A lot was happening in 1984. People around the country were watching the movie “Ghostbusters” for the first time, rocking out to Bruce Springsteen’s latest hit, “Born in the USA,” and marveling over gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s five Olympic medals.
In Summit County, 1984 marked the inception of the Breckenridge Development Foundation, now known as The Summit Foundation. Saturday, March 29, people from all corners of the community will gather to celebrate the organization’s 30-year anniversary and the effects of the more than $18.7 million in grants and scholarships that it has awarded during that time.
Art Bowles, of the Breckenridge Ski Corp., was instrumental in founding the Breckenridge Development Foundation. The organization’s first office was in a trailer in the parking lot at Peak 8, shared with the ski resort’s marketing department. Deb Edwards came on during that time as executive director and stayed in the job for 22 years.
“Deb really made The Summit Foundation what it is; she really shaped and molded it,” said Elisabeth Lawrence, events and marketing coordinator for the foundation. “Art (Bowles) had this vision and they went with it from there.”
From the beginning, the organization’s mission was to act as an umbrella for the other local nonprofits, awarding grants and scholarships to those in need. The first grant cycle was held in April 1986. Now, two grant cycles annually are available to Summit County nonprofits in spring and fall.
Three years after its inception, the foundation started two events that it still runs today — a golf tournament and the rubber duck race. The Parade of Homes was added in 1994.
The name change came about in 1991. The Patron Pass program, which offered a transferable ski pass (now medallions, the passes were previously plastic squares) to Breckenridge Ski Resort, opened up to include all of the other Summit County ski areas. The organization’s new name reflected its involvement in and commitment to the entire county.
“The Summit Foundation truly would not exist without the Patron Pass Program and what the ski areas do to make that happen,” said Lawrence.
In 1992, The Summit Foundation exceeded $100,000 in grants awarded to about 25 local groups. The amount has grown every year, with 2013 recording more than $2.2 million given in grants and scholarships to 96 nonprofits.
Celebrating 30 years
When the foundation hit its 25th anniversary, it launched a fundraising drive that stands out as a milestone for current executive director Lee Zimmerman.
“We did a fundraising campaign to raise half a million dollars for our endowment and we were successful in doing that,” he said. “And that was in 2009, when the economy wasn’t so great, so that’s a huge milestone and a huge event.”
For this anniversary, the main focus is celebration, said Lawrence.
“We are so blessed to still be in the community and we see the vision of the work that we’ve done for 30 years and will continue to do for 30 years.”
Tickets to the event are $30 and anyone is welcome. Lawrence encourages attendees to eat dinner beforehand, but not to fill up, as the event will feature desserts and other fancy sweets from such local aficionados as Ned Archibald, executive pastry chef of Keystone Resort, and Katy Schabert, of Sugar in Breckenridge, as well as the folks at Butterhorn Bakery, Higgles Ice Cream and Dining Redefined, which will provide gluten-free and vegan desserts. Musical entertainment will feature the 6 Million Dollar Band. The event will take place at the Silverthorne Pavilion at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29.
Meg Lass became involved with The Summit Foundation at its beginning, when her marketing company, Wilson Lass (which is now Wilson Lass + Brandon), worked to evolve the foundation’s brand. The company created the swirling mountain-and-letters logo that the organization still uses, as well as the tag “Soul of the Summit.”
“I really do think they are the soul of this area,” said Lass. She started volunteering with the organization and served for years on the board, as both vice president and president. One of her proudest moments with the organization, she said, was when it expanded to offer grants to Summit’s neighboring counties, such as Park and Grand.
“People in those counties really support Summit County. We could not survive without people from our surrounding counties.”
Although she’s no longer on the board, Lass continues to volunteer with the organization, and her company continues to do pro-bono work for it and other county nonprofits.
Kathy Grotemeyer has been a volunteer for The Summit Foundation for all of its 30 years, including some time served as a board member.
“I think it’s a great organization,” she said. “I really believe in what they do and they help so many nonprofits in the county. I just really love the organization.”
When asked why she has spent so much time with the foundation, she said, “I just really liked the people that are involved — the people who work for the foundation and also the donors, the people who are very generous. We’ve got people here who are generous, obviously, with their money, but also with their time.”
When asked how she felt about the upcoming anniversary, she laughed.
“I can’t believe it! We’re at 30 years but I know that they’re going to be here for 30 more.”