Foundation to focus on housing needs

Robert Bray
Robert Bray
Lynn Thompson
Lynn Thompson
Anne Wenzel
Anne Wenzel

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A Western Colorado company that sells houses has established a foundation to help fund programs and projects that address housing-related needs.

While Bray Real Estate long has contributed to a variety of philanthropic causes, the Bray Cares Foundation will increase and focus those efforts, said Robert Bray, chief executive officer. “We wanted to raise the bar a little bit.”

Lynn Thompson, president of Bray Real Estate, said the money and time the company and its agents give to organizations is significant. “It’s a huge resource to this community.”

Anne Wenzel, executive director of the Western Colorado Community Foundation that will manage the fund, said the effort is needed. “How wonderful and appropriate for them to give back to agencies in the community who help those who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.”

Bray said he’d been thinking for several years about the possibility of creating a foundation to take the company’s philanthropic commitment to a higher and more consistent level. The company typically contributes $30,000 to $40,000 a year to community groups and causes, he said. In addition,  agents and staff volunteer for more than 60 different organizations.

Bray said he was concerned, though, about the paperwork and costs of managing a foundation. An arrangement with the Western Colorado Community Foundation, addresses those concerns. The Western Colorado Community Foundation manages 280 different donor funds with total assets of $75 million. Last year, the Western Colorado Community Foundation distributed a total of  $3.5 million in grants and scholarships in the seven counties the foundation serves.

Bray said the foundation specializes in identifying needs and awarding grants to worthwhile efforts. Moreover, the arrangement means more money will be available from the Bray Cares Foundation for grants while less will be spent on for administrative costs.

The foundation will accept applications from May 1 to June 28 for the first round of funding from the Bray Cares Foundation. Grants subsequently will be awarded.

Efforts will focus on programs and projects that addressing housing-related needs in Mesa County, Bray said, including affordable housing, housing for special populations and homelessness.

Thompson said grants could go to organizations that provide affordable housing; operate homeless shelters; or, in the case of the Red Cross, provide temporary housing for those who’ve lost their homes to fire or other disasters. “It could be for a full range of things.”

Bray said there’s a connection between housing and the wellness of a community. “It makes for a more vibrant community for all of us.”

Thompson said he hopes funding for the Bray Cares Foundation can be combined with other contributions, including those from agents and staff as well as other businesses and individuals.

Bray said he hopes the foundation encourages other businesses to consider such philanthropic efforts.

For Bray Real Estate, philanthropy is part of a company culture of ethics and social responsibility that dates back to the founding of the business in 1946, Bray said.

An annual awards program recognizes employees who exemplify those values. In addition to honoring winners at a ceremony, Bray Real Estate contributes to the charitable organizations of the winners’ choice.

Bray himself was among three winners of national awards recognizing business leaders who go beyond professional and personal responsibilities to exert a positive influence.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy presented Bray with a Bill Daniels Being a Difference Award. The program is named after Daniels, a cable television pioneer and philanthropist who also promoted business ethics and social responsibility.

For more information about the Bray Cares Foundation, including grant applications, visit the website at www.wc-cf.org/nonprofits/grantmaking/BrayCares or contact Tedi Gillespie at tgillespie@wc-cf.org.