From Gillian and Mike Morris’s perspective, being members of this community means giving back however you can. Gillian says, “Everyone has something to give. We each have the power to change the world by one small, kind gesture or act at a time. We just want to do our part.” They have certainly done their part and inspired others to do the same. That is why they are being honored as the 2021 Individual Philanthropists of the Year.
Mike and Gillian continually go above and beyond the bar and support so many facets of the Yampa Valley community. They have sponsored scholarships for graduating seniors in memory of Mike’s best friend and founder of their company, Derik; sponsored a local family who were financially struggling through COVID; supported IMPACT100; sponsored a night of Family Bowl dinner providing free meals to community members during the pandemic; hosted an exchange student; Michael served as Chairman of the Board for the Montessori School; Gillian served as President of Steamboat Springs Rotary Club; participated in the United Way Day of Caring and a Highway Cleanup Day; and they are proud to have supported several local nonprofits through donations and volunteer time including Yampatika, Advocates/Brighter World Child Advocacy Center, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, Steamboat Soccer Club, and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, just to name a few.
One of the things they are most proud to have created and been a part of is “Thankuary.” Inspired by a conversation with Dr. Brian Harrington at the beginning of the shutdown due to the pandemic, Gillian realized that we need to make sure people in all aspects of our lives know that they are appreciated, and she decided to spearhead this effort. The concept was to thank someone in your life every day in January. They put together the cards and even a daily calendar of “who to thank” in case someone needed inspiration – a teacher, nurse, mail carrier, neighbor, a banker, a child, or a liftie. The result was a ripple effect of kindness that spread through the community and inspired people to reach out and volunteer their time, show their gratitude, become more involved with an organization or cause, or make a donation. This is the type of inspiration and creative thinking that drives philanthropy in a community, especially a small one like Steamboat. For Gillian, “sharing gratitude is one way to become consciously aware of those small connections that create meaning in our lives.”
When asked what they are most proud of in their philanthropy, Mike says that it’s simply being part of this community. “Our valley is full of the most passionate people doing amazing things. We take a lot of pride in helping advance the mission of these great organizations led by incredible men and women, who are creating positive impact and supporting the needs of our community. We just feel grateful that we are able to help in some way. It might be a donation, it might be volunteering our time or donating supplies. However we can help, we feel compelled to do so.”
Gillian echoes this sentiment, sharing, “Nothing that we do is ‘ours’ – we just show up and participate to do our part in helping support the efforts of others who inspire us. The other thing that we love about this community is that when you contribute time or energy or money, you can see first-hand the effects of that effort. It is very tangible and in that way, very rewarding.”
Like most people in Steamboat, Gillian and Mike have very full, busy lives. They run their own business and are parents to two children. Giving back and being of service through volunteering is a top priority in their lives. “Giving is what fills our cup, so even though we have lots going on in our life and nobody has enough time, contributing to our community is what energizes us. We find time for it because it is a priority. We rank it really high on our list.”
“Relationships and community are really important to us. Philanthropy is the culmination of these things. We are humbled and honored to be recognized for something that means so much to us.”