Eleven years ago, wildfire scarred Missionary Ridge and the effects can still be seen. We continually face challenges of extreme weather, pollution, population growth and more. While these challenges threaten the outer beauty of our community, the inner appearance of Southwest Colorado remains stunningly beautiful.
My parents taught that a person’s character and heart are more important than external appearance. I feel fortunate to live surrounded by snow-capped mountains, crystal clear rivers and thousands of trees. These features certainly attracted our family to the area. We have stayed for many years, but not for the scenery, but rather because of the kind people and strong sense of community we found here.
There is no need to look farther than local businesses to witness this community focus. Recently, at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad station, I arrived to pick up tickets that were graciously given for a silent auction fundraiser. While waiting for the envelope, I learned dozens of other donated tickets were being prepared at the same time. The generosity continues at Durango Mountain Resort, where it hosts a series of local benefit days, and Mercury has a “Mercury Gives” committee devoted entirely to giving back to the community. The contribution to local events permeates through businesses large and small, and these examples are just a fraction of the actual donations given.
Individuals also give back, as evidenced by the high number of local service clubs and organizations. Think about this: There are no fewer than four Rotary Clubs in La Plata County. Add to that Kiwanis, Civitan, Blue Star Mothers, Elks and many more. These groups build parks and libraries, clean up our neighborhoods, donate items to people in need, and volunteer time and effort to projects that make our community better. It is all about giving back.
Finally, we have a large number of nonprofit organizations. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are 1.4 million nonprofits in the United States (charities, private foundations and others) – this equates to 1 for each 224 people. In La Plata County, with 358 nonprofits, the ratio is 1:146. Is our community enamored with the idea of finding start-up money, building boards, recruiting volunteers and operating on shoestring budgets? No. This is the inner beauty of the area showing through. We have a community of people who care deeply about common challenges in human services, the environment, education and health. Nonprofits exist to solve problems or enhance a community, so we are blessed to have so many. Thanks to all of the people who have volunteered time, money and expertise to make these possible.
One of the most effective ways to support nonprofits is to contribute to United Way. Through community support, we provide funds for 43 local nonprofits that specialize in education, health or self-reliance. Donate at unitedway-swco.org, or call 247-9444.
As you look out at the beautiful scenery, feel peace of mind knowing that local beauty is more than skin deep.
Lynn Urban is president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.