For her work in helping homeless, single moms achieve self-sufficiency, Gina Abbey, of Highlands Ranch, was recognized as a Western Governors University distinguished graduate.
Among 15 recipients of the 2023 Distinguished Graduate Award, Abbey was the only recipient in Colorado.
“It’s awesome to be recognized and I am happy that it gives recognition to Denver,” said Abbey. “I’m glad it gives recognition to the fundraising and the philanthropic side of (Western Governors University).”
Western Governors University – an online, nonprofit university – presents an honor to alumni across the nation who have made contributions in the workplace and their communities.
Abbey is also the Regional Director of Advancement for the Northwest Region as part of Western Governors University Advancement, which aims to serve underserved groups and provides scholarships to individuals to help pay for groceries, gas and tuition.
Abbey has taken her marketing management degree and has combined it with philanthropy to do work that she loves.
Over five years, Abbey served as a development manager for the Bridge of Hope Greater Denver, which is a national organization with a service location in Denver.
Founded in 2014, Bridge of Hope Greater Denver serves single mothers and their children who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness in the Denver area.
According to the Bridge of Hope Greater Denver website, the network has served more than 300 women and children between 2020 and 2021. Additionally, 93% of existing families had sustainable housing and 96% were employed.
As the mothers strive to achieve self-sufficiency, the network provides rental assistance, intensive case management and partners families with a team of volunteers to provide support and community.
When doing fundraising and philanthropy to scale, said Abbey, it’s not just making a difference in one life.
“When you can make a generational change, then you’re making community change, then you’re really changing the world,” said Abbey.
Abbey also spoke about the difference that is made in people when they give and that it’s not just the lives that are being impacted because of the dollars in scholarships, it’s the giver that is also impacted.
What has made an impact on Abbey is seeing the success of families when they go through the program and watching someone’s confidence grow.
At Bridge of Hope, Abbey interviewed mothers and helped them prepare to speak. She recently saw a mom who had graduated and was speaking confidently to a group of business professionals.
Primarily focusing on foundations and fundraising within Colorado and states like Utah, Oregon and Alaska, Abbey is currently working on various programs that she hopes can be cross-region programs.
As Abbey and her husband are both military veterans, one of the initiatives is a scholarship program for veterans.
Due to a high unemployment rate among young veterans, the program will aim to help junior enlisted veterans as well as veterans that are more senior but looking to either upskill or teach others and military spouses who face unemployment.
Also, Abbey is working in conjunction with the northeast region to create a pilot program to help support Black, Latino and Native American women achieve a business degree, look at possible barriers they are encountering and see how Western Governors University could partner with donors to add more diversity to the business world.
Abbey encourages others to be aware of opportunities that they can help because she said she believes the world is going to change through nonprofit organizations and individuals giving.
“Money can either be an idol, or it can be a tool,” said Abbey.