Philanthropists honored for commitment to community
Steamboat Springs — Philanthropy does not go unnoticed in Routt County, and for the 19th year, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation honored a handful of individuals who put their community first.
Paula Cooper Black and her late husband, Jack Black, were honored Friday at the Celebration of Philanthropy as the Philanthropist of the Year. Steamboat Veterinary Hospital is this year’s Business Philanthropist of the Year, and Annie Osbourn is the Youth Philanthropist of the Year.
The winners were nominated and chosen by Community Foundation board members.
“We always have qualified candidates, and the decision-making process is difficult,” Community Foundation Executive Director Mark Andersen said.
Business Philanthropist of the Year
Steamboat Veterinary Hospital has been treating the county’s smallest and largest animals since 1952.
Veterinarians Lee Meyring and Mike Gotchey own the practice and work alongside Natalia Stiff and Nate Daughenbaugh.
“It’s that culture of community that they have, and they go above and beyond what’s expected,” Anderson said.
In the veterinary field, the unexpected is often commonplace.
This past winter, a sheep became stranded in deep snow at the Steamboat Ski Area. After the sheep was rescued by ski patrol, Steamboat Veterinary Hospital veterinarians volunteered their time to try to save the animal.
That was also the case when Rory Clow found a baby goat on a ranch that was born with paralysis of its back legs.
Clow made arrangements to adopt the goat, and thanks to the staff at the hospital, the goat is alive and walking today.
In addition, staff regularly volunteer their time to care for animals at Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation and the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.
They also help the next generation of ranchers involved in Routt County 4-H.
“What better philanthropy than to be able to help people and animals at the same time,” Meyring said.
For years, Meyring has taught a 4-H veterinary science class on Mondays for local youth, affording students an opportunity to learn hands-on with animals at the hospital and explore whether they are interested in becoming veterinarians. Some have gone on to do just that.
“It’s fun to see it mature to that point,” Meyring said.
Philanthropist of the Year
Paula Cooper Black moved to Steamboat in her early 20s and has been a resident for 43 years.
“I came to ski for a winter, and as we said in the ’70s, I’m still trying to save enough money to leave,” Cooper Black said.
In reality, she stayed because of the people, the community and the stunning beauty of the area.
Cooper Black met her husband, Jack — who died in 1993 — at a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association board meeting.
Together, they shared a natural passion for philanthropy.
“They’re a staple of our community,” Anderson said. “They inspire others to volunteer, step forward and contribute to the community.”
Jack Black was a founding member of the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, and Paula Cooper Black spearheaded efforts to secure the land and amenities for Rotary Park.
Through the years, Paula Cooper Black has served on numerous boards, including the Mental Health Advisory Board, Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley and the Community Foundation.
Jack Black served at Horizons Specialized Services and as a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club board member.
At the Community Foundation, Paula Cooper Black helped turn the organization into a nonprofit.
“It was important that we meet the needs of donors, as well as the needs of the community and match them up,” she said.
In 2015, the Community Foundation distributed $190,000 in grants.
Paula Cooper Black has also done public service and served as a city council member from 1988 to 2000.
“It was challenging,” she said. “It was always interesting.”
When she started her tenure as a council member, the country was experiencing a depression; the council struggled to pay for basic services for residents, and growth was stunted.
“I think I was on council for three years before we saw a major development permit,” Paula Cooper Black said.
Parking and affordable housing were major issues the council had to tackle as it worked to shape the community for the future.
“Interesting things came up at that time,” Paula Cooper Black said.
Youth Philanthropist of the Year
When Steamboat Springs High School student Annie Osbourn tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus playing basketball, she was told her recovery would take nine months.
“I was just kind of devastated, because I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back,” Osbourn said.
Osbourn was melancholy and felt like she had lost part of her identity.
Then, Osbourn discovered STARS, a local nonprofit that hosts camps for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Osbourn spent the summer volunteering with the organization and mentoring the younger kids who came to enjoy the outdoors.
“It helped me get over my own anger of my knee injury by helping others, and I grew to love it,” Osbourn said.
When she tore her ACL a second time, she said it was not as big a deal.
Osbourn, who will attend Mesa State University this fall to study exercise science, said she was honored and surprised to be named the Youth Philanthropist of the Year.
“I feel like I gained some respect, which is something I highly value,” Osbourn said.
Anderson said Osbourn was worthy of the recognition due to her desire to help others.
“Annie is one of those rare youth today that looks beyond themselves,” Anderson said.
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