Giving Thought: Today is the day to give … and give where you live

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought

With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, we’re right in the heart of the giving season, when so many Americans make their annual charitable gifts. And it’s no secret that Roaring Fork Valley nonprofits — whether they support the arts, the environment, education or social services — are vital to our quality of life.

Our rich network of nonprofit organizations makes Aspen a cultural powerhouse and strengthens the entire valley’s institutional backbone through youth educational programs, humanitarian assistance, legal aid, health services and much more.

The world knows Aspen as a mountain playground for the wealthy, but locals know the other half of the story — that families struggle to pay the high rents (more than 40 percent spend one-third or more of their income on housing), that many work multiple jobs to make ends meet (13 percent are food insecure), that most workforce members live dozens of miles away and spend hours each day on Highway 82, and that a single medical emergency can be catastrophic for a family living paycheck-to-paycheck (one-third cannot cover health care costs, even with insurance). Steep disparities in education, income and health are as much a part of life from Aspen to Parachute as the changing seasons.

In our valley, philanthropy literally fills many of the social- and human-service gaps that plague communities across the country. Especially during the onset of winter, with temperatures dropping and snow accumulating on the roadsides, donor generosity enables local organizations to shelter the homeless, provide medical care to the uninsured and feed the hungry. It’s no exaggeration to call these nonprofits the champions of our community and the prime advocates for youth, immigrants, the poor and the vulnerable. But they can’t do it without donations.

Of course, like any other nonprofit, Aspen Community Foundation depends on donor generosity. Through our annual grantmaking program and our Cradle to Career Initiative, we help prepare the region’s children for school and life and support young adults toward a fulfilling future. With the help of 400-plus donors — individuals, foundations, businesses and our longtime partner, Aspen Skiing Co. —we’ve been looking out for the community’s best interests for 38 years.

Our grantmaking focuses on three primary areas: education, health and human services, and strengthening the community. Each year, 30 to 40 organizations apply for and receive annual grants to fund programs and general operations. Organizations such as Raising a Reader, The Buddy Program, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Lift-Up, Response, Alpine Legal Services, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, and Valley Settlement, to name a few, provide critical and valued services that improve the quality of life in greater Roaring Fork Valley.

As you may have heard, today is Colorado Gives Day, an occasion where people across our state unite to support their communities by donating to local and regional nonprofit organizations.

Sponsored by the Community First Foundation and FirstBank, Colorado Gives Day aims to raise awareness of charitable giving statewide and, through its Incentive Fund, to leverage giving that occurs today. Every nonprofit that receives a donation today also will receive a portion of the statewide fund, increasing the value of every dollar donated. Please visit colorado to learn more about this effort and participate in the state’s largest one-day online giving event.

The larger message I want to deliver on Colorado Gives Day — and every day — is simply to “give where you live.” Pick your favorite nonprofits and make an investment, however large or small. It feels good to help people in need. It’s the right thing to do, and it connects us to the community.

So, during this giving season, please consider a gift to organizations whose work you admire or care about. If you’re unsure about which nonprofits to support, Aspen Community Foundation’s website has a list of current grantees, and has a useful “find a nonprofit” search where you can discover charities by ZIP code, count or cause.

Happy holidays to all.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.