Steamboat Springs When Libby Foster was tapped to lead a nonprofit in Steamboat Springs six years ago, she moved into her new office with a tube of ChapStick and a lot of questions.
“At first, it was overwhelming,” the director of Partners in Routt County said Thursday. “I didn’t know where to begin. There was so much I had to learn.”
She had a budget to oversee and a staff to manage for the organization that pairs local school children with mentors. To learn the ropes, Foster said, she reached out to mentors of her own, including the leaders of neighboring nonprofits such as the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
“Slowly but surely, I got rolling and learned about writing and balancing a budget and donor cultivation,” Foster said.
Since Foster took the reins at Partners, the nonprofit’s school-based mentor program and budget has doubled. New funding sources have been secured, and additional staff members hired.
On Thursday, Foster was preparing to step away from it all.
Friday was Foster’s last day at the head of Partners. The mother said she is leaving to spend more time on the home front with her 1 1/2-year-old son.
But she doesn’t think she’ll be able to stay away from youth services for too long.
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made in my lifetime because this is such a special organization and there are so many people in my Partners world,” she said. “To leave this is not something I’m looking forward to. Hopefully, I will stay connected. I don’t foresee myself out of this youth-services scene for too long. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am.”
She will be replaced by Michelle Petix, formerly a juvenile diversion coordinator for the Routt County District Attorney’s Office and one of the founding members of Partners.
Foster is leaving Partners at a time of growth for the nonprofit.
A $37,500 grant from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board will allow Partners’ school-based mentors
program to expand into Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools in the fall. The program currently serves the middle school campuses in Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat.
“We’re hopeful to grow this program even further if this pilot in the elementary schools is successful,” Foster said. “We believe that the younger these kids get paired with a mentor, the better.”
The program pairs at-risk students with AmeriCorps volunteers who mentor the children by socializing with them and helping with schoolwork.
“These kids are so receptive to these relationships. They look forward to spending time with their mentors,” Foster said.
They talk about life, the future, school and troubles at home, Foster said, adding that both sides of the mentorship gain something valuable from the relationship.
Partners also operates a one-to-one community mentoring program for youth ages 6-17 in Routt County. Foster said the program currently has about 30 students on the wait list, 25 of them boys who are waiting to be paired with a partner. Together, Partners mentoring programs serve about 400 kids per year.
Mulling over thick stacks of paperwork Thursday, Foster and her replacement were finishing each other’s sentences as they discussed job responsibilities.
Both women said they are excited for the transition.
“I did backflips when they offered me this job,” Petix said. “I was over the moon for sure.”
Petrix served on the committee that founded Partners in 1996. She has served on the nonprofit’s board of directors and also has worked with several youth service groups in Steamboat.
“I’m inheriting a very healthy organization,” Petix said. “Libby gives a lot. People really know that she knows her stuff. She knows what she’s talking about when she talks about mentoring. I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com