November 9 was an important evening for 33 nonprofits across the state. It was the night of the Awards for Excellence presentation ceremony, and they were being recognized for their exemplary work for the people of Colorado. In eleven different categories, a winning organization was awarded a grant of $15,000. I asked the award winners about that evening, and their meaningful responses were filled with excitement and gratitude.
Bob Holmes, Director of Homeward Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs (Self-Sufficiency winner): “I have worked for eight years in the area of leading homeless people in to self-sufficiency and never really expected to get any recognition for the work. It is just something I enjoy doing and feel I have an obligation as a human being to do. To be recognized for this work was not only an incredibly pleasant surprise, but also a very humbling experience that motivates me to work even harder to fulfill people’s faith in me. I hope the publicity raises the awareness of people in our community concerning the problems faced by our fellow citizens.”
Virginia Steckman, Executive Director of Therapeutic Riding & Education Center in Pueblo (Youth Development winner): “This award means that our work has been noticed and validated. We work with some very low functioning individuals with the diagnosis of autism – the ones that are not being allowed into schools due to their negative behaviors…We are so focused on our work with these kids that we are not always able to get out into the public eye. So having someone hear our story and share it with the El Pomar Foundation was truly a journey for TREC. It was exciting to show people the impact that a horse can have on these kids and their families.
“This award could not have come at a better time. Our board of directors, staff, volunteers, riders and families all needed to see and feel the world outside of our arena recognize the value of Equine Facilitated Therapies in our communities.”
Mitzi Moran, CEO of Sunrise Community Health Center in Greeley (Health Care – Large winner): “Every day the need for affordable health care outweighs the supply. As the country has faced its worse economic situation since the depression, we have seen a marked increase in the number of uninsured people. At the same time, the state has been forced to reduce our operational funding. Through careful planning, frugal spending, and tough decision making, Sunrise was able to weather 2008, 2009, and 2010 without layoffs or decreases in services…I am extremely proud of the Sunrise team members’ ability to persevere and their willingness to make sacrifices to ensure those in need had access to comprehensive, affordable health care…Staff received the news with great pride—that feeling will carry forward for a very long time. Equally, the financial support provided by El Pomar will bring much needed dental services to Sunrise patients.”
Dave van Manen, Director of Mountain Park Environmental Center in Beulah (Environment winner): “It always feels good to receive recognition for the hard work that we do, both in educating folks about nature and in being good stewards of the land. The El Pomar Award is a special kind of recognition that makes this feeling that much better. Of course there are so many people in our community who make our work possible through their ongoing support, year after year, and that is never far from our awareness as we do our work. The Award only adds to this awareness that our service is dependent on this support, so we are always looking at being as excellent as we can be.”
Lindsay Blanton, director of Small Champions of Colorado in Vail (Sports and Recreation winner): "First, the winners clearly are our Small Champions. To have won the Award for Excellence in Sports and Recreation validates all the sweat and energy our Board and countless volunteers have spent in hopes we would make a lasting difference to a population that often lives in the shadows. This grant allows them to continue their journey into the light. This Award energizes and inspires everyone that has supported our organization."