By Katie Langford
Sunday, February 28, 2016, Jane Quimby remembers when the Western Colorado Community Foundation was still a dream — a handful of people with a vision of how to make life better for people in seven local counties.

Quimby is a foundation board member, and her mother, also named Jane, was one of the founders.

“I remember when they first started the foundation and really didn’t have much in the way of assets, and it’s inspiring to see how things have developed over the last 15 years,” Quimby said. “It’s inspiring to see it start as a vision and to see it actually come to fruition on such a great scale.”

The foundation, which was established in 1996, celebrated $50 million in assets this month.

Anne Wenzel, president and executive director of WCCF, said the foundation fills a specific niche in the local fundraising community.

The WCCF is a permanent funding institution. When people donate, the money is invested, and the interest earned from that investment is what the foundation uses for everything from feeding children during the summer when they can’t eat at school to conservation efforts on Colorado National Monument.

In 2015, the foundation distributed $2.1 million in grants and scholarships in western Colorado.

Wenzel said it comes down to the more people give to the foundation, the more is invested, the more interest earned and more money goes back into the community.

“I think we’re really excited that we’re here to stay and there’s no doubt that we’ll be here for one, two, three generations in the future,” Wenzel said. “It’s that kind of power of working with people who have some kind of assets — they don’t have to be super wealthy — but who want to work with us. It’s this idea that collectively, we’re a community foundation giving back to better the community we’re living in.”

Quimby said more than one specific project, what sticks out is that so many people came together to better their communities.

“That 50 million demonstrates that there are a lot of like-minded people who have the same sense of community and the same sense that we’re here to help others,” Quimby said. “It’s that people have embraced the basic premise of the community foundation, to leave your mark.”

Rob Bleiberg is the executive director of the Mesa Land Trust and a former WCCF board member.

“It is critical for western Colorado’s long-term future that we have the philanthropic resources to make our community a better place to live, to help people across western Colorado whether it’s food for those who are hungry, education opportunities, quality of life opportunities … the foundation plays a critical role in the future. It’s a real unsung success story,” Bleiberg said.

Sister Karen Bland of Catholic Outreach said she’s seen the tangible effects of WCCF grants and funding.

“It helps the soup kitchen, and a lot of people in this community are fed because of the generosity that comes from the foundation,” Bland said. “They do a good job of helping people understand the needs in the community. We all have a need to give and … they’re helping people who might not know how they can help. They’re a conduit for that.”