Comitis honored for decades of service to Aurora’s most vulnerable residents

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AURORA | Comitis Crisis Center added a notch to its growing belt of accolades Dec. 4 when the Aurora nonprofit was awarded the ACE Award for Aurora Civic Excellence from the city’s Small Business Development Center.

The annual award is granted to an Aurora business organization that demonstrates exceptional service and leadership within the community.

“Comitis is extremely excited to have been chosen for the award,” said James Gillespie, spokesman for Comitis. “But we’re really in the business of serving the needs of the people and not necessarily grabbing awards. We’d like to use this opportunity to turn the limelight back on the issues and the homeless, especially the homeless children and veterans in our community.”

Mark Kinslow (left) stocks up on paper towels while his wife Dana keeps tally, during the annual fundraising grocery cart race at Safeway near East Mexico Avenue and South Havana Street. The Comitis Crisis Center raised more than $11,500 which will go towards covering their perishable and kitchen expenses for the next year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)Gillespie also commended the Fitzsimons Credit Union for its support of Comitis, saying the center wouldn’t have been nominated for the award without Fitzsimons’ backing. The local business assists Comitis by offering financial literacy courses at the center.

Founded in 1970, Comitis provides shelter, mental and behavioral health counseling and other services to those seeking assistance. According to a Comitis moment in time survey, the center, located at 2178 Victor Street in North Aurora, directly served 5,711 Arapahoe County residents and its staff responded to 4,360 crisis calls in 2011.

“The staff are incredible – they are the ones deserving of this award,” Gillespie said. “They are committed to changing lives in a legitimate way, they really care, and I think that’s the number one reason we were selected for this award: because our clients have success and that’s because our staff really do care.”

Comitis was one of five local businesses honored at the SBDC’s 10th annual business recognition ceremony at the Aurora Municipal Center. Since 2005, the SBDC has annually bestowed business recognition awards to a handful of Aurora businesses that “go above and beyond,” according to a statement released by the city.

“We always look forward to this event because we have so many wonderful businesses in Aurora, all of which contribute to the greater business community,” said Chuck Hahn, small business specialist with the SBDC. “Of the 50 or so nominations we receive each year, it’s really tough for us to select just four or five we’re going to recognize.”

Carmine’s Italian Deli, First Bank on Havana Street, Nick’s Garden Center and Colorado Medical Waste were the other four businesses honored at the ceremony. The latter was also tapped for the Environmental Sustainability Award.

After what has already been a stellar week for the local nonprofit, Comitis will cap things off Dec. 5 with the first of two events scheduled for the coming week. Staff and volunteers will be assembling approximately 6,000 hygiene kits following the center’s purchase of $22,500 worth of hygienic supplies thanks to a recent grant from the city and matching contributions from several corporate donors. Comitis will share the kits with the Colfax Community Network and Aurora Warms the Night.

“The mayor and city council have made homelessness a priority and it’s been incredible,” Gillespie said.

Starting Dec. 8, Comitis will begin giving away toys donated to the center as a part of the group’s annual toys for tots fundraiser. This year will mark the largest toy drive in Comitis history with over 1,800 toys expected to be given away thanks to a $10,000 contribution from Kiewit-Turner, the construction partnership erecting Aurora’s new Veteran’s Hospital.

“Usually we do about 1,200 toys, but this year we’ll be closer to 1,800, which means that all the kids in our shelter get toys. It’s absolutely incredible how the community has rallied around Comitis,” Gillespie said.

UPDATE: All appointments to pick out toys as a part of Comitis’ toys for tots fundraiser have been booked.