In March 2020, on what was literally the eve of Colorado’s COVID-19 lockdowns, a worried grandmother came to A Precious Child in a panic. In 2015, she had been awarded custody of three of her grandchildren, and now four more were being entrusted to her care.
When the first group of grandchildren came to live with Cheryl (whose full name is not being used at her request) and her husband, the couple cashed in their 401(k) to purchase a home large enough to accommodate the five of them. But now that they were a family of nine, their income wasn’t sufficient to feed, clothe and care for everyone.
As Cheryl relayed to the staffer who greeted her, “I know we’re not the only family to ask, ‘What am I going to do?’” Cheryl said she wanted to do what was best for her grandchildren, but didn’t know how that would be possible given her lack of funds.
A Precious Child immediately dispensed food and other essentials. When the children were able to go back to school, A Precious Child outfitted them with new shoes, pants and shirts. “They were so proud of (their new clothes),” Cheryl said. “They went to school looking nice and they acted like they looked.”
Her gratitude soared when, on Christmas Day in 2020, A Precious Child, through its Precious Gift program, delivered presents for the entire family. Until then, Cheryl said, four of the grandchildren had believed that Santa Claus skipped their house every year because he didn’t have time for them.
Cheryl is but one of the 77,000 people that A Precious Child served in 2020. Of that total, 57,390 were children. The projection for 2021 is 82,000 families.
A Precious Child was founded in 2008 by Carina Martin, in the garage of her north metro-area home. Today, the nonprofit organization is headquartered in a 25,000-square- foot building in Broomfield and operates 44 “satellite boutiques” in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broom- field, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Weld counties. It partners with 546 agencies, mostly schools, health and human service agencies, hospitals, fire and police departments, churches and shelters.
Martin, who last year was honored as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Wom- en’s Chamber of Commerce, said her inspiration to start A Precious Child came after sharing with a friend how moved she had been after witnessing the extreme poverty and desperate needs she’d seen in humanitarian aid trips she had made with her church to refugee camps in Thailand and Burma. The friend asked if Martin had considered helping to meet similar needs in her own community.
Martin responded by visiting nearby Federal Heights Elementary School. “It was in the middle of a blizzard,” she recalled, “and I was seeing kids in flip-flops ... not the attire they should be wearing in that weather. It broke my heart as the principal walked me through the school and I asked one little boy where his coat was. He told me he didn’t have one.”
When she left the school, Martin drove straight to Walmart and purchased $5,000 worth of coats, mittens and other winter gear.
Further conversations with local police and fire chiefs led to a meeting with the director of a Court Appointed Special Advocates chapter, who described how the foster children CASA serves often had to be rushed from abusive situations in the middle of the night with no time to pack up their belongings.
And thus, A Precious Child’s mission was born: to wrap children and families with proper support—cradle to career, if you will—that will better equip them to break the cycle of poverty by succeeding in school, preparing for and landing meaningful employment, and one day becoming better parents themselves.
The 10 programs offered by A Precious Child include “edu-centers” that provide goods and opportunities a child’s school might not have. During the pandemic, for example, computers and calculators were given to students who otherwise could not take part in online learning; and STEM activity kits offered creative science and technology projects for them to do at home. A Precious Child operates on a $3.4 million budget and is supported by four boards: advisors, directors, trustees and programs.
“2020 was a very rough year for us,” Martin acknowledged. Thanks to the pandemic, “We had a 54 percent drop in volunteers and a 1,600 percent increase in need. Our biggest challenge remains getting the funds to sustain our programs, and one of our greatest needs is for volunteers.”
Still, Martin said, she finds “joy every day seeing the smiles, the hope, the confidence that A Precious Child brings. That fuels my fire every day.”
Joanne Davidson has written about Denver-area nonprofit organizations and the people they serve since 1985. Her work has appeared in U.S. News & World Report, The Denver Post and Colorado Politics.
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