Dear Friends, 

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff members, we want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a friend, member, and supporter of Columbus Outdoor Pursuits (COP).  Your support and participation continues a tradition of enthusiasm for outdoor activities that extends back for over 75 years.  

The organization that is today known as COP was founded on October 3, 1939, by twenty-one individuals in what we now know as the Downtown YMCA building on West Long Street.  According to the minutes of that meeting, these individuals “gathered together out of a common interest in hiking or bicycling trips and Youth Hostels.” This common interest and spirit of outdoor fellowship was perhaps best captured in the organization’s September 1949 newsletter:

“Our emphasis centers on the appreciation of the outdoors for healthful exercise and recreation… to gain the comradeship of people youthful in heart and mind and with like interests… to meet on common ground with friendly humanity everywhere and to understand them better…. and to enjoy the fruits of a providential nature, which today’s machine-age man has bypassed.”

That original “common interest” has persisted across generations and remains true to this day.  There is now, perhaps more than ever, an interest and need for people of all ages and walks of life to seek the outdoors for fitness and fun, stress relief, or just to escape from our technology-driven daily lives.  Hiking, biking, boating, and running are now as much a part of central Ohio’s social scene as it was at our founding.

In the spirit of that “common interest” we are asking you to help us continue our mission to help ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences and opportunities of active camaraderie we have shared over the years. We also want to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on the organization: where we have been over the past year and an overview of our plans for the coming year.

2017 was a year of transition for COP.  At the start of the year, the organization was in a financially vulnerable position after years of declining revenues without addressing the many difficult, but vital, changes that needed to be made to reposition COP.   We started the year not just low on cash reserves, but also near empty in terms of human resources as the Board sought to reduce expenses through changes in staffing as well.  The difficult decision to layoff two long-time staff was compounded by the retirement of GOBA Director Julie Van Winkle after many years of service to COP and the unfilled vacancy left after the passing of Bill Gordon earlier in the year.  As the program season approached in the spring of this year, COP was operating without staff and all work for the operation of the office, both major events (GOBA and TOSRV) and the myriad smaller cycling and boating events were being handled by a few volunteer members of the Board as cost-saving measures.  

We owe a huge debt and volumes of accolades to the board members who volunteered countless number of hours to get us through this difficult year.  Because of their efforts both GOBA and TOSRV operated at a profit in 2017 and contributed to a modest reserve, providing COP with a financial buffer that will allow us to continue to “right size” our activities and staffing structure moving forward.  To that end, the Board has taken steps to examine new revenue streams through sponsorships, community partnerships and changes to our activity models.  




The Board has also taken steps to make COP more sustainable through the creation of a new Executive Director (ED) position.  Larry Jenkins joined COP on a full-time basis in October this year, and as ED will provide support to the Board and oversight to all activities and staff of the organization. Larry’s expertise in the human resources and the non-profit arena will streamline our business operations while ensuring efficient use of our financial resources.

We are also pleased to announce that COP will be taking up residence in new office space in early 2018, allowing us to consolidate our office and equipment storage in a single location. The sale of the office building on Bethel Road this past August provided COP with an opportunity to find a new space to better suit our needs while also saving costs by eliminating the need for additional rented storage space for equipment.  As a result, a newly renovated space on Front Street near the Brewery District in downtown Columbus will be the new home of COP starting in January 2018.

Although the coming year will be one of continuing changes, these changes will ensure COP’s stability for the next several years.  Despite the progress we have made and will continue to make, challenges still remain in order to be sustainable in the future… and we need YOUR help to make that happen.

COP is a charitable organization that relies upon the generosity of committed volunteers and donors to provide the time and money necessary to sustain the activities and operations that we provide to both members and the community.  Although the immediate financial difficulty of the past year has been addressed, your financial contributions are vitally important in helping to sustain our fiscal health.

Just as importantly, COP needs the contribution of your time and energy.  We currently have three open seats on the Board that need to be filled.  Organizational committees for Activities, Development, Finance and Public Relations all are minimally filled and are in need of volunteers to help implement important aspects of the organization mission.  We also would greatly benefit from the assistance of persons with professional skills in risk management, fundraising, grant writing, digital media and graphic design.

In closing, we would encourage each of you to consider what skills or contributions you can make to COP this year in terms of your time and efforts and if you are able to offer your assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for more information about how you can make a difference with COP.  Please know that your donation to COP is a charitable contribution and you will receive an acknowledgement of your donation amount for tax purposes. If you are able to contribute financially, we have included an envelope (if you would like to mail a check) or you can make your contribution online at http://outdoor-pursuits.org/donate.

Thank you again for your consideration of a gift to sustain our efforts and programs and our warmest regards to you and your family this holiday season!


Thank you,

Justin Curtis, President

Larry Jenkins, Executive Director



 

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