Ruggedly individual. Passionate. Community-oriented. These are some of the phrases that community leaders used to describe the personalities in the communities of the Western Slope. While living in small, rural communities certainly isn't easy, it is a conscience choice made by individuals who want to live in the beautiful, rugged landscape of western Colorado. As Stu Fraser, mayor of Telluride said, "You don't end up here by accident. It isn't the biggest place or the easiest place, but it's the best damn place in the world."
This passion and commitment was evident in every single town that we visited on the 2013 Rural Philanthropy Days Listening Tour late last month. The needs of the communities were as diverse as the towns themselves, some struggling to meet the basic needs of its citizens, others working to bring forth innovative ways to make their community a mecca for progressive thinking and high quality living. One thing was clear at every stop, western Coloradans are tough and knowledgeable, and work tirelessly to improve their communities in any way they can. Foundations can serve a very important role in the livelihood of small communities in Colorado, but no one knows the needs of the community more than the citizens themselves.
Over the course of three days, representatives from several front range foundations met with community leaders from numerous towns all across the Western Slope including: Gunnison, Crested Butte, Montrose, Telluride, Ouray, Ridgeway, Naturita, Norwood, Grand Junction and Delta. The Listening Tour is a new addition to Rural Philanthropy Days, set to take place in Ouray June 17-19. Initiated 22 years ago, Rural Philanthropy Days offers an opportunity for rural communities to increase their access to funding and build relationships with funders and other organizations in their area to maximize their impact. The Listening Tour helped to shed light on the needs and assets of the region, which will allow more meaningful relationships to blossom between funders and communities. With this insight, funders will be in a better position to assist these communities achieve their goals.