Yampa Valley Community Foundation reaches huge milestone by surpassing $20M in assets
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — About 23 years ago, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation was created with less than $200,000 in the bank. The fund came from the old Yampa Valley Foundation, which was created to save what would eventually become Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
The Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s goal was to take that money, which came from community donors, to form a resource for philanthropic services. They hoped such a community foundation would eventually grow and sustain itself.
Today, the foundation has officially surpassed $20 million in assets.
Board member emeritus Paula Cooper Black was there from the beginning.
“You always have hopes and dreams, but I never thought that, in this period of time, that we would reach this level,” she said.
Cooper Black said in the early days, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. had enough faith in their little foundation to help it get going.
“They donated medallions or ski passes, which allowed us to cover a great part of our operations,” Cooper Black said.
The foundation works with short-term and long-term investment pools.
“Oftentimes, people think of community foundations as only being for big givers, but it’s really not,” Cooper Black said.
Giving circles can be an example of how people can use the foundation on a smaller scale.
Ray and Karen Parks established the WZ Giving Circle about five years ago. The WZ is a group of people who are committed to helping Steamboat Springs and Routt County families and individuals who are in need
“I was actually volunteering at LiftUp (of Routt County), and it became apparent to me how much need there was in the community,” said Ray Parks, a retiree who moved to Steamboat in 2008.
“We have about 25 people and raise a little over $55,000 a year, and we have two meetings a year to give it out,” Parks said.
He likes the idea of giving circles because the foundation allows them to meet with the nonprofits who are helping people.
“The nonprofits come in and talk with us about what they do and who needs help. You really feel a connection with a specific person or situation,” Parks added.
In the case of giving circles like WZ, the money is not held in perpetuity but is given out in its entirety every year. The WZ distributes 20 to 24 grants a year through the foundation.
“Then, there are endowment funds, such as the Trail Maintenance Endowment,” said Karen O’Conner, the foundation’s finance director. “These funds are kept in the foundation’s long-term investment pool.
“The goal of the endowment is to preserve the principal in perpetuity to ensure the foundation can provide funding through grants into the community forever,” O’Conner explained. “The foundation investment policy is for long-term growth, as we are here to serve the charitable needs of the community in perpetuity.”
Steamboat Springs city officials are thrilled with the success of the foundation, as there are numerous funds that benefit the city, including funds for Howelsen Hill Ski Area, trails, the Yampa River Botanic Park, public art and dog parks, to name a few.
“Those quality-of-life things are the reason why so many people move to Steamboat,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, assistant to the city manager. “The city is sales tax based, so as sales go up and down, our revenues go up and down. So, having funding from the Community Foundation is really valuable.”
Since its inception, Yampa Valley Community Foundation has funded more than $22 million in grants and scholarships to organizations in Northwest Colorado and to local students.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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