Osborne Fund: A Rotarian’s lasting gift to the Westside
The Westside's greatest financial benefactor would have been 105 years old this month.
But it was William Osborne's death in 1985 that created his legacy. In keeping with carefully detailed directions in his will, interest income from a trust fund - administered by the Garden of the Gods Rotary Club - gives thousands of dollars every year to non-profit groups that assist the needy on the Westside, as well as Manitou Springs and most of Teller County.
Last year the contributions, divvied out among 14 groups, totaled $127,000. The figure this year will be about $134,000, according to Jean Foran, who serves as the club's fund administrator.
The original trust fund amount bequeathed by Osborne in the name of himself and his wife, Betty, was $1 million. Careful bank investments have raised it to about $3 million today. Though nowhere near as vast a resource as Spencer and Julie Penrose's El Pomar Fund, the Osborne Trust provides “a substantial amount of money to help this area,” Foran said, and (like El Pomar) it will continue in perpetuity. “It's just amazing that he had the foresight to do that.”
One grateful recipient is Westside CARES, a church-supported program headquartered in the basement of Bethany Baptist Church on Colorado Avenue. “It provides a base for our direct client services, including food, transportation, rent, laundry, eyeglasses and prescriptions,” explained Steve Brown, the agency's executive director. CARES, along with Westside-based Silver Key, a non-profit senior services agency, are traditionally the two main recipients of Osborne Trust money ($35,000 each in 2005). Brown is also pleased that while a Rotary advisory board annually reviews his agency's operations for eligibility, it does not “micromanage” its grant, leaving him flexibility to use the money to plug service holes as needed.
So who was William Osborne? With 21 years having passed since his death at age 83, not many remain who were close to the successful Old Colorado City pharmacist, and details are scanty in some regards. Perhaps most unfortunate, there are no known photos of Bill and Betty Osborne. The couple died within less than a month of each other in April 1985, and there were no living relatives. The Pioneer inquired about pictures of them - without luck - at the Rotary, Old Colorado City Historical Society, Pikes Peak Library District, Pioneers' Museum and various institutions that Osborne was involved with.
In any case, from those who knew him, a picture emerges. Osborne was a World War II veteran, a hard-working businessman, a devoted husband, a philanthropist, and - perhaps above all - a man with vision and the determination to follow through on his ideas.
As a soldier at Fort Carson, Osborne helped establish the For tCarson pharmacy, according to his obituary in the Colorado Springs Sun on April 24, 1985. However, a call to the Fort Carson pharmacy found no one who had heard of him.
The Westside-based Garden of the Gods Rotary Club itself came into being, at least in part, through Osborne's efforts. According to Don Bates, who has run his Old Colorado City insurance office since 1959, Osborne helped start what was then the West Colorado Springs-Manitou Springs Rotary Club in 1947. Before that, the only Rotary club in the region had been downtown, Bates noted. The club was later expanded by Rotary International to take in Teller County areas as well.
In the mid-1950s, Osborne became one of the founders of the Pikes Peak Bank of Commerce (later to become Pikes Peak National Bank). The bank was the first in Old Colorado City since 1932.
All the while, Osborne was having success with the Rexall Drug Store he owned at the southeast corner of Colorado Avenue and 25th Street (now the Chocolate Factory). He and Betty would eventually buy a ranch in the Woodland Park area - she was known as an excellent horsewoman - and travel extensively.
Yet neither Osborne nor his wife ever behaved like rich people, recalled Rotarian Bernie Lorino, now 93, who was been involved with the Garden of the Gods Rotary Club as a summer resident for decades, “He was a gentleman-plus,” Lorino said. “And his wife was a wonderful, wonderful lady.”
Lorino also provided a basic description of what the Osbornes looked like. Bill Osborne was about 5-foot-7, clean-shaven with glasses and short hair, and Betty was a little shorter, with medium, neat hair. Both dressed nicely, but not ostentatiously. “They were very, very easy to be with,” Lorino said. “You wouldn't have known they had money.”
