EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Two big names in the local nonprofit world announced a merger Wednesday that board members say will provide more opportunities for Eagle County's youth.
The Vail Valley Foundation announced that it's joining forces with the Youth Foundation to create a consolidated educational organization that will operate as a program of the Vail Valley Foundation. The program is being called the Vail Valley Youth Foundation.
Vail Valley Foundation Chairman of the Board Harry Frampton said he thinks the merger is going to make Vail an "even better place" for children and teenagers in the coming years.
"I'm really excited about it," Frampton said.
Both organizations have been doing a lot of terrific things for local education in recent years, Frampton said, but the merger is going to open up doors to make the county's school system "pretty darn special."
The Youth Foundation was created in 1997 with the intent to impact youth with positive mentorship, community interaction and recreational activities that inspire self-confidence, friendship and integrity, according to the organization. The nonprofit's 15-member founding board included local movers and shakers such as Rod Slifer, Bobby Hernreich, the late Gerald Gallegos and the late Steve Fossett.
Youth Foundation Chairman of the Board Steve Coyer said in a statement Wednesday that the merger could be one of the greatest contributions both organizations have made to the youth of the valley.
"I applaud the board and staff of the Youth Foundation for all that they have accomplished and I look forward to taking the next step on this educational journey alongside the Vail Valley Foundation," Coyer said.
Coyer wrote an email to Youth Foundation donors and supporters before the announcement to assure them the merger will create nothing but positive results for the children and families the Youth Foundation has served for so many years.
"I am dedicating my time over the next few years to make this something for which we can all be very, very proud," Coyer wrote.
The merger won't provide any obvious changes in the immediate future, Frampton said. It's the long-term impact that will be the most obvious, he said.
Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said several of the Youth Foundation's board members will join the Vail Valley Foundation board, and the entire Youth Foundation staff will now become Vail Valley Foundation staff. She said the Youth Foundation name will also be kept alive.
"We really want to be able to expand our reach," Folz said.
The organizations have already worked very closely for years. The Magic Bus literacy program, for example, has been entirely funded by the Vail Valley Foundation since its inception, but the Youth Foundation runs the program.
"It's a great, collaborative relationship we've had," Folz said.
The timing is right for such a merger because of the economy, Folz said. It's a time when donors are sensitive about where their money goes, and both nonprofits have been extremely sensitive about maximizing their impact on the community and efficiencies as organizations.
Under the new leadership of the Vail Valley Foundation board, the education committee, as well as another advisory committee, will keep education at the forefront of the Vail Valley Foundation's missions.
The Vail Valley Foundation, which operates under the mission to provide leadership in athletic, cultural and educational endeavors, also has longer and stronger roots in the valley, which Frampton said should benefit the overall educational funding.
"(The Vail Valley Foundation) has a larger base of donors and sponsors," Frampton said. "There's a lot of potential there to, quite frankly, increase the funding for our education efforts."
There's also a lot of potential to continue the focus on local youth with a unified front and one voice, said Susie Davis, executive director of the Youth Foundation. She said the chance to become one team with the Vail Valley Foundation is a "tremendous opportunity."
Folz couldn't be happier to have Davis on board, too.
"I'm a huge fan of hers," Folz said. "She's a huge asset."
The merger could set a new standard in the state, Frampton said. There are only so many things a public school system can do, but the private sector is a different story, he said.
"We can make the Vail Valley really a model in the state for how the private sector and private individuals can work with the school district," Frampton said. "... We're doing what we're doing better, more effectively, by building on successful programs."
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.