EATON – In the late stages of its 2001-2002 fundraising campaign, the prospects for the United Way of Weld County were looking grim.
The charitable agency was nearly $400,000 short of its goal with less than a month before the deadline. Many would-be donors were apparently tapped out after giving money to help with the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the stock market was in decline, putting extra pressure on the potential pool charitable funds.
That’s when the Monfort Family Foundation came into the picture, cutting a check for $350,000 to put the United Way within reach of its goal.
In ensuing years, the foundation has added gifts of $400,000 each year to the United Way, one of a growing list of causes to benefit from the family which is synonymous with Weld County’s status as an agribusiness powerhouse.
“They are very generous to United Way,´ said Jeannine Truswell, executive director of the United Way of Weld County. “If you look at the last 10 years, it would be millions.”
United Way is one of the Monfort Family Foundation’s regular beneficiaries – Foundation trustees Dick Monfort, Kay (Monfort) Ward and Kyle (Monfort) Futo have all served on the United Way’s board of directors at various times.
“Not only is it a family foundation, but they individually have all lent their leadership,” Truswell said. Still, it’s just one of a long list of grantees that includes causes such as the American Cancer Society, Colorado 4-H, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, North Colorado Medical Center Foundation, the Special Olympics, the University of Northern Colorado and the Weld Food Bank.
Major gifts announced in recent years include:
n The Children’s Hospital, Denver, $10 million.
n University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, $5 million.
n The University of Northern Colorado Monfort College of Business, Greeley, $10.5 million.
n Colorado State University Monfort Professor Program, Fort Collins, $2.5 million.
The foundation was started in 1970 by Warren and Edith Monfort, whose grandchildren now oversee the organization.
“Until ’87, it was just focused on Weld County,´ said Dick Monfort.
In 1987, when ConAgra Foods Inc. acquired the Monfort Inc. meatpacking business, the proceeds from the sale boosted the value of the foundation. The foundation’s assets doubled again in size in 2001 when the late Ken Monfort passed away, leaving a large gift from his will.
“The foundation was really started by my grandparents to help the community,´ said Dick Monfort, who runs the foundation with his brother Charlie, sisters Kay and Kyle, and Ken’s widow Myra Monfort.
In the mid 1990s, the foundation – which counts assets of about $40 million – started issuing large-scale grants for regional institutions, including Colorado State University, the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and, most recently, Children’s Hospital in Denver.
In September the Monforts announced a $10 million donation to the Denver-based hospital to be parceled out over a number of years.
The latter gift also reflects the central mission of the foundation’s giving – children.
“We want to help children who have had a tough blow in life, who are not as fortunate as we have been,” Dick Monfort said.
Collectively, Dick and his siblings have 15 children of their own, which has helped to influence the foundation’s focus on children.
“We’re very fortunate we have children who are healthy,” he said.
The Monfort Children’s Clinic in Greeley, which opened in 1995, stands as the most enduring local symbol of the foundation’s emphasis on children’s issues.
“They care so much about this area and its families and children,” Truswell said. “I think they recognize the future of children is so important. They have just reached out so much
The foundation’s ongoing goal is to distribute at least $2 million a year in gifts, Dick Monfort said.
While he declined to disclose a full list of recipients and their grants, the foundation has announced about $25.5 million in total gifts to about 200 agencies in the last five years.