A credo of the Rotarians is “service above self,” and Osborne showed that in his lifetime. According to Rotarian Bill Rudy, Osborne was “one of the first members” (from the Westside club) to serve on the board for the Pikes Peak Area Rotary Endowment (PPARE), which donates to civic causes on behalf of the region's different Rotary clubs.
“He was impressed (with PPARE), but noticed they didn't have much money,” Rudy said. “I'm sure that's why they (he and Betty) wrote their will the way they did, and that's part of the reason why they set up the trust.”
Another factor for the Osbornes was a lack of family. “They did not have children, so he and Betty looked around to see what they could do for the community,” Bates said.
Ruth Kremenak, who would become the fund's administrator during its first 17 years (prior to Foran), said the Osbornes wanted to leave something to the Westside when they passed on: “One thing they kept saying was, 'We made our money on the Westside, now we want to return it to the Westside.' ”
In his later years, Osborne relied more and more heavily on Betty. His eyes were giving him trouble. He wrote his will, dictating that “his wife was to be taken care of, and anything else would go to the trust,” Kremenak said. “But she went first with cancer.”
The trust's very specific directives took a little getting used to, admitted Rudy, who was on the Rotary's advisory board for the trust during its first 10 years. Rudy's 10-year span on the advisory board is an example of one directive. The fund stipulates that the board, which is tasked to review applications for fund disbursements, must consist of the 10 past presidents of the Garden of the Gods Rotary.
The board's first members had to become smart at giving out the money. “One of the challenges was developing understandable, reasonable criteria for the application form,” Rudy said. “We wanted a good standard we could use for everybody.”
Another concern was avoiding scams. “When it first became known that this trust existed, people would form organizations just to get funds,” Rudy said. “That wasn't in keeping with what the Osbornes had in mind. I think it all works pretty smoothly now.”
The highest priority groups are those that aid people with “basic needs,” Foran said. These are defined as food, clothing, medications and/or housing. Other projects will get considered after that, if there's money left over, “but there never is,” she observed.
Joe Thomas, a past president who is currently on the advisory board, does not begrudge the time required for the review process. “One of the best benefits is going and visiting these places,” he said. “It might take a morning, and you meet the people who are running them. Then we report back to the board. Are they meeting a need? Do they keep good records?”
Thomas also noted that when allocating money to religious organizations the advisory trustees ensure that prosletyzing is kept separate from the money's use.
At Silver Key, the Osborne grant is split in different ways to “help cover the cost of people who live in that geographical area (the Westside and Manitou),” explained Silver Key Executive Director John Morse. “$35,000 is a very good-sized donation for us.”
Westside-based Goodwill Industries, which finds work and assistance for disabled and disadvantaged people in the region, received $4,000 this year. The money is used for a specific program that “provides personal care and homemaking services (such as preparing meals or bathing help) for seniors and other adults on the Westside,” said Jeanne Conder, vice president with the Goodwill Industries Foundation. “These are people who need help at home but don't want to go to a care facility and would like to maintain their own independence.” Further-more, she added, “We're eager to serve more people with this grant.”
The Osborne Trust has some “interesting” (pun intended) financial niceties. In a given year, money is flowing into as well as out of the PPARE. Here's what happens: The money going in is the income from the trust fund's interest as determined by the bank for that year. The money going out - to become available for disbursement by the Garden of the Gods Rotary - is the previous year's interest income, which has been earning earned interest of its own in the PPARE account during the previous year. That interest amount (usually about $5,000, according to Foran) then can be used for worthwhile causes by the nine other Rotaries in the region, in addition to regular donations from individual Rotarians.
The Osborne Trust Fund's obscurity seems to have both good and bad impacts. While the number of frivolous applications may be less as a result, there may be agencies that could use the help but are unaware of the resource. Foran thinks a public meeting might be a good idea, so as to increase awareness. For now, according to Bates, “it's a unique entity on the Westside that many people, especially newer people, don't even know exists. But it's made an impact that will continue indefinitely… I really believe that he (Osborne) would endorse how his money is being spent and distributed.”
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