SunUte Community Center in Ignacio, Colo.
Photo Credit: SunUte Community Center
Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | SU Drum
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SunUte fosters community ties

Nana-ma, means together in Ute. The name refers to a program that allows people to donate money and in turn, SunUte gives memberships out to families in the Ignacio area that are unable to come to SunUte. Started in February of 2017, the community center was able to provide 30 memberships last year alone.

“This is such an amazing place we want everyone to be able to experience it,” SunUte Director Robin Duffy-Wirth said. “SunUte is an amazing gift from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to the community.”

Members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Northern Ute Tribe, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe are eligible for free memberships. Tribal employees receive a 50 percent discount on memberships, while members of the surrounding community pay an entrance fee, or purchase a membership to utilize the facility.

Presently SunUte has a waiting list of seven families from the community hoping to get assistance through the program. “It is really people in need,” Duffy-Wirth said. “If they can show a need, we pay for it though Nana-ma.”

“The SunUte staff are the frontline, they see the needs firsthand,” Duffy-Wirth said. “It hurts when people can’t use the facility, community members especially — even though we try to keep it affordable.”

Donation are made by the community for the funding of the Nana-ma memberships, for every $300 raised, a family membership is made possible based on the needs of those individuals. The memberships are good for three months, with the option to request a renewal, which helps to ensure that families are fully utilizing the opportunities afforded through the program. “I think it’s a great place for kids to come, we offer student memberships through the program as well,” SunUte Executive Assistant Lisa Olguin said. “Kids come here after school, and on weekends.” The facility offers a safe, warm place for families to recreate, exercise, swim and shower. SunUte also provides free Wi-Fi for those who bring a laptop, or tablet.

“SunUte has been around for 16 years now, this is one of the best programs I’ve seen. We have staff that care, and see the needs within the community,” Duffy–Wirth said. “They care enough to donate; our staff organized a fundraiser to help one local individual with a full membership. I love the Tribe’s philosophy; do for the many, not the few. Nana-ma is a good way to do for the many.”

Employees can give donations via payroll deduction, or donate directly at SunUte Community Center. “I think anything helps, the change adds up,” Olguin said. Donations are accepted all year, but the community center will be hosting a fundraiser for Nana-ma in October. SunUte staff hope to see enough funds come through to secure memberships for the seven families, currently on the waiting list, by the end of February. Families and individuals, can speak with the front desk at SunUte regarding applications for the program, or to give a donation.

“We look at SunUte as a safe place for kids and families to have fun together, we strive to be role models to the kids,” Duffy-Wirth said. “Everybody should have access to these opportunities, including families without financial means.”

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