Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sharpen Your Axe

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Nathan Mackenzie

There were once two great lumberjacks, both with towering frames and strength that knew no end. They were considered the two best lumberjacks on earth, capable of chopping down trees around the clock. One day, they decided to compete to see who could chop more lumber in 24 hours.

The first lumberjack hacked away and, amazingly, did not break for a single second. He was so strong and determined that his swings never lost speed or accuracy. For the entire 24 hour competition he persevered, never losing strength or slowing down.

The second lumberjack was equally strong. He began right away as well, chopping down tree after tree. However, after two hours, the lumberjack set his axe by his side and sat down. The growing crowd watching the competition was perplexed and, observing the first lumberjack’s ferocious pace, could see the second lumberjack falling behind.

After 20 minutes, the second lumberjack resumed cutting. But after another two hours he again paused. Every two hours he would repeat this strange ritual. The crowd, in awe of the first lumberjack’s stamina and determination, began ignoring the second lumberjack, sure he had lost the competition with his lackadaisical approach. 

At the 24-hour mark the crowd erupted in cheer for the first lumberjack. Only then did he set down his axe and break to take his first sip of water. The crowd praised his superhuman tenacity and power.

But when the logs for each lumberjack were counted, it was the second lumberjack who was declared the clear winner. A gasp escaped from the crowd. Someone yelled out, “How did you do it?!” The second lumberjack smiled and explained, “Yes, every two hours I stopped to rest, but I also took that time to sharpen my axe.”

How often do you step back and sharpen your axe?

Many people reading this probably feel like the first lumberjack. You are passionate about specific causes and possess powerful skills to make a real difference. Never pausing for a break may feel like a reality, but also a point of pride.

If anyone feels this way, it is the leaders of nonprofits: asked to do so much with so little, working tirelessly without breaks feels like a necessity. Their tenacity is one of the reasons the nonprofit sector in the Pikes Peak Region is so strong.

The Regional Nonprofit Executive Leadership Program (NELP) provides a space for nonprofit leaders to step away and sharpen their axes. For two-and-a-half days at El Pomar Foundation’s Penrose House, leaders are led through valuable reflection, self and peer assessment, and instruction from leadership development experts. Participants leave with a sharper axe, able to resume their work with the same tenacity, but as more effective and efficient leaders.

Regional NELP rotates to a new region in Colorado annually. This year, nonprofits in El Paso and Teller Counties with budgets under $750,000 are eligible to apply. The program will next be offered in the Pikes Peak Region in 2025. Participation levels are capped to ensure high quality interaction with peers and in-depth attention with the program instructors. The course is $400, a fraction of the normal cost of the course. 

To apply for Regional NELP and sharpen your axe, click here.

Learn more about the program on Regional NELP’s website or email Nathan Mackenzie at

We love this insightful parable, which we’ve heard numerous times from several sources. Dr. Stephen Covey’s “Sharpen Your Saw” comes to mind, along with several other excellent blog posts and speakers.


Bringing in the New Year in Africa

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Ashley Cornelius

Africa never seemed possible—a distant hope lingering around my desire to travel, but always too expensive, too far away. As an African-American woman, I always hoped to visit a continent with rich history and ties to my ancestry. Little did I know I would bring in the 2015 New Year on a plane heading to Uganda.

Last year, I had the privilege of speaking to the Adelina Gomez Scholars, a college preview and support program of the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs (UCCS) for juniors in the Denver Public School system. While sharing my experience as a UCCS student, I mentioned my biggest regret was never studying abroad. After the program, their guide, UCCS Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity Kee Warner, said “I’m taking a class to Africa. You should come with me.” I jokingly agreed and asked him to send me the information.

After that day, I couldn’t get Africa out of my head. When Kee sent me rough draft pamphlets for the pending program, I was hooked and applied. When I was accepted, I became determined to make the trip happen one way or another. I applied for a UCCS scholarship and received help to pay for trip costs. Money was no longer a hurdle. El Pomar soon after approved my administrative leave. On December 31, 2014, I left for Uganda and Rwanda on a 3-week life-changing journey.


