Gallagher: There’s always more to do | AspenTimes.com

Gallagher: There’s always more to do

R.J. Gallagher
Philantopia

"A child without education is like a bird without wings." — Tibetan proverb

Please allow me to share something you already know. We are all so fortunate to live in a beyond-amazing place to call home. And it's not just because of the things that are promoted by our chambers of commerce with stunning imagery of our natural surroundings, cultural attractions, special events, wine and dining, the nightlife, the high life, outdoor adventures and our penchant to seek wellness.

What I am talking about here are very enlightened communities that collectively see the importance of education. Communities that recognize that it takes the entire community to make the grade. Clever, eh? Communities that rally around our younger generations because it is the right thing to do for the entire community. Education is truly the only answer for what ails us as global communities. There are solutions out there to all of life's problems, and I believe that education is the key for such a discovery.

In the most recent election in Aspen, voters overwhelmingly approved a property tax increase to the highest level allowed by the state of Colorado to support education. Voters supported the measure by a two-thirds margin — a mandate, no matter if you add it up with old math or the new math technique. I still use my fingers and toes. In reality, this community show of support was nothing new, as it was in keeping with past Aspen community responses. The Aspen community continues to grade out with an A-plus.

With such great support through taxation, Aspenites might think they have done all they need to do, but that is not the case. There are still shortfalls within the budget, but there is a great way to help make ends meet: the Aspen Education Foundation.

The Aspen Education Foundation is a private, nonprofit education foundation dedicated to supporting the Aspen School District by raising funds from the community. It was established in 1991 to address the increasing shortfall in public funds available to maintain the margin of excellence essential for our students to succeed and excel in our global society. It is committed to strong, sustained and equitable educational excellence for every student in the Aspen School District, and it is a unifying force in bringing together educators, parents, students, local businesses and community members — a win-win for all.

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Originally focused on enhancements, the foundation's mission has expanded over the years to include support for physical education, technology, library and classroom aides, innovative teaching programs and other school district needs.

Celebrating its 23rd anniversary, the foundation has donated more than $7 million to the Aspen School District to help fund critical positions, programs and materials in Aspen's elementary, middle, community and high schools. It is now venturing into a new fundraising effort to develop an endowment fund headed by its recently hired executive director, Brooke Bedingfield. Endowment funds make the world go round for nonprofit organizations and help take control of their futures. Go, Brooke.

So how can you make a difference? Please visit the Aspen Education Foundation website, AspenAEF.org, as the options are almost endless. It just so happens that the foundation is having one if its major fundraisers of the year coming up Jan. 9 at the St. Regis in Aspen, generously hosted by the Chef's Club. The Flamingo is a must-attend event. Check it out soon, as the early bird gets the discounted tickets.

Donations are always needed, but the foundation also relies on its many volunteers to successfully complete its mission. No matter what you can provide, there is a way to get involved. And no matter how much time you have to spare, there is a job you can do.

As a part of the Aspen Education Foundation volunteer community, you will make new friends and have fun while doing something vitally important for your schools. I know this to be true because I have been there and done that.

'Tis the season to give thanks. There is no better gift than the gift of education. Happy holidays, all.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served and continues to serve on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. "Philantopia" is a monthly column in The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.'s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at rjg@forteinternational.net.

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