As a child growing up in a military family in Germany, Barbara Furr-Brodock learned early on what it meant to pay it forward.
Her dad was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. Her mom had her hands full raising four children. But she always found the time and energy to reach out to others.
“She was one of those people who holds things together,” Furr-Brodock recalls. “And it wasn’t just our family. She made sure the other young wives were taken care of. That’s where the pay-it-forward philosophy in my life came from.”
Today, Furr-Brodock serves as senior development officer at Pikes Peak United Way. It’s a community role she was born to occupy. The journey that led her to United Way in 2006 crossed continents and industries.
Most of her childhood was spent in Germany, as her father went in and out of the fighting zones of Vietnam. “Every time the phone rang in those days, I could see that my mom was on edge,” she says. “You never knew what the news might be.” She got her first taste of Colorado Springs back then, when the family moved here during her father’s first tour of duty in Vietnam.
The family moved to Colorado Springs permanently in the mid-1970s. Furr-Brodock founded a successful talent agency upon graduation from high school. But her fond memories of her childhood in Europe lured her back to Germany. She took a job in the Army Air Force Exchange Service, working a series of positions that would prepare her for the myriad tasks involved in event-planning and fundraising.
Then it was back to Colorado Springs, this time for a merchandising job with the May Co. department store chain. Her management talent began to emerge. Starting out as a personal buyer, she soon found herself training others throughout the region in merchandising. She moved on to corporate sales manager for the Le Baron Hotel, honing her marketing and sales skills. All the while, she was immersing herself in volunteer work. Inevitably, community service claimed her full-time.
In 1998, she joined the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Local CFF chapters have one mission: to raise funds for research to bring an end to this genetic-based chronic disease. For eight years, Furr-Brodock’s days (and plenty of nights) were consumed with fundraising. She built the organization’s signature events — the Walk and Rubber Ducks — into major money-makers, added a wine dinner that has become one of the city’s hottest tickets. The pace was frenetic. But she was learning, growing, finding herself and preparing for her next step: Pikes Peak United Way.
When the opportunity came, she was ready. “I had learned by now what the community needs were,” she says. She’s proud to work for a United Way that is among the handful in the nation that has a Cornerstone Foundation that fully underwrites all of the administrative and fundraising costs of Pikes Peak United Way. Community support has been powerful: “We had $700,000 in donated media last year,” she says, citing just one example of widespread in-kind support UW receives.
The job calls upon all of her fundraising and management know-how — and more importantly, it brings her in touch every day with those in need, and those heroes who respond to those in need.
“It isn’t always the ones with the most to give that give the most,” she says. “When I witness what a great heart can accomplish, I feel truly humbled.”
By Dan Cook