Vail Valley philanthropy is about people’s passion, time and, yes, money |

Vail Valley philanthropy is about people’s passion, time and, yes, money

Susan, left and Harry Frampton have long supported a number of local nonprofit groups

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EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley is a giving place. But what drives that generosity?

Harry Frampton has been deeply involved in the valley’s nonprofit world almost since his arrival in the early 1980s. Frampton and his wife, Susan, have been fixtures with the Vail Valley Foundation, the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and a host of other nonprofit groups.

Most recently, the Framptons helped a cause in South Carolina, their home state. The couple recently contributed to the International African American Museum in Charleston.

Frampton, as is his way, questioned whether that donation was really a Vail Valley story. But the story of the donation speaks to philanthropy in general.

Growing up in the deep South during an era of open racial discrimination, African Americans couldn’t stay at the same hotels, eat at the same restaurants or use the same drinking fountains as whites. In Frampton’s hometown, streets were paved in white neighborhoods, but not in African American neighborhoods.

Frampton said his own experiences, combined with a bit of business — Frampton’s company, East West Partners, has projects in Charleston — and a personal connection with former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley all contributed to his donation.

That combination drives a lot of philanthropy, Frampton said.

As a founder of the Vail Valley Foundation, Frampton said he’s long believed that individual philanthropy goes first to a giver’s church and then his or her university. If there’s anything left over, then that can go toward a person’s second home.

The Vail Valley Foundation has done well over the years. But other nonprofit groups are also vying for those philanthropic dollars. And while millions are donated every year, Frampton noted that even for the wealthiest of donors, there are always more requests than there is money available.

Experience becomes passion

For Doe Browning, her philanthropy has been driven by her life in Kentucky. At the time, she had a child who needed academic tutoring. Through that, she became aware of other families whose kids needed, but couldn’t afford, that help.

When Browning moved to Vail, she wanted to direct her giving to the Vail Valley. That giving needed to reflect her passions for early-childhood education, helping survivors of domestic violence and similar issues.

Browning is a supporter of Our Community Foundation and Guardian Scholars, which helps youngsters who are the first in their families to attend college.

Browning’s connection to Guardian Scholars has resulted in broader connections.

She recalled a recent time at a local store, when one of the clerks turned out to be the mother of one of the Guardian Scholar students. “That’s the real lift — being out in the community and connecting with someone you’ve never met,” Browning said

As an artist, Browning also wanted to help the arts in her adopted hometown. As such, she’s an enthusiastic supporter of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and the Vail Performing Arts Academy.

“Those are all things our youth can use,” Browning said.

A different kind of marketing

Connections are crucial for the work of the Bright Future Foundation.

Sheri Mintz, the organization’s executive director, said the nature of the group’s work can make connections difficult.

While domestic violence and sexual assault cross economic and demographic lines, Mintz noted that it’s often “uncomfortable for people to even think about it.”

Getting out the word about the group requires a different kind of marketing, Mintz said.

The first priority is informing people who need the group’s services. Then there are potential helpers.

“As we’re doing community awareness, that resonates with people,” Mintz said. “People like (the Framptons and Browning) share the word.”

But philanthropy is about more than simply writing checks. It’s also about giving time to good causes.

The Guardian Scholar program every year picks between 12 and 14 local students and provides both financial aid and mentoring through four years at either Colorado Mountain College or Colorado Mesa University.

Browning said one of the program’s first graduates, Erik Garcia, now works for RA Nelson.

“He doesn’t have deep pockets to donate, but he sits in on the (student) interviews,” Browning said. He also volunteered to be one of the dancers during a recent Star Dancing Gala. That event is a fundraiser for YouthPower365, a project of the Vail Valley Foundation.

“There are lots of people who can and do write checks,” Browning said. “But there are people who give the most valuable thing: their time. That’s where it should start with the younger generation — when they do have some spending money, they know where to give it.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at and 970-748-2930.

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