Stranahan steps up for nonprofits |

Stranahan steps up for nonprofits

Local philanthropist and longtime resident George Stranahan has helped the Aspen Valley Community Foundation net the second-largest unrestricted donation in the organization’s history.

Working with the family foundation set up by his father, Duane Stranahan, the Woody Creek resident last month secured a $157,500 grant that will be distributed to nonprofits via the Aspen Valley Community Foundation. The money will be forwarded to organizations that provide assistance for people with educational and financial challenges, or are just experiencing short-term difficulties and need some help solving them.

Among the groups already under consideration for support are the Family Visitor Program, Lift-Up of Garfield County, Mountain Family Health Center and two literacy programs.

Community foundation executive director Ellen Freedman said the grant could not come at a more opportune time for her organization, which raises money to support nonprofits in the areas of health and human services, education and community building. This is the first year that it is operating without the $1.2 million or so that comes through sales of Bronze Medallion Ski Passes. Also, 2002 is proving to be a difficult year for all nonprofits that rely on donations.

“That’s why it’s important to have a community foundation ? in bad times, a local source of funding for nonprofits is critical,” Freedman said.

The community foundation is poised this year to increase its unrestricted grant-making to nonprofits, mostly in in the valley, partly thanks to the Stranahan Foundation grant, Freedman said.

“We have received larger donations to our donor advised funds, where the donor decides how the money is spent. But as far as donations to our fund for unrestricted grant-making goes, this is the second largest ever,” she said. The largest was an anonymous grant of $1.25 million given over four years.

Unrestricted donations allow the community foundation to support nonprofits with their day-to-day operating costs, the area they generally have the most trouble raising money for. It also allows the community foundation to help with financial emergencies, such as equipment failure, unexpected loss of office space or a sudden surge in demand.

Freedman said the amount of emergency funding that the community foundation has given this year is more than twice what it was last year.

George Stranahan said the Stranahan Foundation is specifically charged with helping people who really need help, so, with the economy on the ropes and demand for assistance surging, it seemed like a good time to help the Aspen Valley Community Foundation. He asked Freedman to come up with a list of groups with proven track records, sound management and good causes that he could take to the board of directors of the Stranahan Foundation.

“When one of the local groups that supports people goes out of business for lack of funding, they are not easy to resuscitate,” Stranahan said.

Asistencia Para Latinos, the nonprofit that for most of the 1990s was a critical resource and referral agency for the region’s Hispanic community, is an example of just how hard it is to replace a nonprofit after it shuts down. Asistencia closed unexpectedly last December due to financial mismanagement. Yet, in spite of its role as a critical link between non-English speaking Hispanics and area health organizations, government agencies and private businesses, no group has emerged to resume the service.

Stranahan admitted there is a perception out there that the Roaring Fork Valley is like some kind of warped Disney Land, with gold and caviar for all. But he noted history indicates when one group, the richest, in a community improves its financial situation, those who are most vulnerable lose ground.

“So you have maids serving homes on Red Mountain doing low-value, low-wage work in a high-rent district with a very long commute. In some ways, this area has needs and problems similar to the ghetto in Los Angeles,” he said.

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