It’s been a week of favorites…. In this job, I get to attend many, many functions; so, it goes without saying that some are bound to be more enjoyable than others. While a number of people think I must “have fun” attending all these functions, I truly am working, albeit an enjoyable job. Juggling a camera, notepad and pen does not leave a hand free for a glass of wine; and I don’t often get to partake in the meals, although I confess to snagging a few hors d’oeuvres when they’re passed.
Of all the events I cover on a regular basis, I’ve decided it’s the Honoree Celebration in March that is most special because it pulls together so many of the nonprofit organizations and the volunteers I focus on in JustAroundHere.com. That occurred Thursday evening at the Elks Lodge. There’s so much positive energy gathered under one roof, and I feel privileged to be acquainted with nearly everyone who’s doing good in one way or another for the Evergreen community.
Combined with awards from both Evergreen and Conifer Chambers was one special award – Leader of the Year – presented by Leadership Evergreen, an organization I helped to found nearly 20 years ago. This year’s winner was Bob Cardwell (photo right), a favorite of mine as well – someone I’ve worked with for the past 15 or so years on a number of projects and boards. When he was unable to be there to accept the award, he asked me to step in for him and express a few words of appreciation on his behalf. That was an honor in itself.
A couple of months ago I was asked to nominate people from Evergreen for county-wide recognition – people representing business, government or philanthropy. It gave me reason to think about philanthropists. It was assumed that, because Evergreen is considered an affluent community, surely we would have a number of philanthropists. Yes, there are some I know about; but my estimation of philanthropy is perhaps different from those asking for the nominations. You see, I have a soft spot in my heart for those who don’t necessarily have lots of money in the bank but give so generously of themselves and/or disproportionately to their accumulation of assets.
Friday I had lunch with a couple who’d probably prefer to go unnamed, but I took the opportunity to express to them that I consider them to be true philanthropists in our community. Instead of (or perhaps I should say “in addition to”) writing big checks to organizations, they show their support by attending events and bidding generously at auctions, thus encouraging a domino effect that is felt through to the donor artist or contributing business. They initiate investment ideas that generate more donations, and they work to spread the word about nonprofits to stimulate more supporters. They have a determination to make efforts successful. They truly invest in the community.
On Saturday afternoon, Ruth Morehouse, another one of my favorite people, celebrated going on Medicare and chose to use the occasion to kick off raising money for a capital campaign for Center for the Arts Evergreen, which is seeking a new facility when their $1/year lease with Evergreen Parks & Recreation expires in 2015. Ruth is someone I consider to be a real patron of the arts. Her home is filled with original art, and she asked guests to participate in a scavenger hunt of sorts, matching names of artists with their works of art somewhere on display. It was Ruth's way of drawing attention to some of the many talented artists in the mountain area.
Saturday evening was spent with one of my favorite groups – Congregation Beth Evergreen – celebrating their 40th anniversary. In listening to them summarize the past 40 years, I heard more than once how warm and welcoming others found the congregation when they visited prior to becoming members, and I couldn’t help but think how representative CBE is of Evergreen, although Jews make up a small percentage of our community.
Even though I’m not Jewish, I’ve found the group to be exactly that way – warm and welcoming – making me feel right at home whenever I show up at their events. There’s nothing uncomfortable about attending a religious function with different customs and strange terminology I've never heard before or a food fest with gourmet treats unfamiliar to the average non-Jew. Whether it’s attending a bat mitzvah, taking in a re-enactment of a Holocaust survivor, watching a movie or sampling their variations of chicken soup (as opposed to a chili cookoff), it’s always a comfortable setting for me.
And earlier this week I enjoyed a personal lunch with Kathy Engel and Sallie Wandling of Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice, another one of the nonprofit organizations high on my list.
How blessed I am to have created an occupation to draw attention to some of the many talented and generous people in our community. I get to delve into their private lives and ask why they do what they do, what motivates them, and what feeds their souls. We’ve assembled an unusually high percentage of givers here in Evergreen, and that’s what makes the community so special. When I meet newcomers, I encourage them to get involved and to give back. Nothing denotes an outsider faster than identifying someone who does not give back.
I remember attending a celebration recognizing Barb Scripps, who was honored as an outstanding woman in Jefferson County earlier this year. Her impromptu speech caused her to stand out above the others because she talked so genuinely about the people of Evergreen, how special they are and how privileged she is to be working with them.
Of the people I interview and talk to, the common thought I hear expressed most often is “it’s the people here who make the difference.” And I agree.
Feeling that sense of community is truly one of my most favorite sensations. Just like assuming our natural surroundings will always be there, the sense of community we enjoy here in Evergreen can easily be taken for granted. I'm convinced what we have here in Evergreen is not the norm. I feel strongly that we must work at preserving it, just as we work to preserve our open spaces. Just talking about it isn't good enough.