DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- Even one of the wealthiest counties in the nation is feeling the sting of poverty.
U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Douglas County as the eighth wealthiest county in the country. But those glowing numbers are hiding another fact — rising levels of families struggling to make ends meet.
On Tuesday, the county sponsored a free event inside Calvary Castle Rock church designed to give a helping hand to the less fortunate.
"I'd never expect to be homeless ... especially in Douglas County," said Vanessa Lassaso, who experienced homelessness herself not too long ago.
Lassaso said the county's affluent image masks a tough reality for a growing number of families.
"I was homeless last year for almost a year, living out of my car, in the streets of Douglas County," Lassaso said.
But Tuesday, during a one-day event called "Strive to Thrive," a total of 25 nonprofits and faith-based organizations gathered to help — offering hope to people who've fallen on hard times, like Lassaso.
The goal, according to Douglas County Commuity Services spokesman Rand Clark is "to come into one place — one location — to provide resources and services to our residents that need help along the way."
Nearly 200 people showed up to receive a hot meal, hair care, clothes, and diapers, along with advice on housing resources and medical care.
Lassaso said "Strive to Thrive" is a lifeline to people who've nearly given up.
"It's my only hope. My help. At 27, you're like, 'What do I do? How do I get out of this?" she said.
"We've struggled, worried if we were going to be able to feed our kids, put diapers on them," echoed Valerie Charney, a Douglas County mother.
Charney said with Colorado's skyrocketing cost of living, more and more people are one paycheck, or emergency, away from losing everything.
"It didn't take much. It took my husband being sick and then me losing my job, and you're almost homeless," she said.
Charney carted her daughter, Harper, from booth to booth, feeling hope every step of the way.
"Everybody here is struggling in some way or another, and just having that caring and compassion means everything," Charney said.
Now, after a life-changing hand up from complete strangers, she's determined to give her daughter a better life, and one day pay it forward.
"We'll be able to get back. It may take a little work, but we're going to be able to get back," she said. "It's okay. You don't have to have shame asking for help."
This is the eighth year for the event. Douglas County will hold its next "Strive to Thrive" event in the summer. It's hosted by the county's Community of Care Network. You can find more information at CommunityofCareNetwork.com.