Bill and Marsha Manning are known throughout our mountain communities as an investment advisor/financial planner and doctor of internal medicine, respectively. If you think they allowed their careers to define them, think again. Because of their life experiences as a couple and as individuals, they strive to impart kindness, compassion and empathy in all that they do.

Settling in Evergreen in early 1999, Bill’s life forever changed when he worked with John Ireland prior to establishing Manning Financial Advisors. On April 20, 1999, John’s son, Patrick, was targeted by Columbine High School’s shooters. Patrick was in the school’s library, where most of the fatalities occurred. Shot twice to the head partially paralyzed him. He was also shot in his foot. It took Patrick three hours to drag himself 50-feet across the library floor to a window where SWAT team members were helping victims escape. Videos and photos of Patrick hanging from the window circled the globe. Impacted by this experience as well as Will Allen Dromgoole’s poem, “The Bridge Builder,” forever changed Bill’s life.

“Patrick has become a remarkable man in spite of his horrific experience. His journey, combined with his family’s, deeply impacted me,” Bill explains, and because “The Bridge Builder” resonates deeply with him, he recites, “An old man, going a lone highway, came, at the evening cold and gray, to a chasm, vast and deep and wide.” Bill offers clarity: “The man decides to build a bridge across the chasm and is questioned why. He responds: There followed after me today a youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been as naught to me, to that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be. He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; good friend, I am building this bridge for him! Because of Patrick’s experience and ‘The Bridge Builder,’ I realized the value and purpose of being part of a community. It’s inherent to gather together in good times and in bad, which is why it’s of paramount importance to me to attend middle school and high school activities. It’s also extremely important that each and every student finds their place within the communities of our local schools. I have stood in the hallways of middle schools and high schools watching students go from one class to the next. Cliques are noticeable. There’s laughter, conversation and engagement. What’s also noticeable is what counselors refer to as ‘the isolators,’ kids who aren’t part of the cliques. They walk between classes alone with their heads down and hoodies concealing their faces.”

Kids in any community, and especially our mountain communities, are often faced with a challenging home life…

Because kids who isolate often feel left out, their lack of social connection puts them at risk for bullying, which adds to Bill’s heartfelt choice to become a caring and compassionate presence in our schools. A mission he hopes will be replicated.

As a physician, Marsha (who recently retired) had left a larger medical group to start her own concierge practice, and she reveals, “A concierge practice sees fewer patients in order to dedicate more time to each. As physicians, we understand how vitally important it is to listen, really listen, to each and every patient with genuine interest. I didn’t always have the time to do that, which is why I established my new practice. Having more time allowed me to ask open-ended questions of my patients that helped them to open up. Taking more time with my younger patients enabled them to feel a sense of safety and confidence during our conversations. I didn’t want my patients to tell me they were just ‘okay.’ Having more time also availed me the opportunity to extend additional help. For example, my office manager, Laurie Davis, was sometimes able to drive patients to urgent appointments when they had no other source of transportation. I also cancelled appointments to take patients experiencing emergences to the hospital when they could not find a ride.”

Bill Manning with RYLA Counselors

Bill strongly believes there’s a need to build a rapport with our younger generation, which is why he became a volunteer for Camp Comfort. “It was a heartwarming experience to witness what Camp Comfort does for kids between ages 6 and 12 years old who have lost a parent or sibling. Attending Camp Comfort helps them realize they are not alone in losing a parent. For the past 20 years, I have dedicated myself to working Camp Comfort, Rotary Club of Evergreen, and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). RYLA is an international program that helps kids learn how to build communication and problem-solve, discover strategies to become dynamic leaders, and tap into their potential, to name a few. Marsha and I also support Resilence1220, which offers free, confidential counseling services, as well as group counseling to kids ages 12 to 20.”

Bill’s method of mentoring is something he takes very seriously, and yet his method is quite modest; he simply shows up at school events. “Kids in any community, and especially our mountain communities, are often faced with a challenging home life, and I believe we have a strong obligation to help them. Our community schools’ welcome adults to speak to students regarding their own passion for computers, robotics, music and theater in classroom settings, in addition to attending school concerts, theater or sports events. I am astounded at the level of talent, athleticism and support our schools provide not only for the kids, but also for what I get out of it.”

Marsha fully supports Bill’s volunteerism with youth, and adds, “If this piques anyone’s interest, perhaps you can help start a club as well as serve as a mentor to existing clubs. Schools are interested to hear ideas from the community. Dialoguing with students creates ideas regarding their own futures. Many don’t want to attend colleges or universities after they graduate, and many prefer vocational trades. I enjoy interacting with students because they share their general perspectives with me.”

Laurie Davis, Gail Sharp and Marsha Manning

As a longtime resident and beloved physician, Marsha summarizes her community experiences: “Bill and I have met so many wonderful people and we have greatly enjoyed exploring the many varied and interesting activities and events Evergreen has to offer. It always amazes me how I can pursue a variety of outdoor activities just outside my front door with both new and old friends.”

Bill’s multigenerational connections, sincere love for people of all ages, and encouraging others to follow his example does not go unnoticed. “I’m constantly giving a nudge to people I know and new people I meet to consider how they can invest themselves in our middle and high school communities. There’s an amazing community of teachers and counselors at our middle and high schools who welcome outside support. Our mountain communities are also supported by amazing nonprofit organizations. They not only add purpose to those who work and volunteer in many capacities, they are also sustaining life on many levels to those they serve. I believe it’s important to be both aware and involved. Each of us can make a difference within our communities to create services, unity and cooperation by extending a random act of kindness. It’s just that simple.”