VNA earns top honors

Organization takes first place in its category at El Pomar awards banquet

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— The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association won a prestigious Award for Excellence from the El Pomar Foundation Wednesday night.

The honor was presented at the Awards for Excellence Banquet at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs attended by more than 1,000 people. The VNA, which won top honors in the large health-care agency category, was one of 11 nonprofits from around the state to receive awards.

Each of the award winners receives a $15,000 contribution from El Pomar.

"What a tribute to all the caregivers in our agency for all the care and service they provide to individuals and families in our community," said Sue Birch, executive director of the VNA.

"It's a wonderful honor. This is a tremendous experience for nonprofits. It's nice to be recognized at this level for the hard work we all put in."

Susan Bowler, public health nurse manager for the VNA, and Rhonda George, president of the VNA board of directors, joined Birch at the banquet.

VNA provides public health, home health and hospice services to mothers, children and the elderly in Routt and Moffat counties. The agency was honored for being a leader in community health and for being a model of comprehensive practical approaches to health education, promotion and delivery of services.

Birch said the organization will use the $15,000 prize to maintain service levels in the face of federal funding cuts.

The Awards for Excellence program was established in 1989 to recognize and reward outstanding nonprofit organizations in Colorado. The awards pay tribute to Spencer and Julie Penrose's commitment to nonprofits.

The Awards for Excellence Selection Commission, a panel of prominent Colorado residents, named three finalists in each of the 11 categories.

Two other area nonprofits were represented at the banquet as finalists. Strings in the Mountains Festival of Music was a finalist in the Arts and Humanities category, while the Tribal Conservation Corps, a program of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, was a finalist in the Environment category.

Finalists receive $5,000 each.

Betse Grassby, Strings executive director, and Kay Clagett, president of the Strings board, attended Wednesday's banquet. Representing the Tribal Conservation Corps were Angie Krall, director of the program, and Gretchen Van De Carr, director of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

Strings in the Mountains is one of the leading music festivals in the country, attracting renowned artists to Steamboat Springs for concerts and educational programs.

The Tribal Conservation Corps employs indigenous youth from the Northern Ute, Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone tribes in projects that foster appreciation for the environment, their ancestral lands and themselves.

Steamboat Springs area agencies are not strangers to the El Pomar awards. Strings in the Mountains received an Award for Excellence in 1995 and was a finalist in 2001. VNA was also a finalist in 2001.

The Haven, Horizons Specialized Services and Steamboat Springs Health Care Association represented Routt County on the winners' stand last year. In addition to VNA and Strings, the Yampa Valley Land Trust was a finalist in 2001.

In all, more than 300 organizations in 90 communities in the state have received more than $2 million through the Awards for Excellence program.

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