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Pay It Froward

San Miguel Basin Forum of Nucla, Colorado

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"We need to have local permanent trust funds because our rural communities are dying," President and CEO of the Telluride Foundation Paul Major told the Nucla town Board at their last meeting. "We need to have some money so we can stimulate the economy and keep the young kids staying here. What's happening now — young people are moving away and taking their families with them."

"It's a little bit of — if you build it they will come."

What Major was talking about is an infant organization in the West End that is slowly gaining steam with hopes of empowering the local communities for years to come. That entity — the West End Pay It Forward Trust (PIFT) — is a permanent local endowment that aims to keep the organizations that keep the communities here alive from shutting down.

"When we first started to put our Give Back Catalogue together, we listed all of the different organizations here," said PIFT Board Member Paul Koski. "We came up with around 40 and the realization was that this is what is holding our community together. Our communities do not function without these volunteer efforts."

Major explained PIFT and the concept behind it's creation: "This is a very simple idea — the idea started when I spent a lot of time with Prime Time/Wright Stuff childcare center in Norwood. That childcare center got a big grant from DOLA (Dept. of Local Affairs) to build that child care center... and they did a tremendous job, but what they quickly realized is that they couldn't afford to operate the center. There's not enough fees coming from parents because the cost of quality childcare is too much. So basically they had this beautiful facility for the community providing a great service but the community couldn't afford it.

"And the basic problem is we can get grants from the federal government, city government, Telluride Foundation or whomever for capitol improvement projects but what local communities need is a pot of money to pay for a lot of the services.

"A, lot of rural communities just don't have that money to basically fund that childcare center, or try to bring another nurse in, or fund the Family Link Center.

"So that's where this idea started — we need to build permanent trust funds in local communities that are owned and controlled by locals — businessmen, citizens and members of the local governments."

PIFT is a member of four trusts that fall under the umbrella of The Paradox Community Trust. The other three members are Norwood, Dove Creek and Rico (including all their surrounding areas).

The four Trusts pool their money together and invest it using the dividends to fund local nonprofit organizations that serve the community. Whatever is invested by each Trust into the funds is distributed to that same trust.

Koski explained that the fund is a permanent fund and the principal will stay intact, and the Trusts will just be spending the proceeds from the investments.

"And that keeps generating year after year after year, and these funds continue to get larger and larger and larger. And that's what we are trying to do."

He said that PIFT currently has $14,000 and once it gets to $20,000 a 2 to 1 matching fund will add $10,000 to that amount.

"I think the wealth is here. I think the people have the resources. It's just people live day to day and they have a hard time conceptualizing giving $200 in the course of a year," said Koski.

"Even if it's $20 a month pulled out automatically out of your paycheck — you spend $20 on soda pops, or easily spend $20 on movies in a month," added Nucla Mayor Dawna Morris. "There is so much $20 can do once a month. If you get enough people to do it, it will start building up. I think I can do $20 a month and don't think I would even miss it.

"Even if it's $10, it don't matter, it's something that's going in there. But, you've got to love the community to make this happen."

Part of the reason why PIFT and Major (who is also a part of the Paradox Community Trust) were there that evening was to ask the town to help them seek a huge infusion into the Trust funds by going after a DOLA grant that would give them a huge chunk of money that can be made a permanent part of the endowments.

DOLA grants are funds that come from severance taxes paid by companies for the removal of nonrenewable resources.

"Whether it's the upcoming mill, coal mine or power plant, they will be paying severance tax and that money is going to Denver and it may come back if you guys apply, but it comes back in one project here, one project there. Why not get a chunk of it, bring it back and make it permanent?" asked Major. "What we would like to do is go to DOLA and ask them for a grant to fund this permanent fund... this is capitol funds that will give us the cash and we invest it."

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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