The name of the El Pomar Foundation appears in the Herald with regularity, always in the best possible context. It is an ongoing reminder of the importance of philanthropy to supporting community services.
Tuesday, the foundation awarded grants to three local causes. All are worthy, and the gifts are appreciated. The United Way of Southwest Colorado got $20,000, while the Fort Lewis College Student Wellness Initiative and the Durango Community shelter each received $5,000.
In the scheme of things, $30,000 is not that much money, particularly when divided among three groups and viewed in the context of the current economy. Neither is supporting groups such as the United Way all that unusual; lots of people and organizations do.
But the Colorado Springs-based El Pomar does it all the time, and in amounts far greater than those three donations might suggest. Statewide, the foundation passes out $25 million annually to community groups and worthy causes. And with that it deserves the occasional thank you.
The El Pomar Foundation is the legacy of Spencer and Julie Penrose. Spencer Penrose came to Colorado in 1892 and made a fortune, largely in real estate and mining, and is perhaps is best known for building the Broadmoor resort. On their deaths, in 1939 and 1956 respectively, he and his wife, Julie, left the bulk of their estates to the foundation they had set up in 1937.
El Pomar means "the orchard," after the Penrose' Colorado Springs home, which is in an apple orchard. The foundation's mission is "To enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well being of the people of Colorado through grant-making and community stewardship."
It can do that for several reasons. Its founders left it well-endowed and it appears to have been well run. El Pomar today has assets of more than $550 million.
And it strives to remain true to its principles. Among those are identifying and supporting leaders, promoting innovation and responding quickly to Colorado's needs.
Perhaps the most important of El Pomar's principles, however, is its dedication to "Create multiple impacts for every dollar spent." That is reflected in its choice of aiding local groups with proven track records and demonstrated accountability.
One can only imagine that Spencer and Julie Penrose would be proud, and deservedly so.