Locals honored for giving to community

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— The mountains and lakes at Storm Mountain Ranch provided a majestic backdrop as the Yampa Valley Community Foundation recognized Steamboat Springs' giving spirit at its "Celebration of Philanthropy."

Dianna Sutton, president and CEO of the foundation, said she hoped the recognition would encourage other businesses to contribute to the community as well.

The foundation recognized Denny and Joy Swanson, Maggie McElhinny and the Steamboat Pilot & Today as the individual, youth and business philanthropists of the year, respectively.

The Swansons came to Steamboat in 1982 and were immediately awed by the community's capacity for giving. They jumped in quickly, providing supplies to 300 volunteers who built two local school playgrounds in two days.

"It's a wonderful setting and it's a real honor," said Denny Swanson, who owns True Value Hardware store at the west end of town. "We never expected something like this. It's just nice to be a part of Steamboat."

Denny Swanson has committed time and money to the town, serving on several boards and giving funds to numerous groups. His wife, Joy, also served on local school committees; she is a continual giver, having just returned from a trip to rural Honduras with a group that aided 1,400 sick citizens and 500 animals. Despite the near-primitive conditions of the area, she said she would return if given the opportunity.

The gravity of the moment wasn't lost on Maggie McElhinny, who, despite her own impressive record, felt slightly overwhelmed to be recognized with the other award recipients.

"It's a huge honor," she said. "I'm extremely appreciative."

McElhinny, who is headed to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the fall, was a two-sport athlete at Steamboat Springs High School and a member of several business and fine arts groups. Her father said he wasn't surprised when, at the age of 16, she raised $1,200 to fund a high school mentor program with Partners in Routt County.

"She's a very mature teen-ager," Mark McElhinny said. "She has a kind touch in there; she likes to do things for other people. She does it because she wants to."

The program will continue at the high school, having more than doubled in size since she initiated it.

Last year alone, the Steamboat Pilot & Today contributed $13,000 to local organizations in nearly every aspect of the community: health, art, education and public safety among them. They matched that amount with $14,000 in in-kind donations through promotional supplements for local entities in the paper.

"We are very honored," Publisher Suzanne Schlicht said. "There are many businesses in Steamboat Springs that are just as deserving to receive this award. We feel that philanthropy and giving back to the community is something that is very important."

Two groups involved with two major issues in the community affordable child care and affordable housing were also acknowledged Sunday as "Partners in Philanthropy." First Impressions of Routt County and Habitat for Humanity were recognized for creating solutions to what the foundation calls "important identified community needs."

"In a small community, it's more difficult not to be involved," Sutton said. "You're more personally affected by things, and you feel more of an impact. One person's voice carries farther, particularly in a close-knit community like Steamboat Springs."

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