Steamboat Springs Sara Craig-Scheckman learned at a young age she had a knack for making a difference.
Craig-Scheckman, who today leads the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, was a 15-year-old high school student in the Los Angeles area when she had the opportunity to volunteer for a semester at a center that helped children with Down syndrome. The nature of the job took its toll on the staff members at the center, Craig-Scheckman said, and she wrote about it in the journal she was required to keep for the class. At the end of the class, she was asked to type up her journal and give her observations to the center’s director. After reading the journal containing the observations, the director went on to implement sweeping changes that increased staff training and helped keep staff members from burning out.
“I walked away from that realizing I had an impact on some real, positive changes,” Craig-Scheckman said Wednesday at her foundation’s office in The Olympian building at Fifth and Yampa streets.
Since the experience at the Down syndrome center, Craig-Scheckman earned her law degree and has committed herself to working in various aspects of youth advocacy. She went on to marry Michael Craig-Scheckman, a physics scholar from New York who was working on his doctorate but decided to instead embark on a career in finance that would prove to be very successful.
Sara Craig-Scheckman had grown up vacationing in Steamboat Springs with her family, and the couple decided to build a vacation home here. It turned into their full-time home when they escaped the bustle of New York and moved to Steamboat in 2003. Michael Craig-Scheckman founded Steamboat-based Deer Park Road Corp. investment firm.
In 2005, the Craig-Scheckmans founded their foundation, which recently surpassed $1 million in contributions to community organizations. The foundation also recently announced that its Youth Advocacy Project for Routt County now would be giving away $300,000 in grants annually instead of $175,000.
“The announcement that they can put more into the community for youth services is significant news,” Routt County United Way Executive Director Kelly Stanford said.
Every year, Stanford said United Way receives about $500,000 in requests but has been able to fund only $360,000 to $385,000. The additional $125,000 annually from the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation will go a long way in helping youth organizations, Stanford said.
The Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation is going into its eighth year and was launched with $2 million of the Craig-Scheckman family’s money. The family has covered much of the overhead of the foundation to help it quickly grow. Today, in addition to Sara Craig-Scheckman, the foundation has two full-time employees, and its assets have grown to $4.5 million. Returns on the investments are used to fund the annual giving.
“We try to run it so we can give a little more than 5 percent,” said Michael Craig-Scheckman, who is the foundation’s finance director.
Sara Craig-Scheckman said it is her vision that the foundation’s annual giving reaches $500,000.
For now, the foundation will continue to give $25,000 to three local organizations annually. Previously, $50,000 also had been given out two times each year, but that dollar amount has been increased to two $100,000 grants. The foundation also has added an additional $25,000 annually in discretionary funds.
The money has been given to dozens of schools, nonprofit organizations and government agencies that provide services to special needs, at-risk and low-income youths.
“We feel so fortunate to live in a place like Routt County, and people really genuinely care about these issues in Routt County,” Craig-Scheckman said. “We don’t like to toot our own horn. This is our pleasure to do this work."
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com