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Award ceremony for the recipients of the CCCF 2023 Community Awards include left to right: CCCF Executive Director Betsy Dittenber, Full Circle Restorative Justice staffer Natalie Carmen Millis and Executive Director Eric Lee, philanthropist Katy Welter, Shelly Schreiner standing in for Volunteer of the Year Carol Merovka, and CCCF Board Chair Megan Leesley; Photo by Jan Wondra.

The combination Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) Training Summit and the CCCF Awards event at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, September 19 was a major success. The culmination of the day was the presentation of three well-deserved awards from a field of deserving nominees:

Organization of the Year — Full Circle Restorative Justice

Volunteer of the Year — Carol Merovka of The Alliance

Philanthropist of the Year — Katy Welter

These volunteers, organizations and philanthropists knit together the fabric of Chaffee County. CCCF opens up public nominations in July and that process runs through September 1. The winners are selected by the CCCF board based on the criteria (below) and their broad impact across Chaffee County. Each winner receives a $500 mini-grant to a local nonprofit of their choice.

Award Criteria and Nominees

Organization of the Year: This award recognizes an outstanding nonprofit organization that has served Chaffee County with innovation, demonstrated high-impact programming, and dedication to constant improvement, making a significant contribution to the vitality of our local community by meeting a significant need with effective solutions. Nominations for this award included:

  • BETCH – four nominations
  • Full Circle Restorative Justice
  • Shining Mountains Montessori School – 40 nominations

The award winner, Full Circle Restorative Justice is on the rise in Chaffee County. New Executive Director, Eric Lee and staff are beginning to become the go-to organization for community needs. They run programs in the school districts and aid other local nonprofit organizations to better serve their own parts of the community.

“We’re here to help. We have the resources to do the wonderful work of resolving conflict,” said Lee as he accepted the award.

Volunteer of the Year:This award recognizes an outstanding individual who is volunteering their time and talent in the nonprofit sector in Chaffee County, making a significant contribution to our community through dedication, service, innovation, leadership, and collaboration in their volunteer roles.

  • Carol Merovka – one nomination
  • Cory “Salty” Riggs – six nominations
  • Gina Lucrezi – one nomination

CCCF award winner Merovka is a five-year veteran volunteer with The Alliance. In this challenging line of work she is known as compassionate, capable, and tenacious; someone who can be counted upon to handle almost any situation.

Merovka could not attend the event due to being exposed to COVID, so her award was accepted by Shelley Schreiner, who said she couldn’t say enough good things about the volunteer spirit of Merovka “Over the past five years, she has shown this enormous capacity and willingness to jump in and resolve problems.”

Philanthropist of the Year: This award recognizes an outstanding donor whose giving has made a significant impact in Chaffee County. This individual, family, company, or organization serves as an exemplar of generosity through outstanding charitable support, leadership and service. Nominees included:

  • Katy Welter – 1 nomination
  • Tom Rollings – 1 nomination

True to her award designation, the CCCF Philanthropist award winner Katy Welter dedicated her $500 mini-grant to Buena Vista Heritage. Her nomination noted, “It is difficult to measure or even fully understand Katy’s contribution to this community. One of the smartest and most driven people I know, Katy gives from a place of service and empathy. Whether it be the McGinnis Gym, or the Watershed Ranch, or a historic Main Street Commission – she moves forward courageously and gracefully, even in the face of staggering projects, and difficult conversations.

“I give from a place of service and empathy. I’m a serious person,” said Welter as she accepted her award. “When I’m asked ‘what is philanthropy’, I call it a chance to make a shared vision come true. Philanthropy is not just money, its expertise, it’s in our bones.” She paused and added — “you don’t have to be a Carnegie or a Rockefeller to be a philanthropist.”

Summit Training Thorough and Well-Received

According to Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF), Director of Operations Rachele Vierthaler, the 2023 Chaffee County Summit, produced by CCCF, its partners and sponsors drew more than 80 attendees, representing 37 nonprofit entities to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.

Representatives from numerous sponsors, including Aventa Credit Union, Chaffee County Public Health, Sangre de Cristo Electric Association and TBK Bank staffed information tables at the morning sessions of the 2023 Community Summit. Merrell Bergin photo

The all-day annual workshop was aimed at skills building, professional development, leadership growth, and collaboration opportunities.

Ark Valley Voice and its nonprofit parent, the Truth Has A Voice Foundation had the opportunity to attend two morning sessions.

Of vital interest to all nonprofits, grant writing is a skill in high demand and short supply — as such, the Grant Writing 101 and 201 sessions drew more than 20 attendees.

Betsy Dittenber, Executive Director of the Chaffee County Community Foundation makes a point at the Grant Writing 101 session at the Chaffee Community Summit. with featured speaker and professional grant writer, Chrissy Supples (right). Merrell Bergin photo

To help fill that skills gap, Chrissy Supples, a member of the CCCF Board and Grants Committee led both basic and advanced grant writing sessions.

Supples has extensive international nonprofit and grant writing experience and first guided a mixed group (of neophytes as well as more experienced grant applicants) through the basics of preparing for writing grants, and assembling needed documents. It’s all aimed at efficiently giving funders just what they are looking for, and hopefully aligning the missions and needs of both parties.

The competitive grant process is similar to applying for a high-level job, requiring candidates to first do their homework on themselves and the funder, then show how they are the “best fit” while writing “powerful paragraphs” in the all-important “narrative” that compel attention during a typical, less than ten-minute review before considering limited grantor funds.

Supples was aided in the two-voice presentation by CCCF Executive Director Betsy Dittenber who added her own previous experiences as a grant writer and now while directing the efforts of the CCCF Grants Committee. Dittenber cautioned attendees that “a 10 percent success rate is typical for non-professional grant applications.”

On the other hand, she added, “if you hit a much higher rate, you’re not making a big enough (or the right) ask.” Finally, “some small grants, with high reporting requirements cost more in time and effort than they are worth,” she concluded.

Christy Doon, Interim Salida City Administrator and Chaffee County Community Foundation Nonprofit Chair fielded a question in the Grant Writing 101 session. Doon has prior experience with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and also was a breakout session speaker on “Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture”. Merrell Bergin photo

After Supples and Dittenber cited examples of well-written narratives and all took a brief break, participants came back for the advanced, hands-on Grant Writing 201 session.

A “Logic Model” was presented as the best way to prepare to position a nonprofit for grant consideration, well before tackling the widely-used Colorado Common Grant Application or any custom versions of it.

The Logic Model asks the nonprofit to consider its activities and programs, what inputs (resources and data) they invest to make those happen, outputs (who they seek to reach) and the provable outcomes (metrics of success over the short, intermediate and long terms of their programs).

While working through sample models at each table, participants received one-on-one coaching from Supples and Dittenber, leaving them with a takeaway to help jumpstart their next grant application and take its quality to a higher level, well beyond merely good indentions.

Editor note: Managing Editor Publisher Jan Wondra and Truth Has a Voice Foundation President Merrell Bergin contributed to this story.