A Moment to Reflect

December 12th, 2011

Here’s something that makes us thankful:

From 2001 through 2011, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation has made 8,577 grants. With those grants, we’ve given away $63 million to non-profits operating right here in the Pikes Peak region.

I don’t believe in dwelling in the past, but I have to say, this makes me pretty darn proud of the work we’ve done to advance philanthropy in our local community.

Here’s to all the people who’ve made this possible: the worthy non-profits that have received the grants; the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers at the Foundation; and the many donors who contribute to our good work.

Now here’s to the next ten years.

Inspiration and Action

February 18th, 2011

When you get the right people in the right place with the right resources, something interesting happens: people become inspired. They become motivated. They become engaged. They start realizing the ideas percolating in the back of their minds could actually become reality.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation hosted a symposium on Philanthropy in the New Economy on Tuesday at the Garden of the Gods Club. We brought together nationally renowned experts on finance and philanthropy with locally renowned experts on finance and philanthropy, and the atmosphere was electric. We could all sense the excitement in the air as people learned new concepts or new ways of thinking about concepts that were long familiar to them.

There’s no question that in today’s economic climate, philanthropy is both more necessary and more challenging than ever before. It is vital that we think creatively about taking community philanthropy to new dimensions, as speaker Bill Somerville urged, and that we lead adaptively, as speaker Leslie Crutchfield encouraged us to do.

At PPCF, we believe that as a community, we have the responsibility to be thinking in “generation mode.”  Just as people with vision preserved the Garden of the Gods nearly a hundred years ago, we need to think twenty-five, fifty, even a hundred years into the future and ask:  “What will our community need, what will our descendents desire, and what will our community have become, and what will it still aspire to be?”

It will be as superb as we expect it to be. And we as community members have every right – and every responsibility – to expect it to be sublime.

Please join our ongoing dialogue on the changing tides of philanthropy, and be a part of making our community the best we can be. We hope you’ll find our new discussion space at http://ppcf-tlc.ning.com/group/philanthropy an exciting and enriching resource where you can learn and share ideas with us and each other.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

August 30th, 2010

Standing quietly in the shade of a big cottonwood on the Colorado State Fairgrounds, John and Joe Tarabino humbly accepted recognition for their family farms, awarded the status of “Centennial Farms.” This special award honors Colorado farms that have been owned and operated by the same family for over 100 years.

Tarabino Farm (1907) and Foghino Farm (1909) serve as some of the last remnants of a vibrant farming and ranching culture that once thrived near Trinidad, CO. You can just “feel” the footsteps and hoofbeats of history echoing from every corner of these farms— the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail and the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail traversed both farms. Generations of transplanted Italian families from the Piedmont area of northern Italy created a thriving agricultural, economic, and cultural community along the Purgatoire River in Las Animas County.

I stood in the back, watching John and Joe take their seats on the stage with other men and women from twenty-one Centennial farms and ranches around the state. The emcee, Lyle Miller, didn’t rush through the program, preferring to allow families to savor the moment. We heard stories about each farm and watched tears leak from the eyes of the tough, stoic men and women who have dedicated their lives to working the land.


Making my way back through the State Fair towards the parking lot, I decided to take a lap through the animal area.

I passed pen after pen of stunningly well-groomed cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, even pigeons! In some pens, young kids aided by a parent or grandparent, quietly combed and brushed their animals, changed the bedding, or checked the food and water. You could feel a sense of quiet fortitude and tremendous pride among multiple generations of these ranch and farm families, and I imagined a day in the future when some of these kids would proudly accept Centennial Farm status for their own farm or ranch.


Then, before heading home, I strolled through the vendor area.

