Tormohlen: Planting seeds toward a future workforce | AspenTimes.com

Tormohlen: Planting seeds toward a future workforce

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought

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

Recently we've devoted this column to individuals working to effect positive change in the Aspen-to-Parachute region. This week we're speaking with someone from Alpine Bank, a regional company that supports all of the communities where it does business.

Helene Gude has worked for Alpine Bank for 16 years, most of which has been in the community relations department. She had always banked with Alpine because of its community involvement, but as a former teacher at Aspen Country Day School and Aspen Middle School, she especially appreciates the bank's dedication to youth and educational causes.

Recently, responding to a challenge grant from Aspen Skiing Co., Alpine Bank made a multiyear commitment to the Post-High School Success project, which aims to put college and career counselors in all of the public high schools between Aspen and Parachute. The project is part of the Aspen Community Foundation's Cradle to Career Initiative.

Aspen Community Foundation: Please explain why it made financial sense for Alpine Bank to invest in Post-High School Success.

Helene Gude: We committed for three years at $5,000 per year. And we invested these dollars in our communities in order to train our future workforce. … We reap the benefits of providing for this initiative.

I know we already have a handful of employees who have been recipients of our Latino scholarships. Those are just some of the examples of people who have benefited from Alpine Bank's donations and have come back to our communities as employees. That speaks so much to the Post-High School Success project — keeping these young, up-and-coming people here in our communities and investing in them.

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ACF: Does Alpine Bank support other programs related to youth success and learning?

HG: Yes. We were the very first sponsor of the Western Slope College Fair, and we have remained as a sponsor every year that the fair has been in existence (11 years). That speaks to the way our values completely align with the Post-High School Success project. We want our kids to come back to the valley after they've had their training.

We also (donate to) the education foundations for each of the public school districts. We (donate to) the Aspen Youth Center, the Buddy Program and also the educational programs at the Aspen Music Festival, Jazz Aspen Snowmass and Art Base (formerly the Wyly Art Center).

Alpine Bank also underwrites the Ever-Fi financial-literacy programs in the schools in the Eagle-Vail Valley, the Roaring Fork Valley and the Colorado River region.

There's so much more. If it involves children, we're typically right there. We believe that children are our future.

ACF: The Roaring Fork Valley is known for its abundant nonprofits and charitable programs. How as a company does Alpine Bank choose where to invest its charitable dollars?

HG: We typically look at how certain organizations and programs align with our values. I think (Alpine Bank founder) Bob Young is a philanthropic visionary and very much behind children and education.

Alpine Bank is still a community bank, and we believe it is part of our obligation to our customer base to support our communities. One way we do that is the dedicated loyalty debit-card program, which directly funds local nonprofits. Each time people use those cards, we donate 10 cents to an account where those moneys accrue and go to nonprofits. There's an Americas card, an environment card, an education card and others. The education card has been around since 1997, and we have probably, in total as a bank, donated close to $2 million to education.

ACF: How will you measure whether the Post-High School Success project has accomplished its goal?

HG: We already feel we've experienced success with the Post-High School project by looking at Aspen High School (Alpine Bank originally helped support the creation of the AHS college counseling program, which is now being replicated in other schools) and by having members of our own workforce benefit from it. To see that happen all the way to Parachute — we just thought this was a no-brainer. We had to do this because it is our future.

And the beauty of this project is it's not just about college. We're also looking at vocational/technical education and two-year institutions. This is about everybody getting on board, whether it's a bank or a hospital or a real estate developer.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.

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