Meet the Staff: Helen Gemmill

After serving as the community foundation’s Chief Development Officer for a year and a half, Trisha McKean has departed to make her return to the University of Colorado. As she steps away, Director of Development Helen Gemmill will step in as Interim Vice President of Development until the role has been filled. Helen is excited to step into the role in the interim, and looks forward to working with the team to find the right person for the job in the long term. Learn more about Helen, her history at the community foundation, and her commitment to the Boulder County community.


Can you start by telling us about yourself?  

I'm originally from New Hampshire, and moved to Boulder in 2001, with the plan to live here for just a year before returning to the northeast. Like so many, I fell in love with this area and have lived here ever since. In 2005, John Neville introduced me to Josie Heath over lunch, and I have been involved in various ways, including as a fundholder, with the community foundation ever since. I chaired the Board of Trustees during the first disaster relief fund (after the Fourmile Fire in 2010), I co-chaired the Early Childhood Initiative for 10 years, and have had the pleasure of working closely with the board and staff in various other capacities as well. The community that this foundation has always attracted is an especially warm, caring one, and it has felt very important to me for all these years. In September of 2021, my youngest child had just started full-day preschool, and the community foundation called and asked me to help out the philanthropic services team until year-end. It felt meant to be, given the timing in my life, and I happily agreed. Little did we know that the Marshall Fire would tear through Boulder County at year-end, and my contract was extended so that I could help the foundation with what turned out to be the largest philanthropic effort in Colorado history, what we call the Boulder County Wildfire Fund. I officially just joined the staff this past spring. 

Why the community foundation? 

I can't remember a time when I didn't know about community foundations. I've long admired the convening and catalytic role they play in the communities where they exist, and the way they help educate donors, raise awareness of pressing issues in the area, and knit together various aspects of the community in deeply authentic ways. Community foundations truly serve as a nexus in each community. The way the foundation acts as a trusted intermediary in the community positions it beautifully to respond in times of crisis as well. 

What excites you about working with Donor-Advised Fund holders and donors? 

I love working with people who are striving to make a difference in any way they can, who are eager to better understand issues they care about, and who want to connect with others who share their curiosity and concerns. 

What's the one thing you want the Boulder County community to know about our work/opportunity together? 

Wherever you are in your philanthropic journey, the community foundation can meet you there. The flexibility and responsiveness of the foundation makes it truly helpful in the community.

What's your favorite activity in Boulder County? 

I couldn't possibly pick just one! My favorite Boulder County activities include hiking, running, road biking, swimming, skate skiing, riding horses, and gardening. Someday I will work on learning better photography and tennis skills too.