In case you haven’t done it lately, thank God for El Pomar

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

The expansion of the Fine Arts Center is one of many local projects that have benefited from the generosity of the El Pomar Foundation.

Want some interesting reading? Take a look at the El Pomar Foundation’s most recent annual report, which details every grant that the foundation made during 2006.
El Pomar has been such a ubiquitous and important player for so many years that it’s difficult to imagine life without it. Deeply rooted in the community, El Pomar is unlike any other entity in Colorado Springs.
In its annual report, El Pomar calls itself “a foundation for Colorado.” That’s true — but it’s primarily a foundation for Colorado Springs.
Created in 1937 by Springs residents Spencer and Julie Penrose, El Pomar has never strayed far from its roots. To this day, the foundation sees its primary purpose as supporting the charities and nonprofits that the Penroses supported and nourished during their lifetimes.
Fountain Valley School, Colorado College, the Fine Arts Center, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Penrose Hospital have been among the chief recipients of El Pomar’s largesse — and all of them were linked in some way to the Penroses.
Without El Pomar, this would be a dreary little city indeed.
The World Arena, the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts, the Fine Arts Center and the zoo wouldn’t exist — nor would dozens of smaller, equally worthy nonprofits. Neither Focus on the Family, nor the U.S. Olympic Committee, nor the Olympic Training Center would ever have come to town absent El Pomar’s generosity.
El Pomar is different. Unlike other local power centers, be they banks, businesses or national nonprofits, El Pomar is wedded to Colorado Springs, permanently and irrevocably.
El Pomar is not governed by a remote board of national bigshots, but by local folks, some of whom can trace their involvement with the foundation back to the founders themselves.
President Thayer Tutt, for example, is the great-grandson of Charles Tutt, Spencer Penrose’s partner in Cripple Creek mining ventures. The board selects new members to replace those who die or resign, ensuring the continuity of local control.
Despite giving away hundreds of millions of dollars during its 70 years of it’s existence, El Pomar’s assets have steadily increased. As of the beginning of this year, the foundation’s assets amounted to $521 million.
Under federal law, charitable foundations must make grants roughly equal to 5 percent of their assets annually. During 2006, El Pomar made $20.2 million in “qualifying distributions,” which included more than 600 grants, ranging from $3 million (to the Fine Arts Center) to $1,500 (multiple recipients).
While Colorado Springs nonprofits remain the primary recipients, the foundation’s grantmaking efforts extend to literally every corner of the state. The annual report lists every one of them — from inspiring to quirky to the “what were they thinking?”
Inspiring: The Fine Arts Center, which never could have built its spectacular new addition without El Pomar’s “lead dog” funding. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo — $250,000 for the Rocky Mountain Wilderness Exhibit. Holyoke — $40,000 for construction of a new community center.
Quirky: Festival of Lights parade — $10,000. Denver Junior Golf (junior golf course for inner city youth) — $10,000. El Paso County — $50,000 (mural for new courthouse).
What were they thinking? Independence Institute — $15,000 for general policy research and operating support. Mountain States Legal Foundation — $15,000 for general operating support. (Note to El Pomar trustees: These are aggressively partisan right-wing think tanks/attack dogs. Are you sure you want to underwrite Jon Caldara’s rant of the week?)
But, it should be noted, only two grants of 600-plus fell into the “what were they thinking?” category, and only a dozen or so could be called quirky. The rest — well, read them for yourself, but if you don’t nod your head and think “thank God for El Pomar” at least once, you haven’t been reading very carefully.
Here, as everywhere, businesses start, succeed and fade away. Nonprofits have their day in the sun and shut their doors. Developers build, prosper and go spectacularly broke. Life goes on … but El Pomar, like the Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” abides. Lucky us.
Meanwhile, Doug Bruce’s colleagues on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners are gleefully counting the days until the Dougster takes his act to Denver, and is replaced by a sensible human being.
My Republican insider pals tell me that Amy Lathen, who had previously announced her candidacy for Bruce’s seat on the commission, will most likely take his place.
On the record, the commissioners were suitably reticent.
Sallie Clark would say only that she thought that Amy Lathen, if selected, “would bring a breath of fresh air to the commission.”
Jim Bensberg was a little more forthcoming, saying: “To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘Batman’: Wait’ll they get a load of Doug!”
I asked a few of the leading lights of the business community to comment about Bruce’s possible elevation to the state legislature. None would — at least on the record. Off the record, they were angry, dismayed, fearful, even despairing. To a man (and to a woman), they thought that Doug’s arrogant bombast would marginalize and damage the community, and play into the hands of the ascendant Democrats.
“You watch,” said one longtime Springs political player “(Speaker of the House Andrew) Romanoff will make sure that Doug is front and center. Andrew’s so smart he’ll make Dougie the face of the Republican party. And the Denver media will play along. They’ll have so much fun with Doug’s off-the-wall B.S. that the rest of the party might as well not exist.”
That analysis is partially right. The Denver Dems are of two minds about Bruce, even to the point of feeling sorry for their Republican counterparts.
As one powerful Democrat said, speaking off the record, “Of course we’re going to make political hay — he’s such a crazy. But, you know, we’re actually here to do a job, regardless of what party we belong to, and most of us take that seriously. Having a loose cannon like Bruce doesn’t help anyone — not Democrats, not Republicans and most of all not the people who elected us.”
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.