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Evergreen Benefactors

From left: Phil Shanley, Ted Sells and Dave Graham, the Evergreen Benefactors

From left: Phil Shanley, Ted Sells and Dave Graham, trustees of Evergreen Benefactors, Inc.

Evergreen Benefactors pledge matching funds for Camp Comfort

Three Evergreen men are pleased to offer a gift, an invitation, and a challenge.

The men are builder Dave Graham, attorney Ted Sells, and Evergreen Fine Art gallery owner Phil Shanley, and collectively they’re trustees of Evergreen Benefactors, Inc. The gift they offer on behalf of their organization is a potential $25,000 donation to Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice’s Camp Comfort, and they invite their mountain-area neighbors to make them pony up every penny of that princely sum.

“Evergreen Benefactors is matching community donations up to $25,000 to provide scholarships to kids who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend Camp Comfort,” explains Shanley. “From the beginning our basic principle has been to identify kids in need and find a way to help them. We think this is a great way to do that.”

Indeed, Evergreen Benefactors has been helping mountain-area youngsters in need for the better part of half a century, although 40 years ago it sailed under the flag of the Evergreen Building Trades program. Back then, Graham, Shanley, and a cadre of like-minded local philanthropists worked with Evergreen High School teacher Gene Younger to offer academically unmotivated teens a more hands-on curriculum.

“Gene saw a need for a program aimed at non-college-track kids,” Graham says. “Through the building trades program they built houses all over the area. The skills they learned made a huge difference in hundreds of kids’ lives.”

Ten years ago, Jeffco Schools decided to close up shop – metal shop, wood shop, auto shop – and funnel R-1’s vocational students into Lakewood’s Warren Tech facility. While that move sank the Evergreen Building Trades program, Evergreen Benefactors still had ample wind in their sheets, and whether or not they’re successful in ongoing effort to persuade Jeffco to restore community-based vocational training, Graham, Sells and Shanley will continue in unwavering support of youth-oriented programs like Evergreen Bootstraps and Camp Comfort.

“Camp Comfort is a natural fit for us,” explains Sells, who, like his two compatriots, has long been a staunch member of the Mount Evans board and a tireless champion of the hospice mission. “We want to change kids’ lives for the better, and that’s what Camp Comfort does.”

Since its founding in 1995, Camp Comfort has changed more than 1,200 children’s lives for the better, providing a safe and supportive environment in which bereaved youngsters can deal with the loss of a loved one in the reassuring company of peers and grief professionals. Mount Evans accepts campers from across Colorado and beyond, and never turns a child away for having empty pockets. That open-door policy presents a yearly funding challenge for the nonprofit, and Evergreen Benefactors are passing that challenge along to their neighbors.

Between now and April 30, 2014, every dime and dollar that finds its way into the Camp Comfort Endowment account will be matched by Evergreen Benefactors. In the short term, that money will mean the difference between crumbling and coping for many dozens of hurting children. On the other hand, a group of good-hearted men who’ve been advocating for kids since the 1970s are inclined to take a longer view, and to issue one final challenge.

“Essentially, we see this as the start of an endowment fund, similar to a college scholarship fund,” Graham says. “The Evergreen Building Trades program was financially self-sustaining, and that’s what we’d like to happen here.”

“Ultimately we’d like to see this fund grow to a point where it can produce $40,000 to $50,000 a year, every year, year after year,” Sells adds. “Hopefully other area groups would want to participate in this and help us raise the funds that will make it a sustainable endowment.”

“Mount Evans is a priceless asset to this community, and Camp Comfort is a program that deserves all the support we can give it,” Shanley says. “We’re prepared to give $25,000. All the community has to do is make us do it.”

To make a donation to the Camp Comfort Endowment, call 303-674-6400, or visit www.mtevans.org and click the “Give to the Camp Comfort Endowment” link.