Evergreen's reliance on nonprofits dates way back

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Recently, I took part in preparations for the Nonprofit Module of the Leadership Evergreen class of 2017, putting together the following piece, which was read to the class in my absence.  I thought I'd share it with readers who haven't been around long enough to understand the roles nonprofits play in our community.

A Brief History of Nonprofits in Evergreen

Nonprofits have played an integral part in the development of the Evergreen community, as people gathered together to meet critical needs as they arose.

Every effort costs money, and in the absence of a local government, which might have funded some of these needs with tax dollars and personnel, citizens had to pool together their own funds and provide free manpower.

In time, many of these groups officially applied for nonprofit status to make their donations tax deductible and to reduce the costs of doing business by getting preferable rates or, at a minimum, not having to pay taxes.

The Mountain Parks Protective Assn. – formed in 1925 when summer cabins were so popular – provided a service by year-round residents who patrolled unoccupied buildings (often on horseback). It also inspected and treated trees for beetle infestation.

Our volunteer Fire Dept. formed after the fire in 1926 that nearly wiped out Main Street. – locals had formed a bucket brigade while a tanker truck came up from Denver.

Likewise, the Ambulance Service – formed in the early ‘50s when a child was hit by a car on Main Street and it took an ambulance from Denver 60 minutes to get here to transport the child to a hospital. Volunteers paid for their own training, lights and sirens, uniforms and prevention shots. Donations from the community paid for the purchase of ambulances and construction of a building. This remained an all-volunteer effort for 30+ years until it was absorbed by the Fire Dept. in the mid-‘80s when the job had grown from serving 2,700 residents to nearly 30,000 people year-round.

Alpine Rescue Team formed in 1959 as a result of having to rescue and/or recover four climbers near 285 and Turkey Creek. Volunteers continue to provide search-and-rescue efforts for hikers, climbers and cross-country skiers throughout a wide area of mountainous terrain.

The Evergreen Women’s Club started in 1938 as a social group, but quietly grew into sewing for the needy; providing towels and equipment so the school could have a lunch program; buying instruments for the school music program, a siren for the fire dept., trash barrels for downtown; and starting the Evergreen Scholarship Assn. in the ‘40s.

Bootstraps (before it merged with Evergreen Scholarship in the 1990s, was formed to provide interest-free student loans AND mentorships to HS grads who came from families not likely to encourage their kids to go to college or who did not have the means to do so.

Groups like POME (Protect Our Mountain Environment), ENABLE (Evergreen North Area Balance Land-use Effort) and PLEASE (Planned Living Environment of South Evergreen) formed to curtail development of Evergreen when houses began cropping up in the ‘60s when Evergreen became a commuter community. These groups were organized to give testimony at the county level when Evergreen had little say, if any, in decisions being made in Golden. POME fought off efforts to make Evergreen a site for 1976 Olympic events.

Forest Heights Lodge may be better known internationally than locally as a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys. It started in the mid-‘50s and continues today. 

In the 1950s the first of the many arts organizations formed for social enjoyment and to support one another – The Evergreen Players and the Evergreen Artists Assn. The Colorado Philharmonic Orchestra moved its summer program here in 1966, bringing 80 exceptional young musicians together from all over the country; and the community embraced it with support services until it relocated to Keystone in 1986. The Chorale started in 1970.

In the ‘80s Evergreen Christian Outreach brought together many of the churches in Evergreen to help people who couldn’t afford to make ends meet.

Mount Evans Hospice brought volunteers together to form a way to help loved ones die with dignity in their own homes, surrounded by family members. Since 1980 it has grown to be one of the areas largest employers with home health care being the bulk of its operation.

When deaths of teenage drivers became a regular occurrence for many consecutive years, parents formed DriveSmart in 1993 to encourage safer driving practices; and deaths decreased significantly.

Aside from the Fire Dept. and Forest Heights Lodge, EChO and Mount Evans Hospice were the first nonprofits in the Evergreen area to have paid employees, a trend that began very slowly in the 1980s. Everything used to be done by volunteers!

Over the years, other groups have formed to protect land from development and to create parks.

Individuals came together under a nonprofit umbrella to raise money to buy the grove of trees next to the Hiwan Homestead Museum in the late 1970s – planned for condos to be built – and fought plans for more houses to make the 1,180-acre Elk Meadow part of Jeffco Open Space.

Volunteers formed the Mountain Area Land Trust to enable land to be conserved and landowners compensated. Saving Noble Meadow was an enormously ambitious first project for a land trust – one that impacted the future of our community in a big way. It averted the construction of 235 homes on the north end of what is now Elk Meadow – then known as Noble Meadow.

When commercial development was planned for the area now known as Buchanan Park, individuals formed a nonprofit called the Evergreen Land Community Coalition to convince the Evergreen Park and Rec District – and the community – to acquire several contiguous parcels of land to create a 65-acre park. They conducted fundraising and public education campaigns as well as campaigns to approve bond elections – things EPRD could not do. The same group used a similar approach to create Stagecoach Park.

Some nonprofits – like Evergreen Land Community Coalition, POME, and Mountain Parks Protective Assn. – are formed for specific purposes and dissolve when their purposes have been accomplished. Others continue on.

As you can see, nonprofits have played SIGNIFICANT roles in the history of Evergreen – contributing to its character and ability to function as a community despite the lack of a local city government.