Sopris 100 Who Care Makes Giving Personal and Practical

Marilyn Murphy was nervous about giving a “pitch” to Sopris 100 Who Care. She had been board president for Carbondale’s nonprofit newspaper, the Sopris Sun, for only about a year and didn’t feel all that confident about leading a fundraising effort. But the paper was in a tough spot, paying overlapping wages while replacing two of three staffers and needing funds to replace aging computers and software. So in May 2018, Murphy gave it a go.

The evening’s design was simple. Nearly 100 women gathered for an hour and a half. Each contributed $100 cash or a blank check, plus $15 cash for drinks and appetizers. Each had been invited to nominate a worthy cause: a nonprofit, an individual, or any do-gooder group, as long as it wasn’t political or religious.

Those who made nominations had to be prepared to “pitch” their candidate.

Murphy, who had been working as a substitute teacher that day, had time to write a pitch. During the social part of the evening, she had the opportunity to tell others why she was there. That upped the odds because others wrote the Sopris Sun’s name on nominations they dropped into the fishbowl.

Toward the end of every Sopris 100 event, three causes are drawn from a bowl, and whoever nominated the cause gets about two minutes to explain it. There’s a short question-and-answer session, then a secret vote.

That evening, Murphy walked away with $8,400.

The woman responsible for the Sopris Sun’s windfall, the third of four awards given by the Sopris 100 Who Care, is Bonnie Cretti. In addition to giving out bread in its green, folding form, Cretti bakes bread and delivers it weekly to customers in Carbondale. She’s also a mentor with Roaring Fork PreCollegiate, a nonprofit that prepares students to attend college. Many locals know Cretti. Before retiring from a 27-year career at Roaring Fork High, she taught social studies to some 2,100 students.

When Cretti first heard about the 100 Who Care concept, she was concerned about the fraying social fabric in the U.S. It was just after the 2016 election and the “county was so divided,” she recalls. At the time, Cretti’s sister-in-law was involved with a 100 Who Care group in Montrose. She was “brimming over, just full of it.”

When Cretti dove into the details—there’s a national group at 100WhoCareAlliance.org—she learned that there are currently more than 600 chapters worldwide and at least six in Colorado. The design was sweet, simple, and solidly based in community.

Cretti thought, “This is so Carbondale.” She soon gathered a board of six women—not coincidentally, Bonnie’s friends. In January 2018 they held their first event, raising over $10,000 for a new nonprofit, The Freedom Center. Created to assist mothers and their families affected by addiction, The Freedom Center is modeled on an outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment program started in Denver by Laurence Freedom in 2000.

By May, the group gave its second gift to the Sopris Sun. Then in September 2018, they donated $9,000 to the Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork School District.

The group’s most recent award benefited a new suicide prevention program called Patrick’s Place. Started by Temple Glassier and named after her son Patrick Palardy, a Basalt High School freshman who committed suicide, the Patrick’s Place drop-in center was created in partnership with Stepping Stones. It provides mentoring and suicide prevention services to mid-valley youth and families.

The swift, simple design of Sopris 100’s giving fills a gap for start-ups, like The Freedom Center and Patrick’s Place, organizations that don’t have grant writers and haven’t developed the 501(c)(3) legal status required for foundation support. Even more established nonprofits like the Sopris Sun struggle with tiny staffs, usually employees who lack health care and vacation benefits, and they can be toppled by unexpected equipment expenses or turnover among staff or board members—all of whom are at risk of burnout.

Having lived in Carbondale for decades, Sopris 100 founder Cretti thought she knew everyone. It’s a small town, made up of segments of closely-connected people, “but segments that don’t necessarily cross-connect,” she says. The first event was attended mostly by middle-aged women, Bonnie’s friends or friends-of-friends. But each event has grown, providing Cretti and her board with “a wonderful way to understand how diverse Carbondale is.” She says it’s like Venn diagrams that are starting to overlap. “We keep getting to meet people we don’t know. Last time, lots of young people were among the 105 who showed up.”

New supporters have also appeared. As the fourth event in February 2019 approached, the group’s venue, Pan and Fork restaurant, was sold. Realtor Brian Leasure stepped in and donated space at the River Valley Ranch barn. Chef Philip Kendzior prepared the food.

Marilyn Murphy, the Sopris Sun’s board president, joined Sopris 100’s board. “I didn’t go that evening with a plan about how this would all work out,” she recalls. “But it was all such fun. Such a direct way of giving. You just get your 100 bucks, show up and hand over the cash. No paperwork. Sweet, simple, and fun.”

“We couldn’t maintain the momentum if we didn’t keep it simple,” Cretti adds. By design, Sopris 100 Who Care doesn’t have a bank account, and although Cretti and other organizers still feel pre-event jitters, “it’s so streamlined we don’t get burned out.”

If you’d like to add to the momentum, connect with Sopris 100 Who Care on Facebook, call 970.309.1901, or email Sopris100WhoCare@gmail.com.