Get Creative with Giving

By Lisa Kennedy

 

On a warm Saturday afternoon, Kelsey Priestly leaned over a square etched into the sidewalk, drawing. Shippers’ Supply Custom Pack, the Loveland business she works for, had purchased the square as a sponsor of the Pastels on 5th festivities. This year’s installment of the annual chalk-art gathering brought artists—professional, student, hobbyist—to town for a cause as grave as the two-day event was buoyant.
Since 1983, Alternatives to Violence (ATV) has been providing services and a safe haven to people affected by domestic abuse and sexual assault, as well as victims of human trafficking. Pastels has been a money-raising event for the organization since 2010. This year’s program brought in $45,000.

“We are so grateful,” says ATV Executive Director Kari Clark. Perhaps as significant as the funds raised is the fact that Pastels “lets people know we are here,” Clark adds. “It puts the word out on what we do. A lot of clients and people seeking services hear about [us] because of Pastels.”

Sheree Lambert, co-owner of Shippers’ with husband Jim, has been a Pastels sponsor from the start. “We love anything art related,” she says. “And then the cause! We hold ATV near and dear to our hearts. It was a no-brainer.”
The family-owned business provides all manner of goods and support to people sending packages, but its unique skill set is in packing, crating and dispatching art works to places near and far-flung. Many of the artists participating in Pastels “are good friends of ours that we wanted to support,” says Lambert.

Local businesses, church groups, nonprofits, school groups and individual sponsors were able to buy a square, or multiple squares, costing from $150-$1,000 per square. Approximately 150 artists participated this past September, according to Vicky Bryant, the longtime ATV volunteer who launched the community gathering as a way to fundraise for an organization she believes in deeply. “I had a childhood riddled with domestic abuse, and ATV really needed a good fundraiser,” she says.

Northern Colorado’s businesses, large and small, like to give and—more vitally—like to give back. Community groups, local nonprofit organizations, even a daughter’s softball team can be beneficiaries of that largesse. Companies can qualify for tax breaks and boost their standing within their community i.e. customers with their charitable efforts. In the parlance, it’s a “win-win.” But for many business owners the motivation runs deeper than extending its brand or saving on taxes. Think of it as community-building with “give where you live” as the mantra.

One of the most innovative examples of that may be the business model Mission Homes constructed. The brainchild of David and Stephanie Gregg, Mission’s mission is community-driven and Christian-centered. Not only does the homebuilder create much-needed affordable houses in its backyard of Berthoud, 25 percent of the net profit from a sale goes to nonprofit organizations that were curated by a cohort of locals with philanthropic chops. And the couple know their way around the region. David Gregg, an architect, was once Berthoud’s mayor; Stephanie Gregg has been woven into the community’s philanthropic fabric for years.

The charitable partners on Mission’s “MVP” list range from local to regional to international.

“Some have been around forever,” says Stephanie Gregg, of the 10 charities. “But some of our nonprofits are really grassroots. They’re just starting. They don’t have big fundraising efforts to support their charities. Mission Homes affords them a big benefit.”

During closings, Berthoud buyers can choose which local organization they’d like to donate to. “Part of our thinking behind having our buyers select the Berthoud charities the money goes to was to create a culture of giving, a pay-it-forward culture that was more than what we established,” says David Gregg. “At the closing table, buyers are very appreciative of getting to choose the charities, but a number of realtors and lenders who attend those meetings have chosen as well.”

Many businesses, Mission Homes among them, look to the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado for guidance when it comes to growing, protecting and dispensing their funds, and for direction setting up charitable foundations and endowments.

Hydro Construction is among the businesses whose holdings support a foundation managed by the Community Foundation. The Fort Collins-based, employee-owned water-treatment company has been in business for more than 40 years and its core values of ethics, honesty and teamwork undergird their charitable vision. As Hydro has grown, so has its ability to fund organizations and charities its employees hold near and dear, allowing it to “give back to the communities in which we work and live in,” said Hydro’s president, Stan Javernick.

Javernick gives an example that underscores the familial feel of the company. “An employee could come in and say, ‘I’d like to give $50 or $75 to sponsor my son’s or daughter’s team, would you be willing to match?’ Hydro has a [program] where we’ll match it dollar for dollar.”

And forget those holiday bonus mugs and thanks-for-your-decades watches employees get for sticking around. Hydro doesn’t have much turnover. So, the company seized an opportunity to honor milestones of five, 10, 15, even 25 years. “With each of those milestones there’s a certain dollar allocation that you get to donate to any 501(c)(3) organization of your choosing,” Javernick says. And Hydro has extended that philanthropic practice to its clients as a way of acknowledging the longevity of the relationship. “We send them a letter letting them know the company would like to donate to a registered charity of their choice on their behalf.”

Jennifer Chapparo, first-place winner “Jerry’s Artarama” | Photos by Kathy Dill.

For companies like Hydro and others, charitable efforts aren’t simply about writing a check and disappearing until the next season of giving. It’s also about the ways in which a business can improve the quality of life of its employees.

“A big driver for me was that we have a lot of creative, amazing, artistic people on our staff,” says Nate Frary, a franchise owner of Dutch Bros. Coffee, which bought its first Pastels square this year. Frary owns four of the drive-through coffee joints. (He’ll soon be opening a second one in Fort Collins to make it five.) He’d been on the lookout for philanthropic opportunities and read about Pastels in the paper. “Giving someone a chance to draw and spend the day with other artists, that’s an easy one. And we’re always looking for any and every way to get involved in local communities,” he says. “It really comes down to us wanting to broaden our footprint and reach into the community.”

Frary’s commitment didn’t start, nor will it stop, with Pastels. When he and his wife relocated to Colorado from Washington state in 2016, he created an employee program with the hip handle “Street Crew.” “We live here, these are our communities, a lot of our employees are really into community service and giving their time and talents. We wanted to create another platform for them to do that,” he explains. “We wanted to show people that Dutch Bros. is not a coffee company. We’re really a people company that happens to serve coffee.”

On the Alternatives to Violence website there’s a short, inspiring slideshow about a recent fence project for their SafeHouse. It’s reminiscent of the communal barn raisings that went on in rural towns in Colorado. But a sturdy wood fence—good-looking to boot—has an additionally powerful meaning for the people who rely on ATV’s safe house.

There’s something touching and fortifying about a crowd of volunteers unloading pick-up trucks, toting lumber, setting posts all in order to build an additional measure of safety and security for their most vulnerable neighbors, as if to turn a curmudgeonly old saying on its head. Good neighbors, it turns out, can make good fences.