A new partnership: Pikes Peak Community Foundation and Southeast

(From left): Abbas Hasan, Isabelle McGoey, Nisarg Shah, Caitlin Nygren and Will Forrest spent the summer working with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation to strengthen ties between the foundation and Southeast. [Courtesy photo]

By Will Forrest, Abbas Hasan, Isabelle McGoey,Caitlin Nygren and Nisarg Shah
Special to the Express

Colorado Springs is a city on the rise. As it furthers its identity as Olympic City USA and a home for military families, people are flocking to the Pikes Peak region. With rapid population growth, Colorado Springs will experience both economic and social diversity— diversity already seen in the city.

Southeast Colorado Springs is an engaged and passionate community where the residents actively participate in the future of their neighborhoods. It is not beholden to the reputation or stereotype it has been subject to in recent years. The people of Southeast know what they need and are compelled to create their own change. 

Over the past eight weeks, we have seen this engagement and recognize the potential that Southeast Colorado Springs possesses.

We are five Morehead-Cain scholars from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This summer, we collaborated with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF), a philanthropic organization working to transform wealth into community capital for the Pikes Peak Region. For the past eight weeks, PPCF tasked us to explore more intentional collaboration between the community foundation and Southeast. 

Coming in to this community, we were quickly introduced to the current momentum and efforts in Southeast. In our first week in Colorado Springs, we attended a Resilient, Inspired, Strong, Engaged (RISE) Coalition meeting at Solid Rock Church. There, we were introduced to many of the organizations working within Southeast, like Generation Wild and the Matthews-Vu medical providers. We met community leaders, like Pastor Ben Anderson and Joyce Salazar. The energy and commitment we observed in this meeting made us even more excited to meet others.

After our initial introduction, we learned more about Southeast from those who know the community best. We visited the Hillside and Deerfield Hills community centers and explored the area with the founder of Hillside Connection, Terrell Brown. Our tour included meeting Jody Derington and Joan Clemons, as well as a visit to the very popular and delicious Amy’s Donuts. 

The people of Southeast know what they need and are compelled to create their own change.

Additionally, we attended the third Meet Me in the Park event, coordinated by the RISE Coalition to gauge interest in and receive input on the renovation of Panorama Park. There, we engaged with Southeast residents and met State Rep. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs), who shared his passion for the Southeast community. 

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We attended one of Taj Stokes’ THRIVE Network classes and spoke with some of the entrepreneurs enrolled in his course. From this, our group and PPCF were better able to understand the neighborhood climate. 

The community foundation’s current role in the Southeast is primarily focused on administering the Transforming Safety Initiative (TSI) funds. TSI supports many of the prominent organizations implementing programs in Southeast, including the Deerfield Hills Community Center, Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) and Solid Rock Community Development Corp. 

Other philanthropic investors, like the El Pomar Foundation and The Colorado Health Foundation, also fund efforts in Southeast. Partners of the RISE Coalition are some of the largest benefactors of these funds. 

Additionally, the Colorado Trust invests funds in the Hillside neighborhood and some Hillside organizations also receive funding from Transforming Safety. However, the funding from TSI and other foundations is set to expire in a few years. PPCF acknowledges this impending funding cliff and recognizes the value of these programs in Southeast. 

The Community Foundation recently added Mina Liebert as its director of community impact. Liebert has been working closely with organizations within the Southeast for several years and was instrumental in bringing together the RISE Coalition. 

Our group was tasked to help PPCF understand the timeline for change and consider the possibilities for longer-term funding mechanisms for the Southeast. The Community Foundation understands that Southeast residents are capable of making the change that their community needs.

Rather than looking to help Southeast find its voice, PPCF is attempting to uplift the existing forces in the region through a philanthropic lens. Following successful national models, PPCF is looking for innovative ways to fund and encourage the development of Southeast for Southeast residents. 

While our eight weeks here in Colorado Springs is coming to a close, PPCF’s work in the Southeast is just beginning. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside community leaders and to have been welcomed into the Colorado Springs community.

Morehead-Cain scholars undertake summer enrichment programs that include outdoor leadership, civic collaboration, global perspectives and professional experience. Programs are designed to teach scholars about the world in which they live and how they can positively affect it.  

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