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Faith Inkubators find home in Aspen

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A house in Mountain Valley that just sold for $3 million will serve as the birthing place for a nationwide preschool system.

Faith Inkubators Foundation, a Minnesota-based nonprofit religious organization, purchased the property, 780 Mountain Laurel Dr., on Feb. 26, for $3,066,180.

The home’s former owner, Bob Skare, said he sold the property to the organization as a donation.



Skare donated an undisclosed amount of the proceeds of the sale to Faith Inkubators as seed money to start for-profit organizations that will create public preschools throughout the country.

Faith Inkubators has taken out two loans totaling $3.5 million against the property.




“In launching the preschools, we are leveraging the asset in order to get started,” said Rev. Rich Melheim, who heads Faith Inkubators.

Faith Inkubators likely will escape having to pay property taxes on the four-bedroom home, which last year were nearly $6,500.

“Religious organizations have really wide latitude on [property] exemptions,” said Stan Gueldenzoph, exemptions section manager of the Colorado Division of Property Taxation.

He added that Faith Inkubators has not yet applied for an exemption and granting one will depend on how the home will be used.

“It’s going to depend on the details,” Gueldenzoph said. “But anytime you are talking about nonprofit religious organizations, they are likely to be exempt.”

Melheim said the home will continue to be rented out through McCartney Property Management Co., of which the revenue will be collected by Faith Inkubators. He said the organization also will use the home as a gathering place for investors, supporters and others involved in launching the universal preschool model.

“We’ll use it as a creative nest to invite artists, educators and creators,” Melheim said.

Skare’s connection with Faith Inkubators is through Melheim, who was a Lutheran minister at a church in Owatonna, Minn., where his mother worshiped.

Skare said it’s a business decision for Faith Inkubators to keep the house as an asset.

“In an appreciating market, they will hang on to it and borrow against it,” Skare said, adding fledgling nonprofits often have trouble borrowing but supporters of Faith Inkubators have backed the loans, which were issued by Collegiate Peaks Bank.

According to the nonprofit’s 2006 990-EZ tax return, Faith Inkubators’ net assets were $790. The foundation had $5,357 in revenue and $4,636 in expenses.

Faith Inkubators’ mission is “to incubate faith every night in every home,” according to the organization’s website.

“Our mission is to equip church leaders to effectively train their congregations in holistic, biblical, theologically sound faith formation systems,” according to Faith Inkubators’ statement of faith. “It is also our goal to catalyze a revolution in home-based faith education and spawn a home devotional movement across the church.”

The vision is “to spearhead a Christian education reform that restores parents as the primary faith teachers, mentors and role models for their own children with church reinforcement ” not replacement ” of the parent’s duties.”

The first preschool to be launched by the foundation will be in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and will serve as a model for others nationally, Melheim said. It’s expected to be open within a year. By 2010, Melheim hopes to have a dozen or more facilities set up.

English, Mandarin, Spanish and sign language will be part of the early learning curriculum with an “access to excellence” theme, Skare said. The public preschools will be designed as parent-child organizations that focus on character building for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.

“We are hoping to create an atmosphere where preschools will be nonprofits with for-profit subsidiaries,” Skare said.

Scholarships, and creating platforms and products to enhance the learning environment also are part of the plan. That includes the distribution of educational materials, such as DVDs and books.

Part of what Faith Inkubators does is take the best of neurology and technology to combine the latest in brain research, systems thinking and Bible camp practices.

“We scrap existing teacher-led, lecture-based confirmation and ‘drop-off’ Sunday school systems and replace them with whole brain, hands-on, parent-involved, arts-based small group models,” according to http://www.faithink.com, the foundation’s website. “Then we mix in some music, drama, technology and fun, and test the models to see what’s working, what’s not working and how to make them better.”

Skare, a retired attorney from Minnesota, now lives in California. He said he sold the Mountain Valley home for half of its value.

The transaction is known as a bargain sale, which is the sale or interests in land at a price below its appraised market value. The donated value allows the seller tax benefits as a return on investment, and as an alternative to taxable sales while reducing the cost or private nonprofit acquiring the land.

According to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office, the actual value of the property is $3,367,000.

Skare also will benefit from capital gains taxes because he sold the home for less than its appraised value, according to Pitkin County Assessor Tom Issac.

According to Gary Wright, a local attorney who specializes in real estate, said Skare will be able to get a charitable deduction for the difference between fair market value and what he paid for it originally.

Skare said he simply put his capital to work.

“It fits my philosophy of social enterprise,” Skare said. “If you think about the idle wealth that sits in Aspen homes, they could be using it for charity.”

csack@aspentimes.com