Covering Every Corner
By Kathryn Benson
For most of my life, my perception of Colorado has been relatively limited. My parents moved to Colorado Springs from Memphis when I was two years old to be closer to my extended family, all of whom live in Denver, Boulder or Longmont. Because of this, my family has spent a great deal of time on the central I-25 stretch.
While we did make the occasional trip out to Salida, Palisade or Ouray for a change of scenery, my knowledge and understanding of Colorado remained the most connected to the central cities that my family members call home. When asked where I am from, I joyfully talk about the Garden of the Gods, my first concert at Red Rocks, exploring the streets of Boulder with my sister or climbing to the top of Pikes Peak. However, while I call myself a proud Coloradan, I know very little about our rural communities.
Upon arriving at El Pomar, I found myself perplexed by the number of my beloved state’s counties, cities and regions that I had never heard of. From mountain ranges to hot springs to peach farms, I quickly began to realize how diverse the state is in terms of its geography and demographics. These differences are significant when addressing community initiatives and varying nonprofit objectives. With the intention of extending its grant making capacity to areas of the state beyond the Front Range, El Pomar Foundation founded the Regional Partnerships program in 2003. With the program now serving all 64 counties through 11 regions, funding to rural Colorado has increased 109 percent as of 2018. In my opinion, this program is one of the most important at the Foundation as its primary objective is to broaden El Pomar’s impact outside of the I-25 corridor.
As a 1st Year Fellow, I have the privilege to work with the Northwest Regional Council and learn the nuances of this region from community leaders. I am so grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge of this area and anticipate learning about other regions as well through the Fellow cohort. Julie and Spencer Penrose sought to “enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado,” and I am excited to include all Coloradans in this endeavor throughout my Fellowship experience and beyond.
Kathryn Benson joined El Pomar Foundation as a member of the 2019 Fellowship class. As a Fellow, Kathryn works on Communications, Alumni Relations and the Internship. In addition, Kathryn supports the Northwest region. Read more about Kathryn here.