From the 400 Freestyle to the Fellowship

Monday, March 9th, 2015

By Suzanne Scott

I was born with a benign tumor in my spinal cord, which caused enough nerve damage and weakness in my legs to make me eligible for the Paralympic sport system. In swimming, athletes are divided among ten classifications based on the severity of their physical disability. The classifications are decided by physical “bench” tests, a swimming test, and competition evaluation. I competed in the S10 class, considered the most able bodied. In Paralympic sanctioned races, I exclusively competed against other S10s, which proved to be a relatively equal playing field.  (more…)

Greeley Dream Team: A wrap-around approach to student success

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

By Samantha Barlow

The high school graduation rate for Greeley-Evans School District 6 hovers around 80 percent, one of the lowest rates in the North Region. While various nonprofit organizations in the 3 county region of Boulder, Larimer and Weld address academic success and high school completion, The Greeley Dream Team takes a slightly different approach.

Beginning in 1988, the Dream Team Scholars initially worked to promote a culture of success, support, and care. Once participants completed their high school education, they were eligible to receive up to $2,000 for use in a post-secondary training or educational program. (more…)

Reverend Dr. Milton E. Proby: A Lifetime of Achievement

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Nathan Mackenzie

In 1926, the historic contributions of African Americans in the United States were largely misrepresented or ignored. In response, Carter G. Woodson joined and helped lead a movement to recognize the past, present, and future achievements of African Americans. One outcome of the movement was the creation of a celebratory week in February, coinciding with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Since its inception, this weeklong recognition has expanded into what we now know as Black History Month.

Carter G. Woodson (more…)

Our Piece of America’s Garden: Olmstead, sculpting the nation

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Colin McCarey

Walk into the courtyard of El Pomar’s Penrose House on a summer day, and you see hummingbirds and sphinx moths hovering among roses and petunias, framed by trellises of silverlace. You can sit on the red tiles under the portico and listen to water bubbling from three gentle fountains. By fall, the palette has changed to amber and burgundy, with herds of deer and geese grazing in the front orchard or napping on the terraced back lawn. Come winter, the bucks spar in the snow by the columned teahouse, overlooked by a bronze statue of Spencer Penrose, and behind him the Shrine of the Sun on Cheyenne Mountain. (more…)

ACYPL: Oceans Apart, and Yet We’re the Same

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Jordan Miranda

At the height of the Roman Empire – when Istanbul was still Constantinople – a one-way trip between Rome and the Empire’s eastern capital spanned at least a month. Likely, the trip would have taken much longer.

At the end of January, 2015, a group of five Turkish business people and politicians traveled from Istanbul to Washington D.C., Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, and back to Turkey in less than a week. Coupled with television, 24-hour news cycles, email, smart phones, and social media, human beings now have an unprecedented ability to interact with other cultures. Because of this, international relations and foreign affairs are more important than ever.


Happy and Healthy Children are Worth Any Investment

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Since 1979, Tu Casa, Inc. has empowered children and adults to live healthy lives, free of domestic violence and sexual assault in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.  The San Luis Valley encompasses 6 counties:  Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache.  Tu Casa’s headquarters are in the city of Alamosa, the Valley’s largest city, though the agency serves all six counties. (more…)

Fellowship Reflection: From Cerebro-Spinal Fluid to Long-term Debt to Equity Ratios

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Cecelia Crossen

On my first day at El Pomar Foundation, my first “real person” job post-graduation, I was asked a terrifying question, “What are you going to do after the Fellowship?” I was rather flabbergasted – I’d only just arrived, how did they already want me gone? I’d only just found this job, couldn’t I relax for a bit? When I accepted my position in the Fellowship, a two-year leadership and management development program, I did not realize that one of my primary tasks as a Fellow would be planning my own departure. (more…)

Stronger Together: Leaders in Southwest Colorado Partner to Better Serve Children

Friday, February 6th, 2015


El Pomar’s Regional Partnerships program, which originated in 2003, enables the Foundation to spread grant dollars across the state through 11 different Regional Councils. Councils are comprised of community leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who advise the Foundation about the needs in their communities. Regional Councils are allocated $200,000 annually to grant to nonprofit organizations in their region. Each Council’s impact is different, meaningful, and locally tailored to the community it serves.

Recently, the Southwest Regional Council spurred collaboration among several key stakeholders working to improve early childhood education. Following their experiences at Rural Philanthropy Days in June, 2014, the Southwest Regional Council determined early childhood care and education needed to be addressed in their community and allocated a significant portion of their budget to devise a sustainable solution to this problem. To address this issue, the Council granted the Early Childhood Council (ECC) of La Plata County $100,000 to increase the quality and accessibility of early childhood programs in Archuleta, Delores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan Counties in southwest Colorado. (more…)