So Susan LaHoda, Executive Director of the Imagine! Foundation, has taken it upon herself to write up a couple of stories of folks who have stories that simply cannot be ignored. In that spirit, please enjoy the story below about Leona Stoecker, who is an Imagine! supporter extraordinaire. The story also provides some insight into the fantastic support Imagine! has throughout the communites we serve. That support is vital to our success.
About six years after the Imagine! Foundation was founded by Boulder entrepreneur Bob Charles, the Foundation board was feeling that it needed to expand its fundraising and awareness in Longmont, where Imagine! served nearly 1,000 individuals but was still relatively unknown. Much research and discussion with Longmont residents led the board to believe that Leona Stoecker, former mayor of Longmont, would be the key. Foundation board members met with Leona in January, 2007, and she attended the Imagine! Celebration event later that month, followed by a board meeting in March. She was immediately enthusiastic and truly moved by the work Imagine! does in the community. The Imagine! Foundation signed her up then and there, and she jumped right in!
Leona has gone above and beyond even the Foundation’s greatest hopes in bringing the Imagine! message to Longmont. She has spoken to every local Rotary Club, the Philanthropic Educational Organization, grandparent groups of children with developmental disabilities, and many other community organizations. She has talked with senior management and reporters at the Longmont Times-Call and has been able to interest them in developing many stories about Imagine! and its services and clients. She has also invited a large number of people to the Imagine! Celebration, has secured auction items for the event, and has even donated her famous “Year of Baked Bread” (which has sold for up to $2,500!). In her fundraising role, Leona has developed a Prospect List of 172 names of individuals and businesses whom she wants to educate about Imagine! and offer the opportunity to support our organization and the individuals we serve. This is by far the largest Prospect List of any board member. She has contacted all of these prospects personally and has been highly effective in generating community support.
Within two years of joining the board of directors, Leona rose to the role of president where her leadership style was to listen, to be accessible, to share her passion, and to propose thoughtful suggestions for improving the organization. She took the board through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, and acted on the results by engaging board members in small break-out sessions at meetings, bringing in outside fundraising specialists, having Imagine! staff members present client stories at every board meeting, involving every board member in the nominating process for new members, and developing new tools, such as “Elevator Speeches” and tri-fold business-sized cards to hand to people to help board members tell the Imagine! story. She also oversaw the first-ever survey of the Imagine! Celebration in order to strengthen the event’s outreach and success. Thanks to her talent and tireless efforts, the Foundation as an organization is stronger for her efforts.
Leona has also been particularly effective in acquainting Longmont individuals with Imagine!’s SmartHomes Project. She was even instrumental in persuading the Charles Family to name a second SmartHome. As Bob Charles conceded, “Leona is hard to say no to!” Leona has developed a very personal relationship with the Charles Family SmartHome residents and staff. She often rides her bike over to the SmartHome with home baked cookies to share, and when she heard that the Charles Family SmartHome needed a dining room table, she found a beautiful table top at a consignment store, got it donated for free, and then found someone to make the table legs! Because of the deep connection she has, she has played an integral part in both getting the word out and raising funds for the Longmont home. A perfect example is the day she spent at the Charity Hole of the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce’s Commerce Cup Golf Tournament in 2009. As each cart rolled up to the hole – for five hours straight – Leona greeted each foursome with a brochure and a story about Imagine! and the Charles Family SmartHome. Because almost every person already knew and respected Leona, she was able to gently but enthusiastically encourage each person’s support. That event and countless other meetings with potential donors, talks to groups, and scores of SmartHome tours that she has set up, accompanied, and often led have resulted in critical funding being raised – even in a very tight economy. Thanks in great measure to her efforts, more than $1,166,000 has been secured for the Longmont SmartHome to date.
Leona has had a pervasive impact on Imagine!, the Imagine! Foundation, and the clients Imagine! serves, but she is not finished yet! Even though she recently completed her six-year term on the board, she asked if she could continue engaging people from her giant Prospect List! Therefore, the Imagine! Foundation board of directors awarded her Emeritus status at its June Annual Meeting (an honor not extended since the Foundation granted it to the original five board member) and rejoices in the knowledge that she will continue to answer the needs of our clients, improve our organization, and instill the passion she carries for Imagine! in others.
Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!