One anonymous donor made countless lives better last month with a hefty gift to eight non-profit organizations by way of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

Totaling nearly $1 million, the Alamo Avenue Fund grants were awarded to local groups that are working for a variety of causes, ranging from domestic abuse to historical preservation to hospice care.

“None of these organizations knew that this was coming,” said Bob Small, associate executive director of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. “They were all worthy organizations that received a very, very special gift. They have been very grateful, very gracious and very surprised.”

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to advance community philanthropy,” awards grants to other non-profits in several ways.

Grants can be made through the foundation’s discretionary funds and through donor-advised funds, in which the donor makes recommendations for how the money is ultimately spent. The foundation’s board of directors votes to approve all grants.

The Alamo Avenue Fund was donor-advised, which means the donor chose which organizations were to benefit.

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“We were absolutely flabbergasted,” said Martha Barton, CEO of Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care. “With large gifts, we commit to making sure all dollars go directly to patient care. It will make a positive difference in the lives of many families.”

The hospice organization cares for patients with terminal or chronic illnesses, using a team of experts in “comfort care”- physicians, registered nurses, chaplains and trained volunteers. The interdisciplinary team is available for any interventions that patients might need – physical, mental or spiritual – and can work in a patient’s home, a hospital or the organization’s inpatient facility.

Part of the grant money might go toward financial assistance for uninsured and underinsured patients, Barton said, because Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care strives to guarantee care for all individuals.

The staff was so grateful for the anonymous gift that more than 100 of them sent hand-written thank you cards.

“They are with these patients every day. They know what a difference this makes,” Barton said. “It was very fitting that they would decide they personally wanted to say thank you.”

Another grateful beneficiary was TESSA, a local organization that works to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault.

“The board and staff of TESSA are thrilled and overwhelmed by the generosity of the donation,” said Executive Director Cari Davis. “We are delighted to have such significant community support around an issue so critical to the well-being of our community’s families.”

Among its services are a shelter for abused women, individual and group counseling from therapists who have a master’s degree, a crisis hotline, community education and sexual assault programs, as well as employee and volunteer “advocates”- who explain information and options for safety and self-sufficiency to women who walk in or call to talk about their situations.

Volunteers help with every aspect, Davis said. They work at the shelter, assist with group counseling, answer the crisis line, and assist in fund-raising and administration.

“At this point, we’re trying to identify how best to use it, since [the grant] was unexpected,” Davis said. “We will use it for general operating expenses.”

The staff of TESSA (which stands for truth, education, safety, support, action) helped some of the children in the organization’s programs create a thank-you poster for the kind heart, or hearts, behind the anonymous donation.

“It was very personal, from the children as well as the staff,” Davis said.

Organizations that received grants were TESSA ($200,000), Penrose-St. Francis Foundation ($200,000), Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care ($200,000), Colorado Springs School ($100,000), Fountain Valley School ($100,000), Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Center ($50,000), Colorado Springs World Arena ($50,000) and the Children’s Advocacy Center ($29,000).

Donations made to Pikes Peak Community Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, are tax deductible. The organization, along with its partner foundation, Colorado Springs Community Trust, has served as an advocate for charitable giving in El Paso County since 1928.

“People can give anonymously if they wish,” Small said. “When you’re giving away that amount of money, it’s advantageous to be discreet, so not everybody knocks on your door asking for money.

“It provides a nice service to [donors], so they can go about and live a normal life, and direct their giving through the foundation.”