Steamboat Springs John Centner and Bill Keith of Steamboat Motors were among those recognized when the Yampa Valley Community Foundation hosted its fifth annual Celebration of Philanthropy awards dinner at the Lake Catamount Lake House.
Steamboat Motors received the business philanthropist of the year award, just one of several presented during the afternoon. Foundation chairwoman Paula Cooper Black and board member Chris Diamond presented Lyman Orton with the Ed and Jayne Hill individual philanthropist of the year award. Jeff Fowler earned the youth philanthropist of the year award. And Gloria Gossard, who won the original individual philanthropist award, was recognized for continuing to set the standard for community involvement and high character.
Orton has been an advocate of local philanthropy since his arrival in Steamboat Springs in 1990. In addition to making financial contributions, he has lent considerable expertise and support to the goals of making the Yampa Valley a more economically viable and citizen-defined community.
Not coincidentally, he played a significant role in transitioning the Catamount development from one that would have created a major new ski area and the large resort base that would have gone with it, to one of residential estate lots. The dwellings at Catamount are interspersed with open space protected by conservation easements. He referenced the change in his remarks after accepting the award.
"It is what I don't see when I look across this lake that makes me the most proud of our efforts to retain the character of the Yampa Valley," Orton said. "The two ways I utilize the Yampa Valley Community Foundation are in giving to the fund set up in my name, and giving through the foundations to organizations that I believe in, such as the Community Agriculture Alliance."
Orton's business, The Vermont Country Store, supports the Orton Family Foundation, which he founded with Noel Fritzinger in 1995. The foundation's primary goal is assisting rural communities faced with rapid economic, social and environmental change. The Orton Foundation avoids any appearance of influencing policy while providing new planning tools that help communities manage the change they are confronted with.
Steamboat Motors has been in business for six years and early on, Centner and Keith set a philosophical tone of benefiting youth organizations through the business.
"We don't do this for the recognition, we do it for the kids," Centner said. "Steamboat Motors has chosen to focus on our youth because they are our future. Because our community supports our business, we can give back."
The intent is to intervene with local youth before they engage in risky behaviors. Toward that end, Steamboat Motors has supported Partners in Routt County, Routt County 4-H and the county fair. Support is also directed to the Soap Box Derby and local youth baseball and hockey teams.
Centner is particularly involved in 4-H because he believes rural youth are easily overlooked.
Steamboat Motors also plays an active role in the "Christmas in July" and "Christmas Wishes" programs, as well as Toys for Tots, during the holidays.
Fowler was nominated for the award by Sue Birch, Jan Fritz and Dave Schmid. They characterized him as a young man whose "behind-the-scenes" leadership provides an example for others to pitch in. Fowler has focused his efforts on the Winter Sports Club, Search and Rescue and health care. He also devotes considerable time to theater projects at the high school.