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Chaffee’s Got Heart has spotlighted Pastor Tom Abbott of Salida’s First Presbyterian Church as their fourteenth recipient of the “Chaffee’s Got Heart” campaign. The Board spoke with Abbott to learn how he tackled the challenge of keeping his parish connected during the pandemic.

When asked how COVID-19 changed things for Abbott and the people he works with he explained, “The biggest change at church involved getting our services online. We upgraded technology and learned to do a lot on Zoom to make this happen. Another way it changed things was financially. Since people weren’t in the building as much, we were a little “out of sight, out of mind” in terms of donations.”

Image courtesy of Chaffee’s Got Heart.

He continued “On the flip side of that, we saw a huge increase in donations for all of our outreach ministries serving people in need, including the food pantry, SOS Emergency Assistance, and Stone Soup Café. There was a huge outpouring of generosity from the congregation and the community through donations to our LOVE fund, which helps fund all of these efforts.”

“Through my role as president of the board for Chaffee County Hospitality, which manages the emergency winter shelters, we’ve also seen enormous generosity from the community to support that effort. It’s been a huge blessing and fun to see that happen,” he said.

When asked why he decided to go above and beyond to contribute to the community Abbott explained, “I’m actually not doing anything out of the normal. It’s been a way of life for me to be engaged in the world around me and to figure out ways to address the needs that exist in the community. First Presbyterian has a long history in the community of being a place people can get help so being able to plug into that just a year and a half ago was a huge gift.”

Abbot explained where he sees examples of the Chaffee’s Got Heart theme. He said “First, the generosity I’ve witnessed from the community to help feed the funds at the Church and also help with the winter shelters has really been astounding.”

“Second, the overall interest people have in providing housing for the homeless. There is an incredible desire in this community to make sure people aren’t outside in winter overnight … the way members of our community have supported this process financially and/or with their time has been a definite show of heart.”

Abbott’s biggest takeaway from the past year? “It’s that the people in this community are committed to making sure that everyone, that each of their neighbors get through this crisis. The fact that so many have been willing to give, to share their resources with others in this challenging time shows the real heart our town has. “

When Pastor Abbott arrived in mid-2019, he quickly realized that housing was a difficult issue here. He got involved in homeless issues and now chairs the Chaffee County Hospitality, Inc effort. After the first year of operation, with the men’s shelter at the Lighthouse and providing hotel help for women and families, Abbott helped raise $75,000 to run separate shelters for men and women through April of 2020.

To donate to the general fund click here. To give directly to the LOVE fund, send check to 7 Poncha Boulevard, Salida CO 81210.

To support the shelter, click here.

To volunteer or bring a meal to the shelter, please email Abbott at: