A Castle Rock woman, knowing some local families were struggling financially, started collecting items in her garage to distribute to people who needed them.

Mela Rudolph knew the families well enough that she often knew just what they needed and would deliver the items to them, said Connie Huydts, 82, who started helping Rudolph soon after Rudolph started her garage project.

That was about 30 years ago. Rudolph and a couple of Rudolph’s friends, such as Minnie Hoffmann, who got involved with the effort, have died. But Huydts is still around.

And she’s still volunteering for the organization Rudolph started, which is now called the Douglas/Elbert Task Force, located in a former church building on Park Street.

Huydts will be one of several people and organizations honored — the first recipients of the new Rudolph Award — when the task force celebrates its 30th anniversary Feb. 16 with a concert featuring Firefall, a Colorado-based band formed in the 1970s.

Firefall had a string of hits and is known for its philanthropic efforts, said Joe Roos, the task force’s part-time director of philanthropy. Concert proceeds will go to help fund a $425,000 renovation project for the task force’s building on Park Street.

Huydts said she got involved in about 1983 because she, a Franktown resident, was in Castle Rock one day when she saw Rudolph and a pickup of things. She found out what Rudolph did and how she was preparing that day to move the growing operation from her garage to a small building located in the 100 block of South Wilcox Street behind the Castle Rock Motel.

And she found out Rudolph needed helping moving, and she pitched in, and then never stopped pitching in.

“I’m no stranger to helping,” said Huydts, who grew up in Littleton during Great Depression years. “It was bred into me.”

She said her dad, employed as a machinist farmed on a neighbor’s land in his spare time and gave away vegetables to people who needed them. Her mom would cook extra supper and have the kids take it to neighbors she knew needed a hot meal.

Huydts said in Rudolph’s new space behind the motel, they had clothing, like socks for a nickel a pair, but didn’t have food to offer or enough cash to help people pay rent, like the task force tries to do now. At one point, to keep the struggling operation going, Rudolph, Huydts and a couple of others, donated $150 each — which she said equated to about $1,000 each at that time.

The task force has since moved a couple more times to bigger spaces — and the budget has changed.

Roos said the task force now has a $1.6 million annual budget — and 200 unpaid volunteers as well as two paid full-time staff members, Suzanne Greene, executive director, and Christie Sbarra, store manager, and 10 paid part-time staff members.
Roos said about 10 percent of the budget covers administration costs and that they serve 16,000 clients every year.

“The vast majority goes directly to clients,” he said, about the task force’s services which can include helping to pay rent and utilities and providing food, clothing and household items.

He said the task force’s thrift shop generates about 25 percent of the revenues for the task force’s budget. But donations are crucial. For those who want to donate, the best way is cash, he said. For every $1 donated, the task force can buy $3.69 worth of food from the Food Bank of the Rockies.

He said the task force’s mission is to be a “first responder… helping neighbors whose lives are turned upside get back on track.”

Concert proceeds will help fund the $425,000 renovation of the task force’s 17,000-square-foot building, the former Church of the Rock building at 1638 Park St.

The project includes turning part of the building’s 4,000-square-feet of unfinished space into a more private area to receive clients, and creating more finished space to accept donations. Other improvements include adding a sprinkler system in the building, a new heating and air conditioning system, new awnings, installation and new windows.
Firefall’s original lead singer and guitarist, Jock Bartley, recently toured the task force’s facility so he could see what they’re singing for, Roos said.

Roos said they’re holding the concert in February because the task force “is the best love story in Douglas and Elbert counties.”

The four-hour event will start at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Douglas Events Center at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 500 Fairgrounds Drive, Castle Rock. General admission tickets are $36.50.


This story was published in the Douglas County News Press and the original article can be seen here: http://douglascountynewspress.net/stories/It-started-in-a-garage-and-grew,139322?