Nonprofit Sabbatical Program Cycle Three Grantees

The Colorado Health Foundation selected four outstanding nonprofit leaders to participate in the third cycle of the Nonprofit Sabbatical Program. Incepted in 2019, this program awards Colorado nonprofit executives with a three-to-four month sabbatical, while offering charitable funding to help strengthen the organization they lead.

We are excited to recognize these four exceptional grantees for the third cycle of our program.

Mariel Balbuena follows her passion for early childhood, advocacy and equity as the executive director of the La Plata Family Centers Coalition (LPFCC) – a community-based organization delivering high-quality human services in rural Southwest Colorado. An average of 130 families are served each week through programs such as the Family Support Services, Colorado Community Response and Colorado Fatherhood Program. LPFCC provides emergency assistance, culturally appropriate food distribution, interpretation/translation services, as well as resource networking and navigation. Mariel has worked diligently to enhance the overall sustainability of all programs and services of the Center and to build up ongoing leadership capacity for advocates, parent leaders and community members. Aside from her duties as executive director, Mariel takes pride in providing direct service outreach to monolingual Spanish-speaking families and participants enrolled in programs such as Family Support Services and Parents As Teachers.

"Contributing to purposeful positive change, while being informed by those we are privileged to serve every day has been an eye-opening experience. I am excited to further instill equity principles within our organization and communities as we grow better harvests for coming generations. I am grateful for this gift from The Colorado Health Foundation, which will infuse energy into myself and my team so that we may continue to be at the service of others."

Kraig Burleson joined Inner City Health Center as chief financial officer in 1994, and assumed the chief executive officer role in 2001. Under his tenure, the Health Center has experienced continued growth, advancements and earned multiple awards. Kraig orchestrated the Health Center’s move from its 25-year home to a new facility, which nearly doubled the health center’s capacity. In 2018, Kraig led the organization’s designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike and the acquisition of a satellite clinic, Wheat Ridge Family Health Center, solidifying the Health Center’s role as a valuable regional health care provider dedicated to underserved people and communities. Kraig serves on numerous boards and committees, the majority of which are devoted to increasing equity and access to quality health care for the uninsured, underinsured and/or underserved in Colorado. Among his recognitions, is the Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree bestowed by American Pathways University in 2011. Rev. Burleson is also the pastor of Loving Saints Christian Fellowship in Denver.

"Rarely has my appetite for new adventure been so whetted as it has by being named a 2022 sabbatical grantee. The opportunity for my mind to freely wander in exploring possibilities for rest, revitalization, travel and discovery is truly a unique privilege. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta Platforms, said: "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on." This is me getting on!"

Lance Cheslock is the executive director of La Puente, a nonprofit that addresses the impacts of poverty throughout Colorado’s rural San Luis Valley. La Puente, known for its ability to innovate and respond to emergent community crises, provides a safety net of services where people and families get what they need to stabilize, heal, strengthen and, ultimately, thrive. Lance is also the founder and developer of La Puente Enterprises, a social enterprise consortium of four main street businesses, providing earned income for its’ sister organizations. Through the years, Lance has brought his voice to growing epidemic of rural housing issues in both the state and national levels. He authored and spearheaded passage of HB22-1083, The Colorado Homeless Contribution Income Tax Credit, an initiative that will assist unhoused service providers statewide build organizational sustainability through civic engagement.

"I believe that we stop growing if we don’t make the time to divert our lives to deeply engage our core questions, both individually and organizationally. I am grateful for the extraordinary opportunity this sabbatical presents to re-energize and expand my spirit, and then step back into my relationships and community with fresh vision, strengthened values and sharpened commitment."

Kenneth D. Crowley Sr. is the chief executive officer of The Crowley Foundation established in 2009. The Crowley Foundation’s activities, programs, relationships and goals are grounded in building strong emotional, intellectual and social skills that support youth success. Its initial focus was awarding scholarships to graduating high school students to pursue a higher education. Through conversations with his family, the Foundation developed college preparatory programs and the popular "boys2MEN" program to mentor young men. Kenneth is a supporter of President Obama’s initiative My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), and an inductee in Denver’s MBK25 inaugural class of 2016. He is also an alumni of The Denver Metro Chamber’s flagship program, Leadership Denver Class of 2015. The HadaNõu Collective has recently been an intricate part in his development as a nonprofit leader. While he has received multiple awards, been featured in several articles and interviewed for news stories, he remains humble and grateful for the opportunity to serve in the spirit of excellence.

"This program will allow me the time and space to reconnect and continue my healing journey. As I reflect on social equity, social capital and even human capital, I know this is the right time to partner with the Foundation as we create sustainable practices around civic engagement. We are extremely honored, and will continue to create capacity and strategy around the systems which plague our community."

The annual Nonprofit Sabbatical Program was designed to provide respite to Colorado-based nonprofit executive directors so they may return to the office with fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to their work. In addition to providing support for sabbatical activities, the program includes charitable funding to support staff capacity building needs and to reward interim leaders who can help strengthen the leadership bench during the sabbatical period. The program also includes a one-month executive-in-residence at The Colorado Health Foundation as a collaborative learning opportunity between the sabbatical grantee and Foundation staff.

"These four superstar leaders are making waves in addressing critical barriers for the people and communities they serve," said Foundation President and CEO Karen McNeil-Miller. "Their work couldn’t be more important, and we couldn’t be more excited to offer the opportunity for necessary rest to refuel them for their next chapter."

Learn more about the program. Applications for cycle four open late summer.

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