Special to the Plaindealer
In honor of its 15th anniversary year, the Western Colorado Community Foundation is celebrating local philanthropy across the seven counties they serve and honoring people who have a “heart of gold.”
Susie and Jim Opdahl were honored at a special reception at the Secret Garden on June 13, attended by about 75, many local philanthropists themselves with a “heart of gold.”
Notes Sue Hillhouse, a trustee of the Community Foundation, “We thought of Susie and Jim to receive this award because of the tremendous energy they have poured into this community, all stemming from their participation on the Ouray Economic Development Committee eight years ago. Ouray County Art Center was founded in 2004 and the name changed in 2006 to Weehawken Creative Arts. Since then countless hours have gone into nurturing a real success story that now employs several administrators and teachers, has established two classroom/studio locations in Ouray County and offers educational opportunities to over 1000 children and adults. Susie has been a leader in WCA since its inception. Additionally, Jim served for two terms on the Ouray Beautification Committee before joining the effort to establish another new non-profit to purchase the historic Wright Opera House. His meticulous skill in historic restoration, wise leadership and giving heart has enabled the Friends of the Wright Opera House to accomplish the unbelievable feat of ownership and make plans for a building that will become a centerpiece for our county. We owe so much to their vision and their tireless hard work.”
Incorporated in late 1996, WCCF has grown from zero assets to almost $31.5 million, those assets having doubled in the past two years. Funds come from individuals, families, organizations and businesses that set up a permanent fund to support something charitable – a favorite nonprofit organization, a church, a cause, scholarships, etc. Assets are pooled and invested for the long-term; earnings on the funds are distributed in the form of grants and scholarships each year. The Community Foundation awarded $1.4 million in grants and scholarships in seven counties in 2011, including Ouray County.
Anne Wenzel, Executive Director of the Community Foundation, explained, “The ‘heart of gold’ we are celebrating in conjunction with our Community Foundation’s 15th anniversary honors a special spirit of giving. We want to honor members of our community who have been giving generously to others for a long time, for many years. Second, we honor members of our community who have been involved with lots of nonprofit organizations and causes, as a donor and a volunteer, really involved and giving back to the community they call home. Third, we want to honor people who are quiet in their giving, who do not toot their own horns. Our Heart of Gold winners are modest and unassuming but if you know what they’ve done for our community, you’d be amazed. The neat thing is that there are many other people who could have won this award… amongst our own donors and across Western Colorado. That is what we are celebrating during our 15th anniversary – local philanthropy and a “heart of gold” spirit of giving and caring for others.”
For more information, please contact Anne Wenzel at (970) 243-3767 or