Archive for August, 2014

Weathering the Storm

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Hannah Staller

Today marks the nine year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. Today, we remember the nearly 2,000 people who lost their lives and honor the recovery efforts of those who call the Gulf States home. Those of us far removed from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath may not have experienced the storm’s direct impact, witnessing the storm unfold only through haunting images of destruction as almost 80% of New Orleans went under water. After the hurricane, a girl from New Orleans joined my eighth grade class. Her family migrated all the way to Centennial, Colorado while they made plans to rebuild their lives.

As our community recovers from its own devastating natural disasters with the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires, many among us can understand the utter tragedy of losing homes, a sense of safety, and perhaps even loved ones. Beyond empathy, the Colorado Springs community is more connected to Hurricane Katrina than you might think.  Katrina drove 400,000 people from their homes in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf. Of that number, 10,000 people found their way to Colorado, and 2,000 came to Colorado Springs.

In 2013, KRDO featured a story on one such man named Robert Brunet, who brought his family to Colorado Springs after Hurricane Katrina forced them to leave their Louisiana home. Although the transition was not easy, Brunet opened a successful home cook business and now owns Momma Pearl’s Cajun restaurant in Colorado Springs. In KRDO’s interview with Brunet last year, Brunet said, “my heart goes out to those people who have found themselves victim to recent fires around Colorado Springs, as I know how it feels.” According to KRDO, Brunet participated in fundraisers and cooked dinners for victims of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires because he remembered those who helped his family after Katrina.


Chef Robert Brunet at Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen

Although our state is not fire free this year, I feel thankful that our community has experienced a safer summer. I am also thankful for our disaster response teams throughout Colorado, and all the people who volunteered their time during the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires. On Monday, New Orleans reporter Ted Jackson published a photo essay documenting the city’s recovery in The Times-Picayune.  He concluded his essay with a statement that I believe rings true for any community which experienced a disaster and continues to recover: “We’ve helped each other to rebuild and adjust. Our resolve is strong. Our endurance through tragedy has proved to be our distinction, not our eulogy.”

To read KRDO’s full article and Ted Jackson’s photo essay, follow the links below:

Hurricane Katrina survivor brings Cajun culture to Colorado Springs:

Photos of Katrina then and now:


“I’d Rather Wear Out Than Rust Out”

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Each year, The Emerging Leaders Development Program honors a Southern Colorado minority community leader with induction into the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room. The Proby Room was dedicated in 2006 to pay tribute to Reverend Milton E. Proby’s legacy of civic involvement and fellowship across cultural boundaries. This year, with over 400 community members gathered in celebration, El Pomar Emerging Leaders Program proudly inducted Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Thomas H. Martinez.

With both his family and Reverend Proby’s son present, LTC Thomas H. Martinez joined the group of esteemed leaders honored in the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room. To commemorate the moment, musician Bob Abeyeta played three of LTC Martinez’s favorite songs; Las Mañanitas, De Colores, and Volver Volver. In addition, leaders from the ELD selection committee spoke about the impact the Emerging Leaders Development Program has had on their ability to serve their communities. The event showcased not only LTC Thomas H. Martinez’s many successes, but the expertise of many leaders that keep Colorado Springs so vibrant.


The Martinez family honoring LTC Thomas H. Martinez

Born in Sopris, Colorado, LTC Martinez graduated from Huerfano County High School in 1933 and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. While in the military, LTC Martinez served during WWII and the Korean War. While in Korea, LTC Martinez discovered the importance of giving back to the community, even if his presence in the community was only temporary. Experiencing firsthand the value the local hospital provided to soldiers, LTC Martinez began raising funds to ensure the hospital could continue its work.

Upon retiring from the military and settling in southern Colorado, LTC Martinez dedicated his time to increasing access to education, specifically for Hispanic youth. With the belief that education is a birthright of every American, he was instrumental in establishing the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF), a fund that aims to reduce barriers for Hispanic students in attaining college degrees. LAEF is a one-stop center of information, providing guidance to parents and students navigating the college application process. Through his career as a civil servant, LTC Martinez has inspired and enabled countless underprivileged youth to continue their education. The Emerging Leaders Development program is proud to induct such an influential community leader into the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room.

