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Foundation working to fund YouthZone

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – YouthZone, the region’s 26-year-old nonprofit youth agency, is facing severe cuts in federal and state funding. According to executive director Debbie Wilde, this year’s budget cuts alone total more than $320,000.

So what’s a nonprofit organization to do? Throw a party.

Friday night, YouthZone invited more than 50 donors and potential donors to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for an upscale dinner, complete with cocktails and complimentary rides on the Iron Mountain Tramway to and from Exclamation Point, the park’s mountaintop restaurant.



On the surface, the event might seem like a needless expense for a nonprofit hit hard by cutbacks. But actually, the entire soiree didn’t cost the youth organization a dime – and it generated a lot of good will.

“Everything was donated,” said Wilde, “The Caverns and Edward Jones Investments co-sponsored the evening, and even Mary Rippy, one of our board members, paid for the invitations.”



In order to deal with deep budget cuts, YouthZone started a separate organization this past March. Called the YouthZone Foundation, the new nonprofit is designed to ultimately serve as the agency’s funding entity.

“We are working to be the main funding source for YouthZone,” said Hollis Kelley, board president of the YouthZone Foundation.

It seems to be working. In just eight months, foundation members have generated more than $110,000 for YouthZone’s programs and operations, surpassing their $100,000 goal for the year.

Kelley said the foundation got the initial boost it needed when it received a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Charlson Foundation last spring. Other lead gifts include $10,000 from EnCana and $7,500 from the Bob Young Advised Fund. In addition, eight individuals and families have donated more than $1,200 a piece.

The Founders’ Club has been another successful source of funding. Eighteen individuals and companies – so far – have given a yearly contribution of $1,200.

Friday’s event was designed to thank those who have already given, and to educate potential donors about YouthZone’s work. Wilde shared a few of YouthZone’s success stories of helping youth avert the criminal justice system and make better life choices through interactive counseling programs.

Kelley said board members like Jim Nelson, a local accountant, author and photographer, are a “great addition” to the organization.

“Jim is incredibly valuable to us,” said Kelley. “He jumped right in with both feet. He gets a gold star.”

Nelson said he got interested in the YouthZone Foundation through friends and associates.

“I hate to ask other people for money,” said Nelson. “But this is so easy because I believe in YouthZone’s programs.”

Nelson said besides fund-raising, he’s been getting involved in the organization in other ways. He said a recent visit to juvenile court was disturbing.

“When you see teenagers in shackles, you realize how important YouthZone is,” he said. “I’m telling people now, `You can pay me now or pay me later.’ YouthZone’s programs have an excellent success rate of catching kids before they really get into serious trouble.

“The average cost for an inmate is $44,000 a year, and $58,000 for a juvenile,” Nelson said. “YouthZone works to prevent youth from getting to that stage.”

Kelley is optimistic that events like Friday’s soiree will help spread the word about YouthZone – and opportunities for giving. Besides joining the Founders Club, donors can make bequests, business and corporate gifts, memorial gifts, endowments and lasting legacy gifts.

“We’re off to a good start,” said Kelley. “It’s our hope this foundation will exist in perpetuity.”

For more information about YouthZone, call 945-9300 or visit http://www.youthzone.com.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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