Many Good Turns
Gerald Gallegos was raised in the historic railroad and mining town of Minturn, just west of Vail, where organized recreation did not exist. “I saw kids with no direction,” says the owner of The Gallegos Corporation, the Vail Valley–based stone and masonry company celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
As an adult, Gallegos didn’t waste time remedying the situation. He used his successful company to create opportunities not just for Minturn but for the entire county, beginning with a donation to a local softball program. Since then, his community commitment has expanded to the point that he now spends 20 to 25 hours a week on company business and the rest on nonprofit organizations.
He’s a founding board member of The Youth Foundation, which promotes education and athletic endeavors, and a longtime supporter of the Vail Valley Foundation’s many countywide educational programs. Recently, the Gallegos Corporation purchased a small van that delivers books to children in Leadville and Red Cliff every week. And his office staff collected $10,000 for food kitchens, which he himself matched.
Gallegos is also a board member of Eagle County’s soon-to-open Roundup River Ranch, a nationwide network of ranches for seriously ill children founded by the late actor Paul Newman. “I hope I can affect these children’s lives in a positive way,” he explains. He also is involved with the Colorado-based El Pomar Foundation, which, among other activities, works with the disadvantaged of all ages.
“I think it’s good to give back. I encourage the people who work for me to get involved in community functions,” says the father of two college-age daughters who were involved in sports as they grew up. “This valley has given us a good life.”
Kelly Liken leads a life defined by her culinary pursuits. But she’s also passionate about local children’s education. So when the chef and owner of a namesake Vail Village restaurant wanted to start her own charity program, she focused on helping children learn about where the food they eat comes from by growing their own.
With the help of local schools and the Vail Valley Foundation, Liken initiated “Sowing Seeds” this past spring. The program introduces children to an authentic method of gardening, explains Rick Colomitz, Liken’s husband and the restaurant’s wine director and front-of-house staff director. The couple hired a full-time gardener, built a greenhouse and integrated the program into the curriculum at Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle, the county seat. The kids rake and prepare the soil and plant seeds; the produce grown will be sold at area farmers’ markets.
Liken and Colomitz had already made a practice of supporting education with their charitable activities. Sowing Seeds extended those efforts into a realm in which they could bring a lot of experience. “The tie-in for Kelly is that she’s from a long line of educators,” Colomitz says. “It’s a perfect fit for her.”
Liken also mentors young chefs in a high school intern program, which includes instruction in her restaurant’s kitchen. The programs add to a full plate for the acclaimed restaurateur, who appeared in May 2010 on the Food Network’s Iron Chef competition and was a semifinalist for a coveted James Beard Foundation award in 2009. But she wouldn’t pass up the chance to cultivate fertile minds.
“We’re surrounded by food and farmers because of our restaurant,” Liken says. And food—like knowledge—is most satisfying when it’s shared.