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Hope in our Heritage: Pueblo

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically mentioned the “snowcapped Rockies of Colorado” when he detailed his vision of freedom ringing throughout our nation. And, believe it or not, one of those long-standing Rocky Mountain beacons for hope is in Pueblo.

In 1906, when our city’s African-American population was double its current figure, but still under five percent, the City Federation of Colored Women Clubs established the Pueblo Colored Orphanage and Old Folks Home on East First Street. The home was the only orphanage to welcome African-American children within several states. In less than a year, the orphanage was home to almost a dozen children and two senior citizens.

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After seven years in operation at the First Street address, the home was moved to an old house at the end of Grand Avenue and what was then the outskirts of town. At the new location, where two homes joined together through a short passageway, boys and elderly men lived on one side, while the girls, elderly women and …

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

After seven years in operation at the First Street address, the home was moved to an old house at the end of Grand Avenue and what was then the outskirts of town. At the new location, where two homes joined together through a short passageway, boys and elderly men lived on one side, while the girls, elderly women and a matron, who oversaw daily operations and cared for the residents, lived in the adjoining building. It wasn’t until 1935 that the name of the institution was officially changed to the Lincoln Home Association.

People arrived at the home in many different ways. In some cases, the death of a wife left a full-time, mill-working widower with little choice but to pay $10 monthly for his offspring to live at the home. For others, there were no families to help.

Despite the modern notion we sometimes have about wayward orphanages of the past, the tenets of good character and religious devotion were instilled early in the home’s residents. The children of Lincoln Home recited the Beatitudes every morning and paid 10 cents each to take the city bus to services at the 8th Street Baptist Church each week. Like other neighborhood children, as students they moved through Somerlid, Freed, and then Centennial until graduating.

At the time, local leaders in the African-American community understood themselves to be the only people willing to provide a safety net for the least fortunate among us. As the needs of the home advanced over the years, other funding sources – money raised from ladies’ clubs, the Elks, other organizations, and private citizens (even food donated from local markets) – provided additional help.

Lincoln Home was not the only orphanage in Pueblo during this period, but it certainly faced greater difficulties in its operation thanks to a nation only beginning to shake off centuries of institutional slavery and segregation. The city’s two other orphanages, The Sacred Heart Orphanage (established by the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters) cared for white and Hispanic children while the McClelland Orphanage – according to its written policy – would not accept any children of color. Funding for the orphanages was also varied. In 1906, when the local paper raised $266 for the homes, $120 each was given to Sacred Heart and McClelland while the Pueblo Colored Orphanage received the $26 remainder (with change). Years later, in 1923 when community funds were again raised for…

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Trump on the Farm: Southeastern Colorado’s growers seem immune to President’s immigration, trade policies

Southeastern Colorado’s growers seem immune to the Trump Administration immigration, trade policies

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Despite national media reports that immigration and foreign trade policies from the Trump administration are hurting who they’re meant to help —U.S. farmers — there’s no smoking gun southeastern Colorado farmers are sharing that experience.

For instance, some say that Trump’s tough-on-immigration policy is making it difficult for farmers to hire H2A-visa workers to tend their fields. That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in southeastern Colorado.

Marilyn Bay Drake, executive director of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said that the ongoing H2A worker issues have existed well before Trump took office. Among the problems farmers face, she said, lies with E-Verify — the internet-based system that is used by growers to determine whether foreign workers are eligible to work in the U.S.

Bay Drake said E-Verify must undergo significant changes or even be abolished altogether because far too often growers have to turn down potential farm workers because their names do not appear on E-Verify rolls.

Sakata Farms, located near Brighton, left the sweet corn business last year, mostly because it was not able to get a dependable work crew for its six-week season, Bay Drake said. The family operation has grown sweet corn for over half a century.

“They were a big grower,” Bay Drake said. “The annual maintenance cost of their packing house alone was about ($333,000) – so a huge hit to the local community.”

