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Little Engine Eatery in Buena Vista, Colo. Image courtesy Achieve, Inc.

AVV recently reported on the Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County receiving $10,000 from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) Direct Effect Awards. Achieve, Inc, located in Buena Vista, was also a recipient of of the Direct Effect awards. They received $15,000.

The Direct Effect Awards recognize Colorado nonprofits whose missions align with CHFA’s work to strengthen Colorado by investing in affordable housing and community development. CHFA is donating $942,060 to eighty-five organizations across Colorado during Round One. Applications for Round Two open on September 1 and close on September 29.

Achieve, Inc’s mission is to provide a sustainable lifetime community of excellence for teens and young adults with learning disabilities by providing social and cognitive skills training, job training, and employment. CHFA’s Direct Effect Award will support Achieve’s food trailer program, which is a social enterprise model providing paid work experience and job training to an average of 17 neurodivergent participants each summer.

Since 2017, Achieve, Inc. has provided this job training and paid employment to neuro-diverse teens and young adults in Chaffee, Lake, Custer, and western Fremont Counties. The nonprofit operates a Little Engine Eatery, located near the Heritage Museum on East Main Street in Buena Vista that employs underserved populations, such as people with learning disabilities.

Their goal is to fill a gap in employment training and placement for residents with learning disabilities. They hope that their programming can allow families with learning disabilities in the Central Rockies to remain within their communities.

To accomplish this, Achieve offers first jobs to those unable to obtain or retain employment. Paid mentors provide practical, paid work experience to help build job and life skills and develop participants into a qualified workforce.

Achieve relies heavily on active community collaboration. They partner with local school systems to identify participants. Little Engine Eatery operates on Buena Vista School District property near the BV Heritage Museum.

Most mentors are current or retired special education teachers and paraprofessionals. Achieve works with Mountain BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) and local SWAP coordinators to find participants and refine programming techniques and goals. The Buena Vista Heritage Society supplies utilities, storage facilities, and restrooms for a small fee.