Leslie Foster Announces Retirement
On January 1, 1990, I found my work home. It was my first day at The Gathering Place, recently hired in a new position that involved fundraising, volunteer management, and some operational tasks. I was one of five staff members, and two of us were new additions to help cope with the rising number of people being served – close to 50 per day. The following July, after our founders had moved on to pursue other aspects of life, I was promoted to Executive Director. I was 32 years old and had landed the job of my dreams. In my interview with the Search Committee, I brazenly told the hiring panel that I was willing to make a long-term commitment of five years. I, myself, am amazed at how quickly five turned to over 29 years.
Now, I am pleased, honored, and humbled to announce my retirement, effective June 30, 2019. It is time for me to focus on different life priorities, and time for The Gathering Place to benefit from new leadership. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many opportunities I have had, and for being entrusted with leading an organization whose mission and philosophy boldly center on hope, love, and a sense of community. I am grateful to have had a career filled with meaning and purpose. I have had access to some of the best, and most positive teachers available, including generous donors and volunteers, compassionate staff, and TGP members who have faced extraordinary challenges with knowledge, grace, and kindness. To be part of the organization story, and part of so many individual stories, is an immeasurable gift. Thank you.
While leaving is emotional, I must say that I could not be more proud of The Gathering Place, or more confident about the future. Our Board of Directors established a Search Committee made up of a wide variety of people who will help us find the next, and the best leader for the future. They did this only after assessing our needs, and the needs of the community, and by engaging board members, staff, and TGP members in an on-going process of ensuring that we honor our values of recognizing and caring for individuals as we face transitions together.
We continue to provide the highest quality services, focusing our talents and expertise on our mission, and our long-term future. Our members are serving on the Search Committee, as well as other important committees, while taking monumental steps toward being partners in governance, policy, and decision-making. Volunteers and donors are giving at their highest level in years. Our entire community is thinking about how to maintain, expand, and improve what we do. We are preparing to fearlessly change when called.
Over the years, I have said good-bye to countless people who have touched my life, and who have been part of TGP’s community. I have cried, sighed, wished well, stayed in touch, and let go. Through it all, I have learned that no one really leaves us when they are part of our memory, and when we have incorporated their story into ours. We have affected each other, and for better or worse, all of us are changed and remain who we are because of those who have impacted our lives. Thank you to all of you who have expanded my world, who have made me kinder, stronger, and more aware, and who I know, will continue to build TGP’s future.
Support The Gathering Place with a Tribute Gift
In honor of Leslie's legacy, we're inviting friends and supporters of The Gathering Place to support the organization she's governed for over 29 years.
- Donate. We depend on individual donations to cover the programs and services we provide to members free of charge. Donate to The Gathering Place in honor of Leslie.
- Volunteer. The Gathering Place depends on volunteers to help run the vast programs and services we offer. In 2018, volunteers donated 17,000 hours to help serve the 7,072 women, children, and transgender individuals who walked through our doors. Sign up to volunteer with The Gathering Place in honor of Leslie.
- Sponsor a meal. Sponsoring and preparing a meal for members of The Gathering Place is the best way to immerse yourself in our community. Gather a group of friends, family, or colleagues and work with our Food Program Manager to plan your meal.
- Host a donation drive. In-kind donations of food, toiletries, and clothing provide immediate relief to members in need. Host a donation drive at work, with an organization, or with family and friends.
- Write a tribute note to Leslie. Show your Love for Leslie by penning a note of congratulations to be displayed on our website. Email your message to Communications Manager Kate Mazzotta at email@example.com, or mail it to our address at 1535 High Street, Denver, CO 80218.
- Shop at Art Restart. Art Restart is a social enterprise of The Gathering Place that provides opportunities for women experiencing poverty to transform their lives through art. Artists work toward financial independence through proceeds from sales of their artwork. Shop Leslie's favorite postcards and scarves!
Leslie Foster has served as president of The Gathering Place since 1990. For nearly 30 years, Leslie has devoted her career to transforming the lives of women, children, and transgender individuals by providing positive relationships, resources, and a community of support. Under Leslie's guidance, The Gathering Place community has steadily expanded to meet growing public need. The organization now serves 250-350 people a day, a population 10 times the 25-35 people it served during its founding years.
Leslie was born to work at The Gathering Place— at least that's what she likes to say. The very first house she lived in is only blocks from where The Gathering Place now resides. Leslie briefly left Colorado to attend Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she set her sights on becoming a nonprofit director. After completing her undergraduate education, and with her nonprofit leadership goal in mind, she returned to Colorado and earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver in 1985.
In 1989, Leslie discovered The Gathering Place, at the time a grassroots organization supporting women and families experiencing poverty. She was the first full-time development director. As it would turn out, her stint as development director was short-lived— Leslie was hired as the executive director just six months later.
Under Leslie's leadership, TGP has grown from an organization with an annual budget of $200,000 in 1990 to its current $2.5 million budget and over $7 million in assets. In 2006, Leslie led an ambitious capital campaign to build a facility designed to meet the specific needs of its members. The campaign raised over $5 million, and by September 2007, boasted a 28,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility maximizing every inch of space to provide members with a safe refuge and a place to rebuild their lives. The Gathering Place also launched a social enterprise called Art Restart in 2014 as a way to advance opportunities for artist members and create a supplemental source of revenue for the organization.
Despite the exponential growth Leslie has fostered and overseen, she is most proud that the essence of TGP's mission has remained intact. "We believe deeply in the power of our community and continually work to make it stronger. Our key values include recognizing individual strengths, building respect and trust, and offering unconditional acceptance."
Leslie's influence extends beyond the walls of The Gathering Place. She is a partner and founding member of the Denver Women's Collaborative, which brings together leaders of nine high-impact organizations serving women and girls to form a collective voice for advocacy, funding, and programming in Denver.