INDIANAPOLIS – It probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the franchise that has excelled better than any other in the NFL in selecting quality players from small schools and low-profile universities, would be the same organization that has stepped to the forefront to recognize "excellence" among "small, low-profile" local charitable operations.
Among the many charitable efforts put together by the Colts organization this year has been the very successful Golden Horseshoe Award program, whereby the Colts honored 12 local organizations for their charity work in the community at the August 15 pre-season game. It seems the team has adopted a Bill Polian-like way of picking the winners. Meaning they ALL don't come from the large, super-sized charitable giants; some really are "smaller and low-profile."
Marina Keers, the development and marketing director for Coburn Place, admits she was initially shocked when the Colts told her the
home near the Indiana State Fairgrounds that offers supportive services to victims of domestic violence, was indeed one of the Golden Horseshoe Award winners.
"I think it's important to note that the Colts recognized us despite our size," exclaims Keers. "We are grass roots; we are small. We are not well publicized. But that does not diminish the work we do in central Indiana. The Colts saw that. That was impressive to us.
"We always say we can't be about BIG," adds Keers. "We can't be about big numbers. That's not us. We have 35 apartments. We help people for two years. We offer attention and care over that period. The work is as important as any other charitable endeavor in the community. It's just we are small. That's why it means so much to us that the Colts saw through the fact we are not a huge operation."
Coburn Place may be small in size but it has made a dramatic impact in an area of need. Back in 1996 the City of Indianapolis through the Mayor's office and the Safe Haven Campaign came together to address the need for safe, transitional housing that offers assistance in so many ways to domestic violence survivors. Everything from individual therapy to financial assistance to life skills training is a part of the program at the beautiful building on East 38th St. The building, filled with love and guidance within, is also a classic on the outside – it is on the National Register of Historic Places, the former IPS #66 named for Henry P. Coburn.
Keers says the Colts honor allowed the organization to recognize two of their premier volunteers – Phil Stoffregen and Kathy Pease. "We get to acknowledge two volunteers at a Colts game and we couldn't get two better people to honor than Phil and Kathy." Phil is an original board member and true advocate to the cause. Kathy has been a volunteer for over 13 years and chairs numerous events for Coburn Place.
The honor may have surprised Keers and her staff at Coburn Place but the support of the Colts has not. "The Colts, in fact have been wonderful partners of ours for a long, long time," said Keers. "They have offered financial contributions and have provided sponsored special events, including an annual affair at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Even one of the Colts employees is one of our top volunteers."
Jerry Harbin, the Colts' Manager of Team Partnerships, has been a volunteer at Coburn Place over the years. "Jerry puts in many long hours at Coburn," says Marina. And that work does not go un-noticed at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"We are very proud of Jerry," says Colts Senior VP Tom Zupancic. "He is one of many of our staffers that take a hands-on approach to helping in the community."
Significant financial contributions to an organization are great of course – like a long-bomb TD pass - but sometimes a simple product donation hits home and is as true as an Adam Vinatieri 48-yard field goal.
Keers is rolling now. "Let me give you a small example of how something probably insignificant to the Colts meant the world to us," starts Marina. "We get a call from the team. They had received new TVs at their facility and wondered if we could use their old ones. Imagine that. We put them in the apartments. A simple gesture like that – they probably thought nothing of it, but it meant so much to us. And that they even thought of us…..."
Keers is one of those who believe the Colts have become the symbol of model citizenship among professional sports teams in the country. "We celebrate successes at Coburn Place. We celebrate the success stories we build; helping people get their lives back in order. We celebrate the success of the Colts and we love the fact this franchise has chosen to give back to its community.
"You know everyone has to pay their taxes but not everyone has to help out a place like ours. We love the Colts!"