New director, Jon Fox-Rubin, hired to help Carbondale-based Manaus Fund grow |

New director, Jon Fox-Rubin, hired to help Carbondale-based Manaus Fund grow

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Jon Fox-Rubin
Courtesy photo |

The Carbondale-based nonprofit Manaus Fund has hired a new leader to help guide it through its next stage of growth.

Jon Fox-Rubin, of Basalt, was hired as executive director of the organization, which focuses on social-justice issues. He started part time this month and goes full time in July. He replaced Ellen Freedman, who remains as a strategic adviser to Fox-Rubin and Manaus’ board of directors.

Fox-Rubin was the co-founder and CEO of two local startup firms: Hypercar Inc. and Fiberforge Corp., both of which were spun off from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute. Those companies developed and brought to market advanced composite technologies to make products lighter and tougher. That enhanced performance and efficiency in multiple industries, including sporting goods, transportation and aerospace.

Fox-Rubin also served on the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and on the Basalt Town Council. He noted that he crafted a resolution, passed by the board, that welcomes immigrants to Basalt.

Fox-Rubin said social justice is “woven into my persona,” so joining Manaus was alluring. A primary focus for the organization is its Valley Settlement Project, which helps prepare kids and their parents for school and boosts elementary school achievement. The program creates partnerships with other nonprofits, schools and government agencies to help low-income families become settled or better attached to the communities where they live.

“We’re going to grow it and sustain it,” Fox-Rubin said of the program.

The program is currently operating in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale and coordinates with the Roaring Fork School District Re-1. Members of the Manaus staff work with parents to show them the value of exposing young children to reading and education. The staff also works directly with kids to help prepare them for school.

The program has been effective at helping a high percentage of kids who otherwise wouldn’t get any preschool education, Fox-Rubin said. Many of those who are assisted are Latinos.

Manaus wants to expand the reach of the program, eventually from Parachute to Aspen. Hand-in-hand with the expanded reach is increased funding to make it sustainable, Fox-Rubin said.

The other primary program Manaus aims to grow is its Community Organizing Project. The idea is that community organizing is the best way to engage all people in a community to create change and achieve social justice, according to a statement from Manaus.

Fox-Rubin said a field organizer is canvassing residents of the Roaring Fork Valley to find out the areas where community organizing is most needed.

The Manaus Fund helped fund the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., which teamed with the town of Basalt in 2011 to purchase the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. One of Community Development Corp.’s goals was to relocate the residents of the trailer park to replacement housing, but the plan went awry. Community Development Corp. was unable to advance a development plan for its part of the property, so it didn’t raise the funds for relocating the residents. The town of Basalt took over the relocation effort, and the whole ordeal received mixed reviews. Some of the trailer-park residents accused Community Development Corp. of not fulfilling its promises.

Fox-Rubin said the situation could have been handled differently, but Manaus wasn’t in a position to intervene in the issue. Before joining Manaus, Fox-Rubin invested some of his private time in trying to keep Basalt culturally diverse.

The Manaus Fund was created by philanthropist George Stranahan in 2005. Achieving social justice by empowering people to identify problems, set goals, organize themselves and become effective leaders is its mission.

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