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Despite national media reports that immigration and foreign trade policies from the Trump administration are hurting who they’re meant to help —U.S. farmers — there’s no smoking gun southeastern Colorado farmers are sharing that experience.
For instance, some say that Trump’s tough-on-immigration policy is making it difficult for farmers to hire H2A-visa workers to tend their fields. That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in southeastern Colorado.
Marilyn Bay Drake, executive director of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said that the ongoing H2A worker issues have existed well before Trump took office. Among the problems farmers face, she said, lies with E-Verify — the internet-based system that is used by growers to determine whether foreign workers are eligible to work in the U.S.
Bay Drake said E-Verify must undergo significant changes or even be abolished altogether because far too often growers have to turn down potential farm workers because their names do not appear on E-Verify rolls.
Sakata Farms, located near Brighton, left the sweet corn business last year, mostly because it was not able to get a dependable work crew for its six-week season, Bay Drake said. The family operation has grown sweet corn for over half a century.
“They were a big grower,” Bay Drake said. “The annual maintenance cost of their packing house alone was about ($333,000) – so a huge hit to the local community.”

Identifying the problems

The problems farmers face are often times complex.
Reid Fishering, owner of Mountain Quality Marketing in Montrose, told U.S. Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Purdue in a meeting this May that the process is just plain complicated.
“For our short window of harvest, we hire about 120 workers through the H2A program to pick sweet corn,” Fishering said. “I’m looking to work with the Department of Labor, who processes these visas, in a simple, streamlined way. The process is overly complicated and creates costly delays.”
Perdue said he wants his department to be the portal for the H2A visa applications and to coordinate with the State Department, Labor Department and Homeland Security to more efficiently issue the work visas.
But Sakata farms wants the H2A program to be more flexible by allowing workers to move between nearby farms. He says currently the program does not let growers send their workers to neighboring farms if those growers’ crops aren’t ready for harvest, but their neighboring growers have crops that are ripe. “This doesn’t make sense and is really costly,” he told Perdue.
Not enough housing for H2A workers is another issue facing Colorado growers, Bay Drake said. She believes that more cooperation between growers and possibly government assistance would be needed to build more temporary housing for H2A workers.
In that meeting with Purdue, Gail Knapp of Knapp’s Farms in Rocky Ford said she would like to see H2A workers’ wage, housing and transportation costs all rolled into a single payment. Knapp told Pulp that growers like her not only pay for housing and utilities, but for transportation for the workers to the fields and the grocery store, and even transportation from and back to Mexico.
Those housing and transportation expenses equate to about $3 to $6 of the hourly wages the growers pay workers, according to Knapp. That’s on top of Colorado’s minimum wage.
Still, she said she hasn’t seen the Trump administration making a huge difference. But under the Obama administration getting H2A workers became more difficult. The Bush administration, she said, was more employer-friendly when it came to H2A workers.
Eric Hanagan, owner of Hanagan Farms in Swink, said finding workers isn’t much of a problem for his operation,
“They are standing in line for visas,” he said, adding that he’s had H2A workers come from Mexico and as far off as South Africa and Eastern European countries to pick his 27 varieties of vegetable crops corn, wheat, and hay.
“One of the best crews I have ever had, came from Thailand,” Hanagan said.

Not Taking American jobs

Bay Drake said it is a fallacy when people say H2A workers are taking away American jobs. She explained that many times local workers do express an interest in becoming farmhands, but after they show up for job orientations and they realize the work that is involved, they never are seen again. She said it’s hard to find people locally willing to work 50 hours a week during Colorado’s short harvest seasons, and then those workers …
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Growth continues for Pueblo’s cannabis industry but criticism remains unchanged

As more data comes in, the impact of legalization is generally positive infusing economic growth into the county.

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In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.

For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.

Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.

Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.

In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.

Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.
For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.
Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.
Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.
In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.
Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says that the explosive growth of the recreational cannabis industry “literally saved our construction community” during the end of the recession and has accounted for more than half of Pueblo county’s construction revenue for the last three years.
In 2017, 210 Pueblo County High School students received $2000 each in scholarship money that came from marijuana taxes. In early 2018, there was nearly $750,000 in funding available for these scholarships, with Pueblo County officials estimating to award some 600 in the 2019-2020 academic year.
As legal as pot may be, not everyone is exactly on board with recreational weed in Pueblo. Remember, marijuana was illegal for a really, really long time, and there are still plenty of people that think it should stay that way.
First, there’s the whole “gateway drug” theory. Pueblo addiction psychiatrist Libby Stuyt holds strongly to the idea that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug that can ultimately lead to harder drugs.
She says that over the past few years that cannabis has been legal, there’s been a significant increase in patients whose main addiction is marijuana – although many also admit to using alcohol, cocaine, meth, or opiates.
A 2018 analysis report published by LiveStories who specialize in civic data analysis, looked at drug use trends following marijuana legalization in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. While it found that while marijuana use did increase following legalization in these states, there was little evidence that proved it to be a “gateway drug.”
According to Adnan Mahmud, founder of LiveStories, “We haven’t found any strong correlation that suggests increased marijuana use leads to increases in other substance abuse.”
He noted that heroin and opioid deaths in Colorado, while obviously a great concern, are actually slightly lower than the national average. Cocaine use in Colorado is slightly higher than the national average and has risen a bit in the last year, but Muhmad says that cocaine use in Colorado prior to marijuana legalization was somewhat higher than it is today.
Then there’s Pueblo’s homeless population. Anne Stattelman, director of non-profit organization Posada which offers housing assistance to Pueblo’s homeless population, believes legal weed is to blame for rise in Pueblo’s homeless population. She estimates that around one-third of those who end up homeless in Pueblo came to the city because of marijuana.
“You remember the Gold Rush? We call it the Pot Rush. Not only do people think they’ll be able to smoke marijuana,” Stattelman said, “but people think they can get jobs working in marijuana fields.”
Is legal pot really to blame for the rise of homelessness in Pueblo and other cities across Colorado? Homelessness is everywhere and whether or not the increase in cities like Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver is because of legal marijuana, it’s undoubtedly something that’s widely debated.
Pilot research that looked into the impact of legal cannabis in Pueblo County foun…
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Alive and Well: Despite layoffs, a Southern Colorado hospital battles perception it’s closing

Six months after staff eliminations and attrition, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is battling the perception that it’s closing.

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A robot-like concentration on five clinical areas, a recent expansion to its Flight For Life Colorado fleet, a new urgent care facility in Pueblo West, and even an ongoing plan to improve parking at its main Pueblo facility is a sign that St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is thriving after its reorganization.

That didn’t seem to be the case about six months ago when, back in April, 275 positions were eliminated at the hospital and other employees left their jobs voluntarily – and St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso canvassed the local media trying to quell rumors that the hospital was closing.

“Our biggest challenge in the past few months has been the misinformation in Pueblo and the surrounding communities,” Cafasso said. “The biggest thing we hear is that people think the hospital is closed or that our ER is closed. … Our ER continues to offer 24-hour emergency room services. Wait times average less than 30 minutes in our ER and 88 percent of the patients treated in the St. Mary-Corwin ER do not need to be admitted to the hospital or transferred. These patients are treated, released and go home with their families, usually within a couple of hours of arriving.”

As for the employees who lost their jobs, Cafasso boasts that by mid-June nearly 90 percent of the 275 workers who had their jobs eliminated found new jobs elsewhere. “We hosted numerous job fairs and many of our associates found roles at other Centura facilities,” the CEO adds.

But even Cafasso admits it is “no secret” that times were tough at the hospital earlier this year. “Now, six months later, some of those associates who chose to leave (on their own terms, not part of the layoffs) are returning to St. Mary-Corwin,” he said. “To be clear, we are not filling the positions that were eliminated but instead, as we grow orthopedics and oncology services and align our new nursing unit, new positions have been created and those positions need to be filled. It is heartwarming to see people come back to work at St. Mary-Corwin. We feel we are a stronger workforce having gone through the challenging times, and are excited for what the future holds for us here at St. Mary-Corwin.”

