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Laura Long, the "beerocrat" for Bristol Brewing Co., remembers the first time that she heard about the Independent's Give! campaign.

It was probably late 2008, she says, and she was sitting with her boss, Mike Bristol, in the tasting room of the brewery, watching Indy publisher John Weiss madly tracing out his vision for a new fundraising effort.

"There was lots of red ink, and scribbles and circles and arrows, and tangents, and big, huge ideas," she says. "It was so exciting."

Since its inception in 2009, Give! has been a volunteer-based effort of this paper.

"Anybody on the staff that was involved in it was taking it on over and beyond their current duties," says Carrie Simison-Bitz, Give! co-chair and now the Indy's general manager. "Our time was volunteered to the Give! campaign on behalf of the paper. ... But now it's gotten so big that we finally need to staff it with paid people."

Which is where Long comes back in. She has been involved with the campaign from the start, working to partner Bristol in providing rewards to contributors, like in-home beer tastings.

She has also served on the advisory board and executive committee. And starting May 16, she will come on as part-time Give! coordinator.

She will be joining Mary Lou Makepeace, the former Colorado Springs mayor, activist and executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, who accepted a community outreach position and has been working part-time since March.

"Both women bring incredible networks," says Simison-Bitz. "They bring so many people, and a passion for the community."

Give! aims to promote and support Pikes Peak region nonprofits. It is set up as an end-of-year fundraising campaign, but Simison-Bitz says that considering everything else it does — from helping nonprofits craft their message for media to holding community events — "it is so much more than that."

The campaign aims to inspire people, mostly young adults in their 20s and 30s, to begin seeing themselves as philanthropists. And businesses like Bristol help to make this idea attractive, by offering rewards for donations.

"While giving is and should be its own reward, we want to break you in easily. We want you to know that you don't have to be rich," Simison-Bitz says. "We're trying to entice people, by saying, 'This is fun. Get to know these nonprofits. We want to offer you a reward.' And thankfully we have a fantastic local community of business folks and individuals who are willing to donate their products or their time."

A couple weeks ago, Mayor Steve Bach hosted a hike with the mayor through Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Simison-Bitz points out. Fifty donors participated, then went to The Broadmoor for drinks and snacks.

"One of the ideas of Give! is to get people to experience the cool things in Colorado Springs," adds Weiss, whether it's taking part in a bird-banding clinic in Chico Basin Ranch, or embarking on a koi pond tour.

Last year, Give! raised almost $700,000 cumulatively for 49 Pikes Peak area nonprofits.

chet@csindy.com

  • Two prominent local women join the Indy's fundraising campaign.

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