Foundation brings Ogden Valley causes together

Jul 24 2012 - 10:34pm

HUNTSVILLE -- You love the upper Ogden Valley for its rural landscapes, its peaceful waters, for the memories it gives your family at beachside picnics. And now you want to give something back.

So what do you do?

Do you scour your brain remembering old news stories? Do you type in Google searches looking for specific groups? Or ask the opinion of fellow boaters?

Until now, there has never been a one-stop destination to contribute to Ogden Valley causes. That's the vacuum the Community Foundation of Ogden Valley seeks to fill. This new organization has vetted 16 nonprofit groups based in the upper valley, offering up a smorgasbord of worthy causes and letting you pick and choose where your money goes. It then serves as a conduit to get that money there.

"There was no trusted vehicle for people to receive donations and steer them" valleywide, says board chairman Steve Clark, of Eden. "We thought, if this valley was ever going to mature in a way that we envisioned it, it would have to have a philanthropic foundation that could be the hub."

"This is so new that people don't even know about it," adds board member Nancy Patton, of Huntsville. "Once we get the word out, people will understand the depth and breadth of the (donated) funds and where they will be able to reach."

The foundation has launched its first big endeavor, The Amazing Raise, a weekslong giving period. The fundraiser culminates Sept. 8, with a community celebration at Wolf Mountain, featuring races, a half-marathon, biathlon and fun run.

Until then, you can choose from a broad stroke of charitable causes. There's the Ogden Valley Winter Sports Foundation or the Huntsville Town Park. The Back Country Horseman or Ogden Valley Arts.

The groups may do their good works beyond the mountains of the Ogden Valley. Weber Pathways, for instance, sponsors trails across Weber County.

However, said board member Sharon Holmstrom, of Eden, all money raised by the foundation and passed on to nonprofits will be spent on projects within the small towns of the valley and their neighboring areas.

There's a common theme to the nonprofits, but it's not necessarily recreation and outdoor sports, as it would seem at first blush.

"The common denominator is children," Clark said.

"There are all these things that help kids in our valley, as well as kids outside the valley," Holmstrom said. "Kids who want to become competitive skiers, kids who are handicapped skiers, kids who need a chance to ski or do outdoors things."

Nancy Patton points to the Wolf Creek Foundation, which seeks to stabilize and bring together military families, as well as Ogden Nordic, whose volunteers groom trails but also create programs for children.

Children, and community -- that's the other goal of the foundation, Clark said. "Our other purpose is to bring the community of Ogden Valley together. We have three little towns -- Huntsville, Eden and Liberty -- and historically those have had their own spirit. We don't want to take that away; but we would really like to have everybody feel they're part of Ogden Valley, and we do things together as Ogden Valley people."

During its inception nearly two years ago, the group looked around and found few community-sized projects. "We saw there was very little infrastructure in this valley," said Holmstrom. "There was one tennis court in Huntsville that had been there 50 years. There were no tennis courts, no swimming pool, none of these things."

So, the foundation flexed its muscle with construction of tennis courts north of Snowcrest Junior High School.

Holmstrom explained that while raising money for a specific project is not the tack the foundation will take in the future, "it was an opportunity for us to fulfill both of our visions -- to improve the quality of life for Ogden Valley residents and, secondly, to give credibility and to show people what a foundation could do."

The tennis complex, which is nearing completion, was built with a mix of grants, personal gifts and in-kind donations. "I would call it one of the supreme models of collaboration that I have ever seen," Holmstrom said.

This year, the Amazing Raise offers a challenge donor project. It has received $38,000 from larger challenge donors that will match what valley residents and admirers can bring in. The funds "can't come out of this challenge fund unless you give," Patton said. "If you donate $100, it will actually be $200 that goes to, say, the Weber School Foundation."

It's a model based on the successful Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, which has been in existence for 20 years, represents more than 60 nonprofits and has raised $183 million over the years. ""We asked Jackson Hole to mentor us," Clark said.

The foundation's short history in the Ogden Valley has been a "learning curve," said board vice president Ross Mertlich, of Liberty. The board has had to teach what nonprofits are and what they do. "You mention nonprofits, and people say, 'Is that a Christian organization?' " he said.

And they had to convince givers that the foundation's duty is only to channel money.

"The foundation doesn't function the way another nonprofit does," Holmstrom said. "The foundation functions to serve the nonprofits in our community, not to serve itself."

So far, about half of the money coming in has been from donors outside the valley, Patton said. Donors have come from Ogden, Box Elder County, Salt Lake City and California; many of them are part-time residents of the valley.

"These are people who love the Ogden Valley, and they come here to play, to have family time," she said.

Jackson Hole has its Old Bill, a mascot of sorts. And in the Ogden Valley, the foundation has chosen a mascot based on a longtime valley tradition: Mountain Maggie.

The legend of Mountain Maggie began in 1945, when a scary, unspeaking, costumed woman appeared at the home of valley native Lysle Chard. Soon, Holmstrom said, "children began to flock there; they were coming from Ogden, everywhere, to see Mountain Maggie." The apparition of Mountain Maggie continued until 1975.

Chard and his wife, Zella, were childless, Holmstrom said, and upon Chard's death in 1997 they donated their estate to the Weber School Foundation for the children of Ogden Valley.

"That money has gone to ball diamonds, to a running track, to the tennis courts," she said. "So Mountain Maggie is our spirit of giving -- you just have to figure out what kind of spirit.

"As a single person, Lysle Chard represents to us the spirit of philanthropy. So we're hoping we can reveal, through Mountain Maggie, how long your gift can last. Your gift can last long after you're gone."

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