may seem unrelated, but they’re among unmet needs for low-income seniors that a task force of Frasier Retirement Community residents hopes to help fill via a new $2.1 million endowment program for Boulder County organizations.

The Frasier Community Resource Fund Endowment will “go on as long as we can stretch it out — we hope 10 to 15 years,” said Julie Soltis, Frasier’s communications director.

The first five grants, totaling $75,000, were presented Wednesday, June 22, to mostly government  organizations. Amounts ranged from $10,000 to $20,000.

“The grants have one significant feature in common: They will help fill needs that fall in the gaps between government funding programs,” Soltis said.

“We are targeting people who are not just low-income,” she explained, “but often are underserved.” Many are disabled, don’t have Internet access or transportation, or perhaps don’t know what social services are available to them.

The recipients are: Boulder Housing Partners Foundation ($20,000); Boulder Area Agency on Aging ($15,000); City of Boulder Older Adult Services ($15,000); Friends of Longmont Senior Services ($15,000); and City of Louisville Senior Services ($10,000).

Soltis cited glasses, hearing aids and dental work as simple yet expensive things that can make a huge difference in people’s lives. “Medicare generally doesn’t include these,” she said.

A nine-member advisory committee of Frasier residents — dubbed Seniors for Seniors — researched the needs of underserved county seniors over eight months, establishing grant criteria, reviewing proposals and visiting each organization. 

“The name Seniors for Seniors was chosen because we all face the challenges of aging, so this initiative can be viewed as peer-to-peer outreach,” Soltis said.

Frasier resident Gail Promboin, co-leader of Frasier’s Seniors for Seniors task force, speaks on Wednesday, June 22, at the event awarding grants to Boulder County organizations. Photo courtesy of Frasier

The endowment fund grew out of money repurposed from Frasier’s $5.1 million purchase of the Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in 2015,  which is being developed for affordable senior housing. Frasier donated the property to Boulder Housing Partners, with the option to leave the agreement and receive $2.1 million.

Deciding in 2019 that developing the property “was not our niche,” Frasier decided to exercise its option and fund alternative charitable uses instead, said Colleen Ryan Mallon, Frasier’s vice president of marketing and advancement. (Mt. Calvary is set to break ground in a couple months, Boulder Housing Partners told Boulder Reporting Lab. The project includes 60 permanently affordable housing units for people ages 55 and older.)

One goal is to highlight the work of the selected organizations, some of which operate on low budgets.

“What can $10,000 to $20,000 do? These organizations are just so excited,” Mallon remarked. “The Seniors for Seniors team is heartened that their staff [members] are so dedicated. Frasier is delighted that we can make a difference for them.”

Boulder Housing Partners will use $15,000 of its grant to replenish its emergency fund, which has seen increasing demand due to the pandemic and impact of inflation. An additional $5,000 will build raised garden plots at High Mar Senior Apartments in Boulder.

Boulder Older Adult Services is spending its $15,000 grant on social contact and community engagement programs to provide hearing, dental and vision services. The money will also pay for transportation vouchers to access services, such as doctors, scholarships for Age Well Center activities, and one-on-one technical support.

Friends of the Longmont Senior Center plans to use its $15,000 for hearing and dental services that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Louisville Senior Services’ $10,000 grant will create an activity scholarship program to help subsidize low-income seniors’ access to local recreation center programs.

The Boulder Area Agency on Aging, meanwhile, will use its grant primarily to make repairs to wind-damaged homes of residents 60 years and older who live in four manufactured home parks in southwest Boulder County.

They are: Orchard Grove and San Lazaro Park, both near Valmont Road; Sans Souci on Highway 93; and Table Mesa Village on Marshall Road.

Christine Vogel, the Agency on Aging’s division manager, said that while the manufactured home parks were pummeled by 100 mile-per-hour winds, they didn’t sustain Marshall Fire flame damage, so they “weren’t an immediately determined need” by agencies rushing to help people, compared with the more than 1,000 homes that were destroyed. Because many of the parks’ older residents couldn’t afford repairs, “we decided to really hone in on this population,” she added.

The work will include things like repairs to roofs, walls, windows, fences and doors. Vogel acknowledged that $15,000 won’t cover all the repairs at the four properties, but will make a good start on a project that she hopes will have a multiplier effect. 

“Our goal is to improve their quality of life, maintain their independence and dignity, and sustain their houses,” she said.

The Marshall Fire “revealed that there are many layers for why people are not able to access the resources available, so they don’t reach out. They don’t know where to go,” Vogel said. The mobile home park residents are part of a “community we were aware of, but hadn’t connected to it. Now we can.”