Summit Foundation, biggest booster of Summit County nonprofits, tallies $35 million in giving as it celebrates 35 years |

Summit Foundation, biggest booster of Summit County nonprofits, tallies $35 million in giving as it celebrates 35 years

Jeanne Bistranin, executive director of The Summit Foundation, presents scholarships to the class of 2015 at Summit High School’s Local Scholarship Night in April 2015. The Summit Foundation has given away $3 million in scholarships to local students since its inception.
Courtesy The Summit Foundation

BRECKENRIDGE — There are more than 100 nonprofits in Summit County, a community of just over 30,000 residents. Among them are organizations like the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, Building Hope, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and dozens of other groups working to make Summit a better place.

Many of these nonprofits succeeded thanks to the guidance and patronage of a single local philanthropic organization: The Summit Foundation. For the past three decades, the foundation has served as a patron, mentor, watchdog and guide for Summit’s nonprofits.

This year, the foundation — colloquially known as the “Soul of the Summit” — will be celebrating its 35th year serving Summit and surrounding communities, and it aims to continue finding ways to improve the community while encouraging the growth and effectiveness of the many organizations it boosts and monitors.

Jeanne Bistranin, executive director of The Summit Foundation since 2015, said that alongside philanthropy, the foundation also tries to be the “eyes and ears” for community concerns, endeavoring to solve them with innovative solutions.

“Our mainstay activities are providing grants to all the good nonprofits and scholarships for local students,” Bistranin said. “We also check in on nonprofits and give a ‘seal of approval,’ and look at the landscape and identify if there are any gaps that need addressing in the community.”

Bistranin said The Summit Foundation has given a total of $32 million since its inception, with another $3 million funding scholarships for local students.

The foundation distributed $4 million last year, supporting 106 local nonprofits with grants as large as 10% of their operating budgets, and provided 148 scholarships to local students. Of those scholarships, 40% went to students who are the first in their families to go to college.

To do a “deeper dive” into solving the county’s thorniest problems, the foundation has been a primary sponsor behind several “special initiative” nonprofits in Summit.

These special initiatives include the school district’s after school CATCH and precollegiate programs; Housing Works, a program that encourages local homeowners to convert their short-term rentals to long-term rentals for local working families; the Mountain Scholars scholarship program; mental health navigation nonprofit Building Hope; and the Peak Health Alliance community health insurance purchasing collaborative, which aims to reduce premiums for Summit residents.

“At Building Hope, we are so grateful to The Summit Foundation,” Building Hope executive director Jennifer McAtamney said. “As our original fiscal sponsor, it was their support and leadership that made Building Hope possible. We applaud the incredible generosity of the foundation as they have laid the groundwork for so much of the good work that goes on in our very special community.”

“We couldn’t have gotten to work on all of the major challenges in Summit County without The Summit Foundation,” Peak Health Alliance executive director Tamara Drangstveit said. “The amount of funding they’ve put into tackling these issues is staggering as well as the amount of brain power they put together to come up with innovative solutions for Summit County. I, for one, am incredibly grateful for everything they’ve done, and I don’t think they get enough credit.”

Looking forward, Bistranin said the foundation will continue working to address the county’s most pressing issues, including affordable housing, helping working families, health care, education and the environment.

She added that work at the foundation would not be possible without the support of its 3,400 donors, donor-advised funds and other sources of support, including $1.2 million raised through the foundation’s transferrable ski medallion program.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User