Taos County, New Mexico
Fred Winter

He learned benefits of philanthropy early and has practiced it in Taos
By Scott Sloan, For The Taos News

Fred Winter was instilled with a philanthropic spirit while growing up with family members who helped their community. As a youth in Lawrence, Kan., Winter remembers his grandfather volunteering his time in various community activities. "He was very active in volunteering his time. I learned from members of my own family," Fred said.

After he received an MBA from Columbia University, Fred settled in Taos, married and began a successful career in accounting. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he served two terms on the local chamber of commerce board.

By the early '90s, while running his own accounting firm, Fred saw a necessity emerge from a dilemma: A wealthy couple who were clients of his mentioned that they would like to leave part of their inheritance to be distributed to charitable organizations in Taos.

"They had lived in Taos for 20 years and they didn't think there was an appropriate place to leave a large sum of money," Fred remembers. What Taos needed, he realized, was an umbrella organization that could handle the distribution of funds to local nonprofits. The idea to form the Taos Community Foundation, where people could "donate with confidence" evolved.

It was important that the foundation be run by Taoseños, who would have the commitment and drive to see to it that money would be used for the good of the community. So Fred began, and ended, his search here in Taos.

"I felt strongly that people involved in this business are out helping the community," he said, referring to those at his own firm. From his peers, Fred said he'd like to see even more commitment to charitable and philanthropic work."We wanted to look to the residents of Taos to help fund this endeavor," he said. But for a few years, the idea of the community foundation remain just that -- an idea. The beginning was marked with fits and starts while Fred struggled to put people and priorities into place. While most of the individuals involved during the early- and mid-'90s had good intentions, for one reason or another they simply did not fit with the program that Fred wanted put into place. There was a lot of frustration during this time, when Fred realized that in many ways, the process had become "driven by those who were looking to receive money" rather than by those willing to give money.

In the last five years, the TCF has been able to come into being, root itself in the Taos community and flourish, thanks to two events: The foundation's taking over of the successful Tango in Taos event, and the arrival of Daniel Montoya as the foundation's executive director. Fred is unsparing in his praise of Montoya's leadership. Montoya, who stepped down from the position at the end of September, was instrumental on keeping focus on the foundation's needs. "It requires a certain attitude to keep something like this going," Montoya said. Fred credits Montoya with bringing energy, dedication and passion to the job. "He came in and gave the foundation for us to build on. Without him, we wouldn't be where we are today," Fred said.

Through their combined efforts, Winter and Montoya have taken the Tango in Taos program and turned it into an unqualified success, raising over $1 million in each of the past two years. Fred remains on the TCF board and serves as its treasurer. He is excited about the new challenges ahead and has himself been donating the services of his firm to handle the foundation's accounting needs. He is confident that the foundation's new director, Elizabeth Crittenden-Palacios, can meet the challenges ahead.

"Look at it this way -- we were able to double our assets from 2000 to 2001 without a lot of publicity. We're hoping that we can raise our visibility in the community so that if someone has philanthropic goals, they know that we are here," Fred said.

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© Karen Mitchell