Nearly $2 million raised from the sale of the Windstar property in Old Snowmass has been contributed in the past six months to environmental or educational causes in honor of the late John Denver, according to one of the supervisors of the fund.
The John Denver Aspen Glow Fund, administered by the Aspen Community Foundation, has given grants to nine organizations or causes so far, according to Karmen Dopslaff, one of three supervisors of the fund.
The Windstar Land Conservancy created the Aspen Glow Fund after the sale of the Windstar property in April. The conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Institute split the proceeds of the $8.5 million sale. The institute is using its half of the sales proceeds to help build an office building and small conference room in Basalt.
The Windstar Land Conservancy put its entire share of the funds, $4,078,042 after paying costs associated with the sale, into the John Denver Aspen Glow Fund.
The dispersal of those funds has been scrutinized by a faction of fans of Denver and Windstar who were critical of the land sale and the demise of Denver’s Windstar Foundation. They are angry that the foundation’s board voted in the fall of 2012 to dissolve the nonprofit, which focused on environmental and humanitarian causes. Denver died in October 1997. The Windstar Foundation was largely inactive after his death.
Dopslaff said it made more sense to spend proceeds from the land sale on active, successful causes rather than to reactivate the foundation.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Dopslaff said. She contended that Denver would support all the organizations and causes that are receiving grants.
“Everything we’ve done so far is in line with his vision, his heart and his spirit,” she said.
Here are the donations made thus far, according to Dopslaff:
• The Aspen Community School received $153,000 for its campaign to update its 40-year-old building.
• Aspen TREE received $66,620 for three separate initiatives. One grant helped the organization purchase a van to transport kids to its camp, which teaches sustainability in farming and ranching. Another grant went to provide tuition for campers. The bulk of the funds went to help build a bio-dome where food will be grown.
• The Colorado Music Hall of Fame received a $10,600 grant to support the transfer of the “Spirit” statue of John Denver to the hall’s headquarters in the city of Denver.
• The Cradle to Career organization’s Preschool on Wheels Program received a $450,000 grant to outfit and operate two buses — Sunshine and Alfie — which will be used to provide free, quality preschool education to kids ages 3 to 5 in New Castle, Silt and Rifle.
• The John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen received a grant to help engrave 25 boulders in the expanded park. The price is yet to be determined, but the grant is expected to be for less than $70,000.
• Ecoflight received $75,000 to support its young-adult environmental education and advocacy program as well as its Montana wildlands program.
• The Rocky Mountain Institute received $1 million for its “China project,” which it will undertake with partners. They will map a path for China to maximize energy efficiency and use renewable resources.
• United Way of Central Oklahoma received $100,000 for tornado-relief efforts. The grant was given in the memory of Denver’s parents, Erma and Henry John Deutschendorf, who were from Oklahoma.
• Wilderness Workshop received $15,000 for its wilderness-preservation programs and “Naturalist Nights” speaker series.
Dopslaff said $1,870,220 has been dispersed and as much as $70,000 will be donated for the work at the sanctuary before the end of the year. The remaining funds will be invested to create an endowment. No additional grants will be awarded until July, she said.
Dopslaff, Allison Smith and Annie Denver, John Denver’s former wife, are advisers for the fund. They vote on grant recipients, and the Aspen Community Foundation undertakes the transactions. Dopslaff said the committee gets advice from Tom Crum and Joe Henry, former colleagues and collaborators of Denver’s.