One on One: Turk leads Stratton Home into centennial

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one-on-one-mark-turkWinfield Scott Stratton, a gold miner who struck it rich in 1891, is recognized as one of the most benevolent men in Colorado Springs’ history, and Mark Turk is leading the effort to continue fulfilling Stratton’s charitable vision.

Turk is the executive director of the Myron Stratton Home, a palatial estate located at the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Colorado Highway 115. The home was created according to directions left in Stratton’s will, which dedicated his fortune to providing for the region’s poorest people.

The home, which provides housing, support services and grants, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and Turk has been executive director of the home for 25 of those years.

He took some time this week to talk to the Business Journal about the Myron Stratton Home and its legacy.

What drew you to the job initially and how has your work changed?

While residing in Greeley back in 1988, I was approached about whether I might be interested in applying for the executive director position at the Myron Stratton Home. The fact that the home was located in Colorado Springs certainly piqued my interest. When I began to investigate further, I was intrigued by the home’s history, its mission and its commitment to serving those less fortunate. I am happy to say that those tenets all still apply and are the main reasons I have stayed for so long.

I think the largest difference is that the speed at which business is conducted has changed dramatically.

Tell us about the big centennial anniversary.

Well, this is a special year for the home as we celebrate our centennial year which we have dubbed A Century of Sanctuary. For the past 100 years, we have provided supportive services for those less fortunate. Currently we support very low income seniors with independent and assisted living services, as well as single mothers striving for self-sufficiency through the Stratton Consortium.

We have scheduled a number of events throughout the year to celebrate and share the remarkable story of the home and its founder, Winfield Scott Stratton. We dedicated our new independent living apartments for senior residents in April and we’ve invited back those who grew up at the home to a special picnic in August. The Western Museum of Mining and Industry and the Pioneers Museum have exhibits and lectures planned.

We have brought the celebration to the greater Colorado Springs community with a new mural and light-pole banners downtown. Finally, a special luncheon will occur in the fall to include all those associated with the home. For more information on the 100-year anniversary activities, readers can visit myronstratton.org.

How is the Myron Stratton Home’s mission funded?

The home was established through the benevolence of Winfield Scott Stratton. When he died in 1902, he left the bulk of his estate, roughly $4.4 million, to the creation of The Myron Stratton Home. Today, that endowment has grown to more than $130 million with assets totaling $152 million.

What ties does the Myron Stratton Home have to the business community and why is it important for the business community to know about its work?

There was a time when the Myron Stratton Home had significant real estate holdings as part of its investment portfolio. Over the years those holdings have been sold and those properties today have been turned into tremendous assets in our community.

The Mining Exchange Building and the Stratton Open Space at North Cheyenne Cañon Park are two examples. Today, approximately $5 million in operating costs goes back to the community in the form of wages, supplies and other materials.

We are proud to have been in the community for 100 years. We are a long-enduring nonprofit and that is rare in today’s economy. It’s important for the business community to know about our work because we either directly or indirectly — through the Stratton Consortium, which includes Partners in Housing, TESSA and Peak Vista Community Health Centers — serve on any given day over 500 vulnerable seniors, adults and children. Serving those in need is critical to the fabric of our community.

What do you like most about living in Colorado Springs, and what would you most like to change about the city?

Actually I live in Black Forest and was one of the fortunate ones to escape the fire without harm. However, I enjoy the climate, the people and its beauty. I also appreciate that we are a very philanthropic community that supports local nonprofits of all kinds. I would most like to change its highway system or lack thereof.