ALAMOSA — The Southern Colorado Community Foundation wishes to help people as much as possible. To do so, the philanthropic foundation now has a satellite office in downtown Alamosa, right above Milagros Coffee House.
"It's one thing when you're giving checks to nonprofits, watching the excitement and seeing these people really appreciate what we're giving," said SCCF Executive Director Jeff Osterman, "but the other side of the foundation is being a part of the people investing in the community."
Utilizing donor-advised funds, the foundation helps nonprofits grow their giving through investments. For instance, a fund for the Tucker/McDermott scholarship at Del Norte High School initially started as a $30,000 investment and they're able to award $5,000 to students annually without fear of running dry because of interest rates.
The foundation was founded by the late Robert Rawlings, former publisher and editor of the Pueblo Chieftain, in 1998 to support the community. Osterman joined SCCF in 2015 after living in Pueblo for 35 years and formerly served in marketing for the foundation. Within the past 10 years the foundation has been more active with grants and increasing its physical presence in the San Luis Valley.
La Puente Executive Director Lance Cheslock sees Osterman and SCCF as conduits that create new resource bases and funding avenues for Valley nonprofits.
"There are perceptions that this is Pueblo tinkering on our turf," Cheslock said, "but the reality is many people that live in Pueblo County and around, have blood lines to the Valley...Those bloodlines, their loyalties are still right here at home.
"We don't want more resources by taking them from another nonprofit or just rearranging the pie. What we want is a bigger pie and this is a bigger pie."
SCCF charges a 1 percent fee to manage the donor-advised funds, which it then uses to award grants to various nonprofits located in southern Colorado via its board. In 2016 it gave $2,000 to SLV Habitat for Humanity, $2,500 to Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley, $500 to Saguache Works, $2,500 to San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center and $1,500 to La Puente.
Osterman knows the value of keeping funds local. When Coors came to SCCF to start a literacy program, they trusted the foundation to pick a community that needed it the most. He chose La Junta. However, Osterman had a caveat when it came to hiring for the program.
"The program person has to be from that county," Osterman said. "Otherwise I wasn't going to do it. If the money is going to stimulate the economy, then it has to stay here. It can't go to a teacher who pays taxes someplace else. It's a little thing, but to me it's a big thing."
Additionally, sitting on the board is Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis, who joined the foundation last April. As a former state senator she hopes that she can advocate for the needs of the region. "I feel like I can add a balance of being able to represent the whole San Luis Valley instead of just, say, Alamosa County," Dennis said.
Dennis also wishes that she can have people begin planning for their future with legacy funding. "It's more than just giving to a nonprofit, it's about allowing individuals to also make sure they are giving to that nonprofit into the future once they pass away."
Instead of having a set schedule, Osterman will be at his new office as frequently as organizations need his services. Interested nonprofits can email him at [email protected] or call 719-546-6677.
"We're not here to take up the space or compete with nonprofits," Osterman said. "We're here to support the nonprofits. We have to be in this together."