Living in unincorporated Jefferson County frequently leads to the question, “Who is responsible for (fill-in-the-blank)?” Without a municipal government to point to, sometimes the answer is a confusing mishmash of agencies, but more often than not, the answer is a group of volunteers who have stepped up to address whatever that “blank” is. The Evergreen area is fortunate to be blessed with a plethora of nonprofits and motivated volunteers who care deeply about this community, but for new and longtime residents or business owners who would like to join in, all those options can make it difficult to know where to start.
Luckily, some forward-thinking folks created Leadership Evergreen as a sort of Evergreen 101. After participating in a leadership program in 1993 through the Colorado Chamber, Linda Kirkpatrick and Andy Petrick saw an opportunity to bring that experience to the wider community, giving current and future leaders the opportunity to learn how things work and find the right fit for their skills and interests. They assembled an executive team to develop the curriculum and the first class began in January 1996.
The program teaches participants about local government, special districts and the organizations that make things happen by filling gaps and solving problems. Classes, or modules as they are often called, are held once each month and topics include leadership skills, nonprofit and community participation, natural resources, recreation and environment, public and community services, healthcare, and economic development.
An important aspect of Leadership Evergreen is that it brings together people from all walks of life who want to give back. Influential business leaders, homemakers, small business owners, newcomers and natives, people who are great at taking charge and worker bees who just love to help out have all found a place in the organization and the community.
“It’s a great way to meet people, make strong personal and professional connections and create lasting friendships,” said John Ellis. John was born and raised in Evergreen. He has a deep love for his hometown and has been involved with several local organizations over the years including Leadership Evergreen, where he currently serves on the advisory committee.
Janice Kaup, board member and graduate of the Leadership Evergreen Class of 2017 said, “I learned so much. It’s been a cool experience, and being relatively new to Evergreen, I was very honored to be asked to be on the board.”
Longtime Evergreen resident, volunteer and graduate of the Leadership Evergreen class of 2009 Peggy Eggers shared her thoughts on the program this way: “For anyone interested in learning about our mountain community—the history, governance and decision-making process, the services and resources available, and how to make a difference—Leadership Evergreen is for you. This wonderful organization taught me what it takes to lead, how our community works, and gave me the tools to serve it more effectively.”
It’s one thing to learn something and be sent on your way. It’s another thing to be given the chance to use what you’ve learned and accomplish something right out of the gate. The program’s hands-on education happens over the course of one year, and during the following year, the class executes a project to benefit the community. Classes do one or more projects depending on the time and scope. Some examples include:
—Awareness campaign for Smart 911 and help for community members to register for Code RED, two vital emergency notification systems.
—Interpretive signs with environmental and geographic information placed at Evergreen Lake.
—Guinness World’s Record for the longest picnic table. Proceeds went to four area food banks.
—Two fire awareness (Smokey Bear) signs designed and installed on Evergreen Parkway and on HWY 285.
—“Keep the Green in Evergreen” water filling station in downtown Evergreen. (Installation was delayed due to COVID-19.)
Lisa Austin, Leadership Evergreen Class of 1999, has served as president and is now on the advisory board. She learned about the program through her employer, and while she paid for the class herself, she acknowledged that some employers will pay for a staff member to participate because they see the value in that. “From the first day, I was hooked. I loved the program and learned so much. The modules cover all areas of how to have a successful community in unincorporated JeffCo,” she said. “I encourage anyone with an interest in being part of this community and learning how to effect change to participate in this great program. Through my years of involvement with Leadership Evergreen, I have met so many people who have become lifelong friends.”
A new class is chosen every other year with the next class starting April 2021. Applications are due by October 30 and can be found, along with all the program details, at leadershipevergreen.org.