When Russ and Carol Atha moved to the Yampa Valley in the early 1970s, they became involved with several nonprofit organizations as a way to get to know the community and meet people from different lifestyles outside their peer group. Since then, their commitment to the Yampa Valley has remained the same, and with the growth in the nonprofit sector, their generosity has grown incrementally.
Over the many years, Russ and Carol have provided support by serving on numerous nonprofit boards, rolling up their sleeves to volunteer and providing much needed financial assistance. From their early involvement with Russ around the table when the Yampa Valley Land Trust was formed and Carol working with Perry Mansfield where she got to know Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield, they have diligently continued giving back to the community. Their involvement has been broad and varied from the Steamboat Arts Council to the Community Agriculture Alliance to the Literary Sojourn to Integrated Community to taking photos for 4-H at the County Fair and, of course, all causes outdoors like the Yampa River Botanic Park and Yampatika.
When asked to name the organizations they have supported over the previous four and a half decades, Carol responded, “There are too many to count, we do not want to leave anyone out!” In fact, if you take a look at any published list of supporters of local organizations, you are most likely to see their names on that list.
For Russ and Carol, their philanthropy is just a fact of life. They credit their families and upbringing for instilling the values of giving back to the community. It is something you just do. They believe that being intertwined with the texture and the fabric of the community, people can have an impact and keep what is important to them. Their contributions allow them to expand their network of friends and colleagues and truly benefit from being in the Yampa Valley.
Accepting this award is a difficult and uncomfortable experience for Russ and Carol. Everyone who knows them understands that Russ and Carol go quietly about making our community better and seek no fanfare, but rather see the value of their philanthropic efforts through the positive effects seen across the Yampa Valley. As summarized in one of their many nominations, “Their humble and unassuming presence belies a commitment to a variety of organizations and to the Valley. Carol and Russ do not ask for recognition, they just want to make the Yampa Valley a great place to live and to preserve the places and institutions that make our community special and unique.”