The Colorado Association of REALTORS® (CAR) Foundation has named Gunnison, CO REALTOR® Matt Robbins as the inaugural recipient of its Colorado’s Heart Award in recognition of REALTORS® serving their communities with distinction. In honor of his selection, the CAR Foundation will make a $3,000 donation to Robbins’ charity of choice, the 1971 GHS Football Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Brenda Case with Back to Basics Realty, was also a finalist for the award and her charity, Mutual Aid Partners, will receive a $750 donation from CAR. Case has spent much of her life on the Western Slope and operates her business, Back to Basics Realty, within this community in the Grand Valley. When COVID-19 hit, Case was motivated to make a difference in the lives of her neighbors who were struggling. A mutual aid Facebook group was formed by community members, where neighbors cold share food, supplies and support to others in the group. The movement quickly grew and soon the group had thousands of members.

Case volunteered to organize them, working with Mutual Aid Partners, a nonprofit founded to provide structure to the efforts and enable fundraising. She picked up and dropped off donations and recruited others to do the same for the group’s Distribution Day, held every week at a local church. The distribution event has helped about 10,000 families in a year, donating more than 150,000 pounds of food. Case also oversaw a mask making and distribution project, enlisting and organizing volunteers to produce and deliver more than 50,000 masks during the year.

“Seeing the panic and fear in our community when the realization of the pandemic [hit] along with the lack of supplies and services was the biggest driving factor” to getting involved, Case said. “My mother was very active in the community, and she is my inspiration in so many things I do. I think I’ve always been a bit involved, but as an introvert I rarely call attention to myself.”

That changed as the Mutual Aid movement grew. “I have learned to speak up and reach out for whatever needs our community might have. I’ve learned the importance of community in a way I’m not sure I truly appreciated before,” Case added.

Perhaps the most meaningful Mutual Aid Partners project for Case has been senior engagement. When caring for her late mother before her death six years ago, Case learned just how lonely rehab and senior facilities can be. With her mother as her inspiration, Case recruited community members to deliver gifts for more than 2,200 seniors and facility care staff at the holidays. They also delivered gifts for Valentine’s Day and Easter and enlisted elementary schoolchildren to make and send uplifting cards. Under Case’s leadership, this program will continue with strong participation.

“The most rewarding part was probably watching our community come together while it seemed like the world was falling apart,” Case said. “It was a beautiful thing.”