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Celebrating 80 Years - Regional Grants in the San Juan, 2006, Northside Health Center

Tags: Regional Partnerships #Celebrating80Years

Photo by Brian Clark, Colorado Health Institute


#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.


El Pomar’s Regional Partnerships program began in 2003 and by 2006 Councils were established in nine rural regions across the state, including the San Juan region. Since the inception of Regional Partnerships in 2003, El Pomar has invested nearly $5 million in this region, which represents an increase of 308% from the total amount invested during the first 65 years of El Pomar’s history. The San Juan Council itself has recommended more than $1.8 million in grants over the past 12 years. Below, Council member Linda Gann describes the impact of a $20,000 grant on Northside Health Center, which continues to provide accessible, high quality, integrated primary health care to children and qualifying adults in the Montrose and Olathe communities.


Grantee Spotlight: Northside Health Center

Photo by Brian Clark, Colorado Health Institute

Spotlight by San Juan Regional Council member Linda Gann

When I first met El Pomar’s San Juan Regional Trustee Bill Ward, he told a story about a friend who went to Central America and helped a small village install a well for fresh water. He shared the impact the technology and clean water had on the region and provided a metaphor: “imagine you drop a stone into a pond, and watch the ripples reach far beyond…”

At the time, I was working in the Montrose and Olathe school districts and we were getting ready to share our story with the San Juan Regional Council. I was struck by the similarity of his friend’s experience and the experience our community had in opening our first school-based health center.

In 2005, our district began to discuss the possibility of bringing fully integrated school-based health to the campus of one of our elementary schools. This school had the highest percentage of students who qualified for a free or reduced lunch, and for many students, English was not their first language. Many parents worked in the service industry in Telluride, which is 65 miles away, and getting their children to the doctor or dentist was difficult. We reviewed the research and knew the impact this resource could have on our students and their families, but also knew we had a lot of work to do.

It was during these formative discussions that we received a call from the San Juan Regional Council, who had heard we were interested in school-based health. They said they wanted to help and in 2006 provided a $20,000 grant— we were inspired and encouraged by their faith in us and in our project.

Council member Linda Gann delivers a Regional merit grant, 2018

In 2007, after two years of community engagement, parent and staff surveying, budgets and grant writing, we leveraged that initial $20,000 investment by the San Juan Regional Council into more than $350,000 in grants from El Pomar, the Boettcher Foundation, Caring for Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Health Foundation, and the Colorado Trust. The Northside Child Health Center opened in October 2007 and our school district had a fully integrated, family-centered health clinic to provide medical, mental and dental health to the students!

The clinic has grown significantly over the past eleven years. It initially served 30 patients per month, and now has more than 3,000 patients in its registry and typically completes 1,800 visits each year. The success of the model has received a number of recognitions including: the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Magna Award in 2010; The Colorado Trust’s 2011 Grantee Leadership Award; and a feature in “Edutopia,” a national educational blog sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation in 2011.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the Northside Health Center (which dropped “Child” from its name to be more age-inclusive) later developed an afterschool health education/fitness camp and a “Healthy Kids” summer camp. The clinic is expanding its scope of practice to include more mental health care and the director is currently working on a mental health fellowship through Ohio State University. 

I like to think of that initial call from the San Juan Regional Council as the stone, and to this day, the Council’s early support is still providing ripples of incredible impact through the health and wellness provided by Northside Health Center.


El Pomar in 2006

In 2006, the San Juan Council was the last of the nine rural Councils to be established through the Regional Partnerships program. That year, the San Juan Council awarded $59,000 in grants and more than $830,000 was provided by the nine Councils together with the largest single grant provided to the San Luis Valley Resource Conservation & Development Council. Across all grant making efforts, El Pomar provided 582 grants totaling more than $12.3 million.

Another addition to El Pomar's grant making was the establishment of the Anna Keesling Ackerman Fund, which continues the charitable intent of Jasper D. Ackerman by supporting nonprofit organizations serving the Pikes Peak region, with a specific focus on organizations working in arts and humanities, education, health, human services, and civic and community initiatives. In its first year, the fund provided 28 grants totaling more than $425,000.


Images courtesy of Brian Clark with Colorado Health Institute

Spotlight by San Juan Council member Linda Gann