GLYI marching into the future

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City Manager Michael Penny reassured the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative on Sept. 13 that the city wouldn’t cut off its funding this year, while encouraging the board to continue exploring ways to become self-sufficient.

“You live in this box of this money,” he said, saying the group shouldn’t be limited to the $100,000 annual bequest.

It was the first meeting without Kay Wilmesher, a city employee who has served as GLYI’s director. She was moved out of the city’s community-development department last year and into the city manager’s office. While GLYI will still be her baby, she has a new charge to create a GLYI-like program focusing on the community’s seniors.

The baby boom generation is getting older, and boomers’ “demand for resources is expected to increase exponentially,” Wilmesher wrote in an email to Colorado Community Media. “In 2003, one in eight residents in the Denver metro area were age 60 or older; by 2030 that number is predicted to be one in four. Between 2010 and 2015, the Denver metro area is expecting a 30 percent increase in this population. The city of Littleton wants to be prepared for this population change by examining existing resources and determining what may be needed in future. Although the focus of my job has now shifted to this senior work, I am still available to provide support to the GLYI in a limited capacity.”

In the meantime, GLYI’s new executive board is ramping up efforts to become independent and hired the Implementation Group to analyze its situation.

“We wanted to find out whether it’s making any difference, or does it just make us feel good,” said Christine Carter of Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network. “We know that short-term, good things happen. But we don’t know as much about what happens long-term, specifically in Littleton.”

So they also called in Philanthropy Expert, a national consulting firm, to take a look at GLYI’s sustainability.

“Usually when I get called in, it’s because something stopped and there’s a crisis,” said Mike Brewer. “You guys are doing it perfectly, assuming that the city’s largesse will not continue in perpetuity.”

He’s advising GLYI to file as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which would allow the group to hire its own administrator and manage its own funds. Up to this point, the group has been run under the auspices of the Denver Foundation, a charitable organization created through gifts from people who care about a particular geographic area.

“Anyone can contribute any amount of money to a community foundation, which invests these gifts for growth and income,” reads its website. “A community foundation then uses that income to make grants that strengthen their community. Community foundations operate in perpetuity, meaning that gifts made to them will continue to grow and provide resources for their own community forever.”

Jim Woods is the outreach coordinator for Littleton Public Schools, a former Littleton city manager and a founding member of GLYI. He explained that in the beginning, the group had a very specific goal that the city’s grant covered.

John Brackney, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, remembers how the community came together in those early days after the Columbine tragedy, full of passion and sorrow and ready to set aside differences.

“Even though it’s human nature to blame, we decided not to point the finger at anybody,” he said when the group first started looking at new options last year. “We decided to focus on what we could agree on.”

Out of those first meetings grew a scientifically based process to identify programs that are verified to be successful in keeping kids safe. Known as “blueprint” programs, they include suicide prevention, early childhood education, nursing services, truancy prevention and more.

Estimates suggest that such programs provide a good return on investment. Functional Family Therapy, for example, can save a community nearly $12 for every $1 spent.

“It’s not just about Johnny and what’s wrong with Johnny and fixing Johnny, it’s working with the whole family,” said Carter.

For the last year, the group has worked toward electing a governing board, looking for grants, updating its bylaws, talking to the city of Centennial about participating, and increasing its visibility in the community.

“We need to show people who may want to contribute financially that we are good stewards of their money,” said Carter.

Wilmesher is confident that the group will soldier on.

“The GLYI continues to do important and valuable work by providing programs and resources to youth, children and families that address numerous health issues,” she writes. “It has always been an effective and unique organization because it has been supported by the city of Littleton, used evidence-based programs and consisted of committed, all-volunteer, collaborative community partners. The GLYI is now undergoing structural change to ensure that this important work can continue far into the future.”

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