Donning a bright yellow shirt and headdress with similarly colored rays extending from it, Victoria Torrez’ nametag appropriately identified her as “The Sun.”
Representing Conservation Colorado, Torrez was simply beaming as she dispensed environmental awareness and candy, with both giveaways cleverly included on a sign that declared, “Don’t be a Dum-Dum, be a Smartie: Help Save Our Planet.”
“It’s to get kids thinking about saving the environment,” said Torrez of her presence, part of Friday’s annual community resource fair sponsored by NeighborWorks of Southern Colorado. “The younger we get them thinking about it, the better.”
The sunny Torrez joined representatives from a host of service agencies, nonprofits and community betterment organizations at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library in a no-charge forum designed to enlighten, inform and, in the case of the costumed little ones, fill their goody bags.
“While the kids are safely trick or treating, their moms and dads can talk to the different service agencies,” explained Ashleigh Winans, NeighorWorks’ chief executive officer. “It’s just a really great way to get everyone together. A lot times, folks go to one agency to find out about services and get referred to another and then another.
“Today, we’re all in one room.”
Along with a hefty collection of sweet treats, Jeeshua Orema, 10, also bagged some essential knowledge, courtesy of Torrez.
“This fair is cool because there is a lot of stuff you can learn about,” Jeeshua said. “One of the important things I learned is that you should help the environment, because if we throw trash all over, there will be a lot of pollution and we might not have a lot of animals anymore.
“And I also got a whole bag of candy, including Ring Pops, Jelly Ranchers, Dum-Dums and a juice.”
In addition to presenting information and making visitors aware of available resources, some vendors, like Sangre de Cristo Hospice and Palliative Care, were recruiting those willing to give of their time and talents to a worthy cause.
“As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on volunteers,” said Trysten Garcia, spokesman for the hospice. “So at a resource fair like this, we can show the interest we have in volunteers and bring them into our organization. We have countless opportunities for them.”
Garcia said his campaign of altruism was paying off, with three volunteer applications collected in the opening minutes of the fair.
“One lady is new in town and is looking at ways to get involved,” Garcia added. “She knows a lot about the services and wants to give back.”
Also on a recruiting drive of sorts was Renee Lewis, vice president of Steel City Cycling Club.
“We’re trying to educate Puebloans about healthy living,” Lewis said. “Bicycling is fun: going out and seeing nature, taking your time and enjoying what’s out there, rather than riding in a car.
“And bicycling is something that people of all ages can do.”
At the Health Solutions booth, visitors were encouraged to explore the many ways the agency is working to improve the mental and physical well-being of its clients.
And spin a colorful prize wheel with a chance to walk away with a fidget cube, jelly smacker or paper airplane.
“The wheel is a fun way to involve kids in what we’re doing,” noted Health Solutions’ Isaiah Morgan. “It’s always fun to win something.
“And the only thing better than getting something for free is winning something for free. So while the kids are winning, we’re handing out information to the parents.”