To recognize in perpetuity LTC Martinez’s dedication to education, in 1988, a district 11 elementary school was named in his honor, LTC Thomas H. Martinez Elementary.  In addition, Martinez served as Chair of La Raza Unity Council, President of St. Vincent De Paul Society, and President of the Colorado Springs Chapter of the American G.I. Forum. In 1978, he was the recipient of the “Hispanic Employment Program” from the U.S. Civil Service Commission. He lived a life of tireless service exemplified by a favorite quote, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.”


Story of Impact: Silver Key Senior Services

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

In honor of Senior Citizens Day, El Pomar Foundation wanted to highlight an organization serving senior citizens in Colorado Springs. Since 1971 Silver Key Senior Services provides seniors in El Paso County with programs and services that emphasize dignity, independence, safety, and comfort throughout the aging process. With respect and quality of life at the forefront of the organization’s vision, Silver Key strives to empower senior citizens and make Colorado Springs the nation’s best city to age.








The organization’s programs include Meals on Wheels, transportation services, individual case management, nutritional food assistance, an Emergency Pantry, and a medical equipment loan program. Meals on Wheels enables seniors to access hot meals consistently and conveniently. In 2013, Silver Key delivered 52,000 Meals on Wheels, distributed 17,852 boxes of food, and made 51,053 trips through their transportation program. Most recently, Silver Key called upon the Colorado Springs community to collect room fans for its seniors. Our community answered Silver Key’s request and enabled the organization to provide fans for every senior who requested one. This campaign represents both Silver Key’s and the community’s attentiveness to senior citizens in our community.







One Silver Key client commented “Words cannot express my feelings for all the good [Silver Key does] for seniors in our community.”

Silver Key Senior Services takes care of our seniors, and we wish to thank them for their services. Happy Senior Citizen Day!

Want to learn more? Visit for more information and volunteer opportunities.


CASA of the Pikes Peak Region: Celebrating 25 Years of Life-Changing Child Advocacy

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

In 1977, a Seattle judge, worried about poor decisions being made on behalf of at-risk children, put out a request for community volunteers willing to provide advocacy and support for these children in court. 50 people responded, creating the organization Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Here in Colorado Springs, studies conducted in the 1980s revealed abused and neglected children living in El Paso and Teller counties lacked adequate representation and advocacy in the legal system.  CASA’s volunteer-driven advocacy was identified as the best means to alleviate this troubling trend. In 1989, with start-up funding from El Pomar Foundation and The Junior League, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region was formed and began recruiting and training volunteers to advocate for children experiencing abuse, neglect, or domestic conflict. CASA advocates represent the best interests of children by attending court hearings, communicating with lawyers and social workers, and ensuring that each child ends up in a loving home able to provide the consistent support needed for future success.





Today, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Since forming as a local chapter, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region has helped over 10,000 children receive the support they need to overcome abuse and extreme domestic conflict.

Despite all of the organization’s successes, challenges still remain. In The Gazette, executive director Trudy Strewler Hodges states that only half of the 1,000 neglected and abused children eligible to receive an advocate actually receives one. The organization hopes to shrink this gap by 2020, in addition to continuing to combat high levels of child abuse in the region.

While the challenges ahead are significant, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region has provided our community with 25 years of life-changing impact. Thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, and supporters of the organization for making such a positive difference in our community.

To learn more about CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, visit their website.


Trustees Approved Grants

Friday, August 15th, 2014

The Trustees of El Pomar Foundation met in July to consider and approve grant requests, including those from the Wild Land Fire Fund and Regional Councils. As a result, they approved 64 grants totaling nearly $1 million. Recipients represent 29 counties from across the state of Colorado.

Grant recipients are listed below. To learn more about El Pomar Foundation’s grantmaking and community stewardship programs visit (more…)

Outward Bound 2014

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Recently, members of El Pomar’s Fellowship Program embarked on a week-long backpacking excursion with the Colorado Outward Bound School near Marble, Colorado. The Fellows crossed rivers, climbed mountains, endured thunderstorms, built shelters, and through it all, developed stronger relationships and a greater sense of compassion and teamwork. Below are several reflections on the experience from some of this year’s 1st year Fellows.