Guest column:‘Tis the season to give | AspenTimes.com

Guest column:‘Tis the season to give

Tamara Tormohlen
Guest Column

Aspen Community Foundation, Board Photo, Mar. 13, 2014

This is the giving time of year.

And while our generosity is rightly focused on family and friends at this time of year, it's also appropriate to consider the broader community, where many other families need help.

Many Aspenites and many Americans have a tradition of charitable giving around the holidays, so altruism is certainly at its best in December. If it's been a prosperous year, then tax deductions often come to mind.

The most important reason to give, however, is the need. In addition to its famous mountains and resort towns, this region is also home to glaring disparities in wealth, income and education. While Aspen High students can walk from their school to a chairlift, 77 percent of elementary students in Rifle qualify for a free or subsidized lunch.

Children from the Roaring Fork Valley's low-income families face a broad array of obstacles that start early and multiply later in life. For example, many low-income kids enter kindergarten with no preschool education and poor language skills; if they cannot read at grade level by third grade, then they're at higher risk of failing to graduate high school. And the likelihood of trouble increases from there. Garfield County's teen birth rate is third among Colorado's 64 counties and twice the statewide average at 42.1 per 1,000 births.

Fortunately, the generosity of local donors enables the community to collaborate and tackle these and other problems. Myriad nonprofit organizations, agencies and civic groups are hard at work providing basic needs, mental-health counseling, medical and dental treatment, support for victims of domestic violence, legal assistance, care for the elderly and much more. In addition, schools, early-education providers, youth-serving organizations, government agencies and others from Aspen to Parachute have united to give the region's 22,000 children the best possible chance to both graduate from high school and launch successful careers.

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Led by the Aspen Community Foundation, the Cradle to Career Initiative is based on the notion of "collective impact" — that by establishing a shared vision and evidence-based strategies, a diverse team of community members can support and empower all the region's children. Cradle to Career is a perfect example of the foundation's ability to convene stakeholders and problem-solvers around a cause. Since its launch in 2012, more than 100 leaders have been engaged in this effort to increase youth success.

Established in 1980, the Aspen Community Foundation supports and collaborates with 152 local charities on an array of issues and specializes in connecting donors to particular areas of community needs. The foundation's network and experience can help take the guesswork out of an end-of-year donation by ensuring that the money goes directly toward the donor's intended purpose. So, whether you'd like to aim your potential gift at early-childhood education, bridging language barriers or feeding the needy, giving through the Aspen Community Foundation ensures that the dollars go where they're needed.

Now is an especially good time to give because Congress recently restored the IRA charitable rollover for the 2014 tax year. That means donors 70 and older may transfer as much as $100,000 from an IRA account to a qualified charity without the distribution counting as taxable income.

Another advantage to an end-of-year donation to any charity is that it gives the organization a chance to look forward and determine how to plan its programs and services for the year ahead.

So celebrate the season with a gift to your favorite charitable organization and help Aspen continue to set a philanthropic example for the world.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.

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