Society doesn't function without the work done by government and business, said Cathy Robbins of the El Pomar Foundation.
But with 13 years as an executive with the Colorado Springs-based charitable trust and a lengthy volunteer history in the community, Robbins also says she's committed to the work nonprofits do to make the Pikes Peak region and other areas better places to live.
"What drives me is I need to feel like the work I do makes a difference," Robbins said. "That certainly sounds more grandiose than I mean it to be. It's just like, does this work contribute to our community? Does this work help build our community? Does this work help alleviate suffering?"
For her contributions in the nonprofit sector and other areas of the community, Robbins was honored Thursday as the 2016 Athena Award recipient during a luncheon at the downtown Antlers hotel.
The event, attended by about 450 people, annually honors a woman who's contributed to the community, accomplished success in business and helped other women reach their leadership potential. Fifteen women were nominated for the award.
Robbins, 67, was recognized "as a steadfast advocate and champion for the community," who, as a nonprofit executive, "found necessary ways to engage, partner with and strengthen the business sector in Colorado Springs."
Since 2003, she's been El Pomar's senior vice president and director of regional partnerships. In her role, Robbins oversees an El Pomar program that works with community leaders to provide grants in rural areas of Colorado.
Among other community roles, Robbins was executive director of the former Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce's Nonprofit Partnership, which was the umbrella organization for the Colorado Springs Nonprofit Center, the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute and the Volunteer Center of the Pikes Peak Region.
She also assisted low-income residents as executive director of the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency and served as executive director of the Energy Resource Center of the Pikes Peak Region.
Robbins also has served as a board member of numerous nonprofits, including the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and Penrose-St. Francis Health Systems. In 2010, she received the Steve Graham Award for Building Nonprofit Capacity from the Colorado Nonprofit Association.
Robbins also has worked as an instructor at the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs, teaching graduate-level nonprofit management courses.
In accepting Thursday's award, Robbins advised future recipients not to worry about making mistakes and to even take risks. Doing so helps you learn and grow, she said.
"No one who has ever won this award has played it safe," Robbins said. "Take risks. Get in over your head. And sometimes, you're going to fail. And you know, there's worse things than that."