Ugh.  Now I know where to find Quik-buns and toe rings, Dead Sea minerals and pewter armadillos, “Scum-Off” and solar panels, barcaloungers and bling, amazing ‘hairzings” and hot tubs, pellet guns and paintball guns, Donald Duck Peruvian hats and Disney Native American flutes, “sassy water” and sunglasses, lotus diffusers and Qi-Kong massages, bionic tuning and beef jerky, scent consultations and spice packets, vacuum cleaners and Versace knock-offs, “tap-tech” massagers and Tootsie Rolls, teeth whiteners and far-infrared saunas, cell phones and cash advances, liquid pearls and lobbyists, obscene t-shirts and potato grabbers, glue and glass beads, umbrella hats and cowboy hats, car insurance and abortion counseling, mini-blinds and massaging insoles…and on and on and on.

Booth after booth after booth of mostly cheap crap from China.


In the spirit of the Centennial Farms, I can easily imagine a Colorado State Fair that would feature Colorado craftsmen, artists, food producers, and businesses…….where you could actually meet the person who made the goods, who performs the service, who raised the food, or who created the art.

Wouldn’t that be sublime?

It’s been awhile…

August 30th, 2010

About six months ago, I lost the thread of this blogging stuff.

Somehow the death of my dad silenced my energy for sharing thoughts in writing. I realized that my old nemesis, “existential fatigue,” had teamed up with writer’s block to bring this blog to a screeching halt.

Ann, our new PPCF communications person, wise in the ways of “social media,” has encouraged me to revitalize my blog.

A sublime and ridiculous visit to the Colorado State Fair last Friday finally snapped the writing logjam. See the next post for the story…


February 4th, 2010

My Dad peacefully passed away a couple of weeks ago at age 91.

His character was forged in the Great Depression and World War II. His personality reflected the traits of his generation:  tough, smart, stoic, calm, hardworking, loving, funny, and patient.

I haven’t really come to terms with his passing yet, but as I spend time thinking about the interweaving of my life and my Dad’s life, I realize just how much I learned from my Dad and Mom that helps me in my own life, every day.

Growing up with three wild brothers meant wild times. Yet my folks handled our craziness with a degree of patience that in retrospect seems almost saintly, especially when compared to my own impatience as I deal with the challenges of my own children.

As my brothers and I gathered after Dad died, we began to tell stories. Each of us could remember hundreds of times when Dad had helped us, disciplined us, consoled us, or counseled us, but each of us could only remember literally one time that he lost his temper, even though we gave him good reasons to be upset almost every day.

We wrecked cars, offended neighbors, and raised snowball throwing to a high art. We dug 15-foot deep holes in the backyard to bury stuff that we scavenged from around the neighborhood. We made a “swimming pool” by the garage so that we could jump off the roof—but ended up cracking the garage walls…and then practiced technical climbing by hammering pitons into the newly cracked wall. We filled the backyard with hundreds of old Christmas trees to build a “fort”…a mess that took weeks to clean up and left not a single blade of green grass in the yard.

We were on a first-name basis with our family doctor…countless stitches, broken bones and minor impalements. We built homemade cannons fueled by cherry bombs, lit on fire almost anything that would burn, routinely put fishhooks through ourselves and each other, smacked wasp nests with sticks (duh!), and on and on. The police would bring us home after more serious infractions…but those were simpler days and family discipline always served as an effective corrective intervention.

Dad’s quiet response: “That’s about enough, kids.”  Calm, patient, clear, loving.

And we would learn.

It must have been incredibly challenging. Patiently and calmly, Dad and Mom would redirect our careless, frantic, often destructive energy. They put us to work in the family greenhouse business: shoveling dirt, planting seedlings, waiting on customers, hammering nails, putting up drywall, fixing the plumbing, framing walls, moving rocks, repairing vehicles, and yes, taking care of things that we had damaged or undone. Slowly, we learned to build, to renew, to share, to give back, and to care.

So, as I think about my dad, I realize that I have deepened my understanding of just how my folks created a world for my brothers and me to explore, discover, and create; to become fiercely independent; and yet eventually mature into caring, compassionate adults. And the work I’ve chosen as an adult takes good advantage of all that priceless childhood experience—both destructive and constructive—to try and make our world a little better place to live.

