The Schlessman Family Foundation was founded in 1956 by Gerald L. and Florence M. Schlessman. It was established to provide charitable support in granting opportunities for children and adults hindered by economic status, physical or mental challenges, or requiring additional educational opportunities with the intent to enable them to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed over $100 million to more than 1000 charities.

Upon the death of their parents, Lee E. Schlessman and Susan Schlessman assumed the leadership of the Foundation and continued until their deaths in 2019.

The current trustees are:

Lauren Watel, President
Gary L. Schlessman, Vice President
Eric Bennett, Treasurer
Jennifer Schlessman Bonicelli, Secretary

Margaret Schlessman Emmerich
Michael D. Fredericks
Aaron Garnett
Benjamin Garnett

Colin Garnett
Sandra Garnett
Dolores J. Schlessman

VISION: The Schlessman Family Foundation envisions a Denver Metro area where all residents are educated, healthy and have the opportunity to be self-sufficient, productive members of their community.

MISSION: The Foundation’s mission is to support strong nonprofits that provide programs and support to vulnerable Denver Metro area residents, and institutions that contribute to the enrichment and sustainability of the Denver community.


The Schlessman Family Foundation grants funding primarily in the following areas:

  • Programs and services that support workforce development, especially those that foster initiative and a positive work ethic
  • Education programs that work to address the needs of under-served students or improve literacy among adult learners
  • Elder/Senior programs that assist in providing the necessities of life or to assist them to live independently in a safe environment by providing basic human needs
  • Food service and delivery programs
  • Programs that serve people with disabilities, including those with physical, behavioral, and/or substance use disorders
  • Programs that serve the homeless community

Restrictions and Exceptions:

  • The Schlessman Family Foundation awards grants to nonprofit organizations in the seven-county Metro Denver area -- Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.
  • Grants are NOT made to individuals or to fund scholarships for specific individuals.
  • Applications from organizations that are new to Denver are not accepted. Organizations must have at least a two-year history of operations in the Metro Denver area.
  • The Foundation considers organizations that use a fiscal agent or sponsor as long as the applicant has a 2 year operations history in Denver.
  • Support for fundraising events, conferences or workshops will not be granted.
  • Performing arts organizations should only apply at trustee invitation.
  • Research grants will not be supported.
  • Direct support is not granted to:
    • Public, independent, private or charter schools.
    • Churches or religious organizations. However, we do fund faith-based organizations that are providing services and programs that help disadvantaged populations.
  • Based on the Foundation’s history, and trustee involvement, the Trustees have identified legacy organizations which are given special consideration. These organizations have been notified of their status and should apply as returning grantees.

Lee E. Schlessman YMCA

Tropical Discovery at the Denver Zoo

Application Process

Applications and submission of Letters of Intent will open for the next grant cycle on April 1st.

Returning Grantees

If your organization has received a grant in the past 3 years, please follow the link below to apply. Please note, completed applications will only be considered if submitted before the due date of November 1st.

New Applicants

If your organization has not received a grant in the last 3 years please follow the link below to submit a letter of intent. Please note, letters of intent will only be considered if submitted before the due date of July 15th.

  • Trustee’s will review letters of intent and inform applicants of their application status. Applicants will be notified if they are required to submit a full application.
  • Note the Schlessman Family Foundation does fund in successive years, however an application must be received each year for consideration.
  • Requests for meetings to discuss your application are generally not granted until after a complete proposal is received and one or more trustees requests such a meeting.

Proposal Review and Notification Process

  • The Trustees review proposals throughout the year, but final reviews and determinations are made at the annual meeting in March.
  • Distributions are made once a year on March 31st. All applicants will be notified whether or not their request was approved via the email address used to submit their application. We will mail checks for requests that were approved.
  • Please do not call the Foundation to ask why a request was denied.
  • PLEASE NOTE: the Trustees do not critique propsals for public comment. The denial of a proposal may be a lack of funds from the Foundation, the applying organization did not clearly fit within the Foundations guidelines, or the organization is located outside of the funding area.
  • The Foundation does not publish an annual report, but a copy of the most recent tax return is available in the Foundation office for public review.


Patricia Middendorf, Treasurer
Schlessman Family Foundation, Inc.
PO Box 140598
Edgewater, CO 80214-0598

Phone: 720-573-8709
Fax: 720-502-7775