Yet the rumors of St. Mary-Corwin’s demise persist. And St. Mary Corwin’s staff confronted those rumors by hosting a booth on Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair at which they passed out fresh fruit as a means of engaging the community. “That’s just one example of how we have been talking to people – one-on-one – answering questions and dispelling rumors. St. Mary-Corwin has been part of the Pueblo community for 135 years. Yes, we may look a little bit different than we did a year ago, but we are committed to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.”

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!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

A robot-like concentration on five clinical areas, a recent expansion to its Flight For Life Colorado fleet, a new urgent care facility in Pueblo West, and even an ongoing plan to improve parking at its main Pueblo facility is a sign that St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is thriving after its reorganization.
That didn’t seem to be the case about six months ago when, back in April, 275 positions were eliminated at the hospital and other employees left their jobs voluntarily – and St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso canvassed the local media trying to quell rumors that the hospital was closing.
“Our biggest challenge in the past few months has been the misinformation in Pueblo and the surrounding communities,” Cafasso said. “The biggest thing we hear is that people think the hospital is closed or that our ER is closed. … Our ER continues to offer 24-hour emergency room services. Wait times average less than 30 minutes in our ER and 88 percent of the patients treated in the St. Mary-Corwin ER do not need to be admitted to the hospital or transferred. These patients are treated, released and go home with their families, usually within a couple of hours of arriving.”
As for the employees who lost their jobs, Cafasso boasts that by mid-June nearly 90 percent of the 275 workers who had their jobs eliminated found new jobs elsewhere. “We hosted numerous job fairs and many of our associates found roles at other Centura facilities,” the CEO adds.
But even Cafasso admits it is “no secret” that times were tough at the hospital earlier this year. “Now, six months later, some of those associates who chose to leave (on their own terms, not part of the layoffs) are returning to St. Mary-Corwin,” he said. “To be clear, we are not filling the positions that were eliminated but instead, as we grow orthopedics and oncology services and align our new nursing unit, new positions have been created and those positions need to be filled. It is heartwarming to see people come back to work at St. Mary-Corwin. We feel we are a stronger workforce having gone through the challenging times, and are excited for what the future holds for us here at St. Mary-Corwin.”
Yet the rumors of St. Mary-Corwin’s demise persist. And St. Mary Corwin’s staff confronted those rumors by hosting a booth on Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair at which they passed out fresh fruit as a means of engaging the community. “That’s just one example of how we have been talking to people – one-on-one – answering questions and dispelling rumors. St. Mary-Corwin has been part of the Pueblo community for 135 years. Yes, we may look a little bit different than we did a year ago, but we are committed to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.”

What’s different?

Pulp asked Cafasso to give as many details as he could about the hospital’s future plans.
During the transition since the layoffs, he said the hospital has zoomed in on five areas of concentration – refocusing on these areas, which he believes are St. Mary-Corwin’s “clinical strength.” The first is orthopedics, which includes joint replacement procedures and sports medicine. The hospital has an inpatient unit dedicated to joint replacement – and as Cafasso put it, the dedicated unit “expands patients’ access to leading-edge techniques and the most advanced technology.”
The second area of clinical specialization is cancer and breast care. The hospital’s Dorcy Center provides screening, diagnosis, and treatment with surgery, radiation therapy, radiation and medical oncology, chemotherapy, and an ambulatory infusion center. And the St. Mary-Corwin Breast Center of Excellence provides mammography screening, breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in partnership with the Dorcy Cancer Center.
Emergency and trauma services make up the third area of focus at St. Mary-Corwin. The facility provides 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesthesia coverage. Flight For Life Colorado provides life-saving services across Southern Colorado and operates from St. Mary-Corwin with ground and air transport.
The hospital’s third area of concentration is emergency and trauma services. They include 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesth…
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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

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