Thanks, Dad…

Warning: cynical sense of humor here…

November 4th, 2009

Top ten bumper stickers we really don’t want for our city:

  1. You’ve landed in the wrong place.
  2. History? We don’t need no stinking history.
  3. Ignoring General Palmer’s vision since 1871.
  4. Bare dirt parks: Enjoy!
  5. The buck doesn’t even slow down here.
  6. Less than you’d expect.
  7. It’s how we’re all disconnected.
  8. We used to have a downtown.
  9. We don’t care. We don’t have to.
  10. Imagine a mediocre city.

Have we hit a “tipping point” as a city? Will these slogans describe our community in the future, or will we tweak one or two words in each one…changing the meaning in dramatically positive directions?

Time will tell.

However, as a practical optimist,  I realize there are two key elements that hamstring governments worldwide…1) whatever hits the fan will not be distributed evenly, and 2) it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame.

I guess I’d rather be out fixing problems than fixing blame. Anyone else?

Next week, after the City budget dust settles: a list of what PPCF is doing around our community to make our city a better place to live, and how you can help!


November 4th, 2009

62,923 voted against 2C. 53,241 voted for Issue 300.

The message was clear. Shrink government and pay less taxes.

As a practical optimist, I figure this means that we have at least 62,923 volunteers–and donors!– to keep our parks in great shape, run after-school programs at community centers, volunteer as lifeguards at the pools, keep the Pioneer’s Museum and Rock Ledge Ranch open, plant and water the flowers and grass, pick up trash and scrub out graffiti, and more.

What good news.

I know the Friends of Cheyenne Canon, Friends of Garden of the Gods, Rock Ledge Ranch Living History Association, and all of the nonprofits that work closely with our city government to make Colorado Springs a good place to live, are already manning the phones, waiting for all those calls from 62,923 volunteers and donors.

What do you think will happen?

In the meantime, we can either wring our hands standing on the sidelines crying “Woe is me!” or we can roll up our sleeves, jump in, and make a difference.

I’ll finish my thoughts this morning with a short message from an ancient Tibetan proverb:

“Do not take lightly small good deeds,
Believing they can hardly help…
For drops of water,
One by one,
In time can fill a giant pond.”

I’ll be out dripping some drops today… hope you’ll join me.

Thinking, finally…

October 12th, 2009

just a quick post today, trying to get back into the mode of blogging…

In a conversation with one of my colleagues this morning, we talked about the lack of time just for thinking and planning…yes, just thinking and planning…imagining the future.

I was at the Rockies game with my son and some of his friends last night, arriving home at 2:30am after a chilling game with a numbing ninth inning. On the drive home, while the four college kids snored away, I started thinking about thinking… and my mind wandered to one of my dad’s favorite stories when we were kids.

“There’s a story about a man who came across a woodsman chopping wood for his family with a very dull, rusty old axe. After hours and hours of chopping, the woodsman had made almost no progress.
The man asked, “Why don’t you sharpen your axe?”
The woodsman replied, “I can’t stop now! I’m already way behind as it is!”

So i’m thinking that rusty thinking gets rusty results, eh?

And i’m thinking that i should be (to quote Bobby Sager)  “…practicing eyeball-to-eyeball philanthropy born of hands-on experience and on-the-ground understanding. Always looking for the most efficient and sustainable way to solve any issue.”

Well said. More soon.

If not us, who?

August 26th, 2009

Check it out:


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!

Sitting and thinking…

August 19th, 2009

Tough day today…so for a few minutes, I’m just sitting here thinking about the difference between productive and pointless work.

Just sitting here thinking that the work i do should encourage people to explore, discover, create, dream, seek, experiment, design…

Just sitting here thinking…and then I remember that my work should nurture me as well.

Just sitting here thinking, remembering a quote from Wm. Coperthwaite: “That which deprives another cannot be beautiful.”

And now, I’m just sitting.