Celebrating Cheryl Haggstrom
How do you say goodbye to a legend? Your historical archive, keeper of memories, builder of relationships, consummate cheerleader, comic relief, and innovator extraordinaire? After over 20 years with Community First Foundation (CFF), Cheryl Haggstrom, Executive Vice President, has decided to retire.
When Cheryl started with CFF in 1997 no one could have guessed the trajectory we would find ourselves on … well, except maybe Cheryl … Cheryl is a visionary.
“The first iPhone came out in 2007 and people were still renting videos from Blockbuster. Cheryl had the vision to think that people may want to give online, and she made ColoradoGives.org happen,” shares Kelly Dunkin, President and CEO. Shortly after, Cheryl and Ken Eggeman, former President and CEO, set a goal of raising $1 million in 24 hours through Colorado Gives Day and, as they say, the rest is history — this year Colorado Gives Day raised over $50 million.
“I don’t think Colorado Gives Day would be what it is today if Cheryl hadn’t been a part of it,” reflects Eggeman. “Cheryl pays attention and listens and watches very carefully and deeply, and as a result she sees possibility. I appreciate creative and innovative people and she is one of the best,” he added.
The Foundation strives to find new ideas and programs that get people involved, inspire philanthropy, and power community, and many of those goals engaged Cheryl’s innate gifts. Her people skills and talent for relationship-building have driven countless CFF successes including many donor-advised funds, partnerships with Jeffco schools, and a successful nonprofit endowment partners program just to name a few.
“The creation of ColoradoGives.org and Colorado Gives Day is one of the highest profile contributions Cheryl has made, but her steady leadership was critical to the organization’s ability to move forward on many initiatives … that’s her quiet contribution,” says Marla Williams, former President/CEO.
There are many programs and services people don’t realize Cheryl was involved in because she likes to let others shine. “Cheryl has willingly moved other staff members into lead roles and let them get the notoriety and credit. Through her relationships and partnerships, she has seen opportunities that she brought a different perspective to which allowed innovative projects to develop,” contributes Hereford Percy, CFF Board Member.
Cheryl is proud to have been the driving force behind Colorado Gives Day and many other contributions, but when she reflects on her time at the Foundation, programs are not top of mind. “When my colleagues, board members, or people in the community tell me my words or actions made a difference in them or that I contributed to making something or someone better … those are my most cherished accomplishments,” she explains.
Cheryl has made a difference in so many people’s lives, including Beth McConkey, Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “The best thing about working with Cheryl was how she nurtured and developed me as a professional. When someone like Cheryl invests in helping you level up it’s a beautiful thing. She trusted me and helped me learn to trust myself. I’m not sure she even realized the depth of what she was providing, I think this is just how she moves through the world. But for me, it was a rare gift and one I will be eternally grateful for,” McConkey reminisces.
When asked to describe Cheryl, people use adjectives like compassionate, authentic, inspiring, honest, loyal, trustworthy, personal, professional, passionate, loyal, resilient, creative, engaged, and funny. While she is most definitely all of these things, funny is the one that added a sense of levity to the organization in a way unlike anyone else ever could. People will miss her amazing sense of humor, goofiness, and playfulness. “She can laugh with herself and others and she just makes things a whole lot more fun,” reflects Dunkin.
Retirement will be a fun new adventure, and while she is looking forward to recreating herself in so many ways with her family and friends, Cheryl will miss the people involved with Community First Foundation most of all.
And Cheryl, we will miss you most of all.