‘Community’ is not a place, it’s a value. ‘Foundation’ is not an institution, it’s what you build upon.
Those are the words of Dave Edwards nearly a decade ago. According to him, they still ring true today.
I recently sat down with Dave and Paula Edwards to learn more about their community volunteerism and leadership. The Edwards have been fixtures in the community for decades; their impact continues to ripple across our region.
In fact, the breadth of their interests was one of the reasons the Edwards got involved with the Foundation. “When I joined the Board, I realized the Community Foundation was a nonprofit, but a different kind of nonprofit [than other organizations I’d served],” recalls Dave. “The Community Foundation can be involved in all aspects of the nonprofit world. It allowed me to be a generalist.”
Dave and Paula have each served on the Board of the Community Foundation during significant course changes for the organization. “I joined the Board in 2003, less than a year after Ray Caraway became President,” recalls Dave. “The whole focus of the Community Foundation was changing from what it had been, which I called need-based. We shifted to more of a donor-focused, donor-centric model, and that’s when it started to grow.”
Paula served on the Board in the 1990’s and began another two-term commitment in 2016. Over the last six years she bore witness to the Foundation’s most rapid growth, the introduction of the Foundation’s formal initiatives work, and the recent challenges of COVID, the Northern Colorado fires, and the transition of the Foundation’s president. She retired from the Board two weeks ago at the end of her term.
“For 40 years, my career has been as a community volunteer,” reflects Paula. “That’s what I’ve had the opportunity to do, and I see it as a privilege. Uniquely, much of my engagement has been with philanthropy— the Poudre Valley Hospital Foundation, the Community Foundation, and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.”
When asked about philanthropy and what it means to her, Paula responds, “Philanthropy is living with gratitude. It’s often those who, from outside appearances, have the least that give the most. Regardless of what you have, all of us have something to give.”
Dave says, “To me, philanthropy is a responsibility and it’s an opportunity.” He credits his family for modeling philanthropy and civic engagement for him. “Philanthropy is learned, and Paula and I both had excellent examples of giving back.”
The Edwards walk the walk; it is impossible to name all the organizations, committees, and initiatives they have impacted. As a couple, they have demonstrated exceptional leadership, as well as exceptional support of one another’s endeavors. “We look at ourselves as a team. If you get one of us, you get both of us,” says Paula.
This is evident in the project Dave states he is most proud of– UniverCity Connections. “When I was on the Community Foundation Board, I felt the organization had tremendous potential to be more than just a conduit for charitable giving. I was fortunate enough to knit together UniverCity in 2007, and it still exists today.” UniverCity was an initiative to help connect Colorado State University with Old Town Fort Collins, while recognizing the distinctiveness of the Poudre River as a natural environment in an urban area. “This combination– the campus, Old Town, and the Poudre River– gives Fort Collins its uniqueness,” says Dave.
The Community Foundation served as the neutral convener to strengthen these connections. “There’s tremendous power in quiet conversations, but you can’t have that without existing relationships,” explains Paula. “That’s what UniverCity was all about.”
What are their words of advice for the next generation of philanthropists? “Show up!” says Paula. “We live in a giving community. Show up and you will be welcomed.” “And take some risks,” adds Dave. “Too many people want to get involved with or write a check for something iron clad. Big ideas call for measured risk.”
The Edwards hold a fund, are members of the Foundation’s legacy society, and have served on multiple Foundation committees. We honor them for the many ways they have gone beyond themselves for the betterment of our community. They are true Community Champions for whom Northern Colorado can be grateful.