The History of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado
In the fall of 1975, the City of Fort Collins was a very different place — a small college town of approximately 60,000 people on the verge of major growth. Fort Collins Mayor Karl Carson, pictured at right, and City leaders were making plans to turn the Lincoln Junior High School building into what we know today as the Lincoln Center, and a group of visionary citizens were planning for the future through an initiative called Designing Tomorrow Today.
Mayor Carson contacted Buford Plemmons, a Poudre School District administrator and community leader, to suggest the creation of a community foundation. There was a need for a nonprofit organization to collect charitable contributions for the creation of the new Lincoln Center. In addition, a local resident, Mrs. Olive Ludlow, had left a $25,000 bequest for a purpose that was somewhat unclear, and a community foundation would be an appropriate vehicle to receive the gift as well. With that telephone call from Mayor Carson to Buford Plemmons, the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado was born. Initially, the organization was called the Fort Collins Community Foundation, but it later expanded to serve the Northern Colorado and Eastern Colorado regions.
Many of the founding trustees of the Community Foundation have passed away, some have quietly retired from active community involvement, and some are still as visible and active in community affairs as ever. Their efforts illustrate that our generation, like all others, benefits from the hard work, dreams, and investments of people we may never know and initiatives that have long been forgotten. (Pictured at right are some of the founding trustees and spouses: Buford Plemmons, Ray Chamberlain, Bob Everitt, Charles Patchen, Emily Patchen, Margaret Webber, and Donald Webber.
Today, the Community Foundation grants out millions of dollars each year and has grown to more than $180 million in assets — investments that give back to our community year after year. A new generation of community leaders and donors has used the Community Foundation as a platform to launch and fund initiatives such as UniverCity Connections, Homeward 2020, the Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and the visionary Rialto Theater Center project, which was a catalyst for revitalization in Downtown Loveland.
The $25,000 bequest left by Mrs. Ludlow has given rise to a foundation that in 2009 received a multi-million dollar bequest from Doyle and Luvesta Jones of Berthoud, pictured at left. Memorial funds, large and small, have been established to carry on the memory of loved ones. The Community Foundation has served as the infrastructure for building projects like Inspiration Playground and as the platform for launching new nonprofits like Project Smile. And as the Lincoln Center celebrated its 35th anniversary, it completed a major renovation with the help of a distribution of almost $500,000 from the Community Foundation.
Foundations tend to have the special quality of helping us to honor our heritage while looking to the future. They encourage us to dream, to contemplate possibilities and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Most of what your Community Foundation does is quiet and behind the scenes. The majority of people in our region may never even know it exists, but everyone in our community has been touched by its work and its many generous donors. Reflecting on what the Foundation’s founding trustees and donors initiated many years ago and the impact their efforts have had should be an encouragement to all of us.