Past Board Chair
Doug Spencer feels passionately about the work Mount Evans does. “In my experience, it’s rare to find an organization where 100% of the team is so passionately committed to the work of the organization. When we bring that passion, the commitment, the kindness, the care—that has an impression on people. We work for the community, we serve the community, and we’re supported by the community, and I just think that’s the heartbeat of Mount Evans and our mountain community.”
Q: How did you first get involved with Mount Evans?
A: I got involved with Mount Evans in 1997, when my neighbor asked me to consider going on the board. I didn’t know much about Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice at the time, so I thought it would be an exciting challenge. So I went on the board in 1997, and my term expired in 2003. I was chairman of the board in 2002-2003. And then I just stayed on as a volunteer doing various things—helping with fundraising, being a buddy at Camp Comfort, helping with strategic planning. I was on the search committee for Kathy [Engel] Laurnen [Mount Evans executive director from 2009-2015]. Kathy was the one who convinced me to come back on the board. I led a strategic planning effort under her watch, and then I came back on the board in 2016. I just stepped down as Chair of the Board and have one more year left on my term. It’s been fun to see how the organization has grown and changed the past 20 years.
Q: What were your responsibilities as Board Chair?
A: As the Board Chair, I viewed my responsibilities in a number of different ways. 1) to manage and motivate the board to do the jobs they’re asked to do. 2) to recruit talent on to the board, looking for a diverse mix of community leaders to serve Mount Evans. We are a health care agency; we fundraise in the community; we serve the community, so it’s important to have a broad range of talent and expertise on the board. 3) to make sure that we as a board are governing effectively ensuring legal compliance with all the federal and state laws and regulations specific to hospice and home health care, so there’s kind of a fiduciary responsibility and then another is the fiscal part of it, balanced budgets, financial accountability, audits, overseeing the financial side of the house, and then 4) to be a community representative, to be a spokesperson for the agency. Being willing and able to get out in the community when I’m asked to fundraise for Mount Evans, and then finally 5) to support Keri, our President & CEO, and the management team at Mount Evans. When Keri needed help, advice, or counsel, I was there to provide it if I could.
Q: Why did you want to be involved with Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice?
A: I started doing community volunteer work when I was in high school. So at one level, being involved in my community, wherever that is, has always been baked into my DNA. And in 1997 I had just sold my business, and Andy Ades, my neighbor, came over one day, and we started talking about it. I have significant non-profit management experience, I used to be the director of development of the United Way in a previous life, and Andy approached me specifically because I have a lot of fundraising experience. We got to talking, and Andy said ‘well why don’t you come to a meeting and meet everybody.’
So I went to a meeting at Hiwan, and the first person to greet me with a hug was Susan Stearns and that made a big impression on me. Based on that first meeting I saw the kind of people that were on the board. There were some people that I knew, many that I did not, but I was impressed watching the meeting operate. So when Andy asked me if I wanted to be on the board, I said ‘sure, I’d love to.’
At the time one of the programs we had for new board members was to team up with a clinician and go with them on home visits to see how care is delivered. I was a buddy at Camp Comfort, which made a huge impression on me. I have two daughters, and I got to be a buddy for a 12-year-old boy whose sister had died of cancer, and it was just a really impactful thing. So I got to see firsthand the value and the quality and the service Mount Evans provides. And then later on both of my parents were supported by hospice in the community where they live, I hope it is still here when I need it!
Q: What do you find rewarding about your involvement with Mount Evans?
A: It’s got to be the people—it’s just an amazing staff and an amazing group of volunteers. Angel Makers to the calendar project to the clinicians and the office staff. In my experience, it’s rare to find an organization where 100% of the team is so passionately committed to the work of the organization and that is just remarkable. I’ve made some lifelong friends as a result of my involvement and that’s been really meaningful to me.
Q: What does it mean to you to serve our mountain residents?
A: Evergreen is a fairly diverse community, economically. There are a lot of people in the mountain community who live isolated lives, may not have insurance, or have needs that are not being served by anyone from down the hill. Everyone thinks of the foothills as a suburban community to Denver, and in some ways it is and in other ways it’s not. There are a lot of remote corners to our service area in Jefferson, Gilpin, Park, and Clear Creek counties. Mount Evans is the only game in town. It was started by Carol [Linke] 41 years ago out of her garage because she saw a need and felt that she could do something about it. And I think what makes Mount Evans special in this community is the degree to which that philosophy continues. We’re the only game in town, we’re a non-profit, we work for the community, we serve the community, and we’re supported by the community. I just think that’s kind of the heartbeat of Mount Evans and the heartbeat of Evergreen.
Q: Do you feel like you make a difference in the lives of patients?
A. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I was making a difference in the lives of the people who are served by the agency. Because we’re a non-profit, a large percentage of our budget has to be fundraised. And a large percentage of that fundraising is going to support programs and services that there is no other way of being supported through insurance reimbursements or private pay. I think of Camp Comfort, which is 100% supported by our fundraising efforts, the bereavement programs, Angel Making program…there are a lot of services that we provide that are supported through our fundraising efforts. I like nothing better than convincing someone why they should support Mount Evans. I love talking about it. It’s a compelling story, and thankfully I’m successful most of the time. Most people get it. We all have parents, and some of our parents are older than others and everyone moves on. Mount Evans is here for us!
Q: Describe a moment from your job that touched your heart?
A: The first year I was on the board, I was a Camp Comfort buddy to a young man whose older sister had died of cancer at the age of 14 or 15. That weekend he shared with me that it was the first time in a number of months that he had actually felt like he had fun and was able to laugh and do fun things. We went fishing, we went hiking, we sat around and gabbed. The really moving part of that was his father at the graduation at the end of the weekend came up to me and said thank you so much for giving his son a couple days of fun. That really had an impact on me.
When my folks were receiving in home health and then hospice care, the agency staff that supported them were very much like Mount Evans’s team—kind, caring, giving. When my father was dying, they gave my mother the opportunity to have time for herself, to take care of herself. Then after dad died and mom got sick the degree to which they were there for her, both to help with her grieving and with her care was fantastic. They were also there to help us [kids] have the breathing room to be able to do the things we needed to do.
So yeah, the hospice workers that came in during the day, not all day every day, but came in for 2-3 hours and helped with things. I mean it was just a godsend, absolutely.
Q: Not all health care organizations are equal, what do you think makes Mount Evans special?
A: A couple of things, one is the people, I mean it’s just dynamite team. Second is that we don’t turn anybody away, we don’t make decisions about who to care for and who not to care for based on their ability to pay, and I think that’s what makes us unique. Certainly in the mountain communities, if not the region. The third thing is that we truly are community-based. We have a local board, we’ve been here for 40+ years, we consistently rank higher than other state and even national agencies in quality, year after year.