But Tuesday night,Vogler spoke in front of a crowd of about 400 people here,as he accepted the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award,one of five national winners recognized for their community service work.
“I have a hard time believing what you've done for me,” said the 83-year-old Denver resident. “I've seen all the people this last couple days and what they've done for their communities,their kids,their families.”
He and the other winners toured the city Tuesday before a party in the afternoon,at which many members of the Senate appeared,and the gala dinner.
Vogler received the award because of his work with the Griffith Centers for Children,a rehabilitation center at two locations in Colorado for boys who have been abused or who are mentally ill. Vogler helped establish the Emily Griffith Center Foundation to raise financial support for the center,and as a trustee,he has raised enough money for the center to grow from a single historic house to a 99-acre ranch.
Vogler found his passion for the Griffith Center through his involvement with the Denver Kiwanis Club,which helped founder Emily Griffith build the first center in the 1920s. He started raising money for the move from the historic home to the ranch in the 1960s and became a permanent fixture with the organization.
“Then,I really got hooked,” he said. “I really got involved. My time there goes back a long ways.”
Vogler continues to raise money for the centers,largely though an annual mountain-climbing fundraiser. Though the centers use public money,they still need to raise 20 percent of operating costs. That amounts to about $2 million a year.
The 99-acre ranch in Larkspur,Colo.,alone has a staff of 180 people for the 75 boys it houses. Though it might sound like overkill,Vogler said,the ranch has to be staffed 24 hours a day.
Since most boys spend 12 to 15 months at the center,it has an accredited school. The center also uses a ropes class – Vogler said it teaches the children to work with other people – and an equestrian program in which the boys are responsible for grooming and taking care of the horses.
“The staff at Griffith Center has found that when a kid like that has kept a lot of problems to themselves and bonds to an animal,that that bond is transferable to people,” he said. “So where the kids who've cut themselves off from their parents or other adults learn to love a horse and that horse loves them,they in turn learn to love other human beings.”
Vogler was first recognized for his contributions last year as a recipient of the Minuro Yasui Community Volunteer Award,which recognizes Denver residents for their work in community service. Earlier this year,he learned that the Rocky Mountain News,a media partner of the Jefferson Awards,had selected him as one of three Colorado winners of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. From that pool,he was selected as the sole Colorado representative to the awards ceremony in Washington.
“I had no idea,I figured that was the end of it – that was kind of the frosting on the cake of getting the Minoru Yasui award,” he said in an interview. “So this was what followed. I didn't know until I got a letter from the Jefferson Award people that I was going to participate in the doings here. So,that's kind of the size of it.”
After meeting other influential people and spending the day in Washington,Vogler remained focused on fundraising for Griffith. The most important part of the trip was not the sightseeing or meeting his senators or the dinner – it was meeting a man who said he could help Vogler raise more money for the center.
“I would hope through that contact I might be able to figure out how to do a better job raising money locally and go to [the] foundation and hopefully appeal for a grant from them,” he said.
The American Institute for Public service gives the Jefferson Awards each year to honor people who have contributed to their communities. Five of the 76 local winners were named recipients of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Awards at the dinner Tuesday night.
The other four are Lia Rowley,Santa Rosa,Calif.,who founded and runs a housing program for foster children; Hank and Debbie Perret,Lafayette,La.,who founded a center to help cancer patients and their caretakers; Jackie Betz,Erin Drischler and Megan Neuf,Pittsburgh,who as high school students founded a group that counsels girls about sexual assault; and Nancy Collins,Tupelo,Miss.,who founded a hospice.
Four national winners of the Jefferson Awards were also honored at the dinner.
They are Sen. Joseph Lieberman,Ind.-Conn.,greatest service by a public servant; Darell Hammond,greatest public service to the disadvantaged for his nonprofit group KaBOOM! that builds playgrounds in poor neighborhoods; Edward Michael Jagen,greatest public service by a private citizen for his nonprofit the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network that teaches children to avoid predators,and Ocean Robbins,greatest public service by someone age 35 or younger,who has worked as an environmental advocate since he was a teenager and founded Youth for Environmental Sanity.