South Routt community celebrates school giving; fund nears $100K mark |

South Routt community celebrates school giving; fund nears $100K mark

Kari Dequine Harden
Steamboat Today

A 100K celebration and fundraiser for the South Routt Education Endowment Fund was held at Circle R in Oak Creek.

OAK CREEK — There is something special about the schools of South Routt, Todd Hagenbuch told the crowd gathered last week at the Circle R in Oak Creek in support of the South Routt Education Endowment Fund.

Hagenbuch, a parent and Routt County agriculture Extension agent, was a featured speaker at the event that brought together a passionate group of educators, parents and community members united in their dedication to the schools.

With only about 400 kids, "it's a community-driven education system," explained Peggy Barnes, a founding member of the endowment fund who taught elementary school in Yampa for 36 years before retiring in 2014. "Input comes in from all facets of the small area we live in."

"I never felt alone in teaching a child," Barnes added. "You always knew the other teachers had your back, the parents had your back, and the administration supported you financially."

Part celebration of the progress made so far, the gathering of South Routt school supporters was also a reminder to keep giving.

"We have less and and less funding from outside sources — from the government," Barnes said. "And as support dwindles from those outside sources, we need to look internally."

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The ultimate goal of the education endowment fund is to reach $1 million, creating a sustainable and long-term source of money for the small district.

Started in 2011, the small but determined group is now very close to reaching the $100,000 fundraising benchmark, and the money raised thus far has been hard-earned through small donations.

"Why do we give?" Hagenbuch asked the group, to which someone quipped, "Because Tim told us too," referring to Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan, a strong and persistent supporter of the fund and the night's emcee.

Hagenbuch stressed the importance of continued giving, and the opportunity to be a part of an everlasting legacy.

Mark Andersen, executive director of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, which manages the fund, talked about the endowment representing both an enduring and successful financial future, and the future of the community in its youth and the education they receive.

Corrigan praised the foundation for its guidance and role in helping the education fund's establishment and continued growth. Thus far, the foundation matched close to $5,000 for the South Routt fund through its Endowment Incentive Program, in which nonprofits can earn an additional 25 cents for every dollar raised.

Eventually, Barnes envisions a source of money that will ensure maintaining things like music, physical education and 4-H, in addition to strong academics.

"There are needs," Barnes stressed.

"We desperately need a new school bus," she said, providing an example of current funding challenges.

Given the small size of the community and thus the tax base, it isn't easy to maintain sufficient and guaranteed public funding, Barnes noted.

But it is also that small, close-knit community that makes South Routt special, she said.

"The community is a family that raises all these kids," Barnes added.