Be Kind FoCo began in the spring of 2018, when a team of Leadership Fort Collins class members saw a need for opportunities for young families to connect with the many organizations working toward a better Fort Collins, but which didn’t require an enormous amount of time or money.
We wanted to find ways for families to find ways to give back which were simple but impactful–and easy to explain to children. We knew that Fort Collins was full of people doing amazing things together at the grassroots level and beyond to make our community–and the world–a better place for all of us. A kindness expo celebrating this kindness seemed like the perfect way to do that–and Be Kind FoCo came to be.
Since then, we have met the most amazing people doing wonderful things for others, and we celebrate this kindness through Be Kind FoCo!
Carley McAbee, Executive Director
Originally from Michigan, Carley has spent over two decades working in the nonprofit sector, helping to grow the development programs of organizations from small start-up nonprofits to well-established institutions in the U.S. and abroad. While searching for opportunities to introduce her kids to philanthropy and volunteerism in Fort Collins, she co-founded Be Kind FoCo in 2018.
I don’t think I can overstate the magic that I uncovered once I started looking for—and paying attention to—kindness in Fort Collins.
It started when a young girl at my kids’ school was secretly leaving crocheted hearts with messages of kindness in random places around town as part of the Peyton Heart Project, a suicide-prevention program. We invited her to become part of our first kindness expo, in an effort to celebrate the kids we’d met who were up to some pretty incredible things. And once we did, the most unbelievable people and projects and organizations started showing up.
There was the mom who spends every Mother’s Day delivering gift bags to other moms who have to spend their Mother’s Day in the hospital with their high-medical-needs children. Or the folks who do room renovations to kids who are so sick they can’t often leave their bedrooms. Or the friends who give out bags of essentials to folks experiencing homelessness with the message “You matter.” Or the NoCo Secret Samaritan, who leaves simple messages of kindness and treats for strangers throughout Northern Colorado. Or organizations like the Food Bank for Larimer County and Neighbor to Neighbor that help folks going through rough times meet their basic needs.
Small businesses from Horse and Dragon and CC’s Flower Truck to large companies like OtterBox give huge amounts to our community and make philanthropy a part of their culture. To call it a ripple effect is an understatement. There is an actual tidal wave of kindness always just about to come crashing down over us all.
Lauren Smiley, Board Chair
Originally from Pueblo, CO, Lauren planted her roots in Fort Collins in 2007. Lauren is a CSU Construction Management Alumna, and currently works as a Preconstruction Manager for a commercial concrete contractor.
During her time serving the Leadership Fort Collins Steering Committee, she along with a group of people co-founded Be Kind FoCo in 2018. While working on growing the presence of Be Kind FoCo, Lauren became Board Chair in 2022. Her belief is that showing others a simple act of kindness can create positive ripple effects in making the community a kinder, more welcoming place.
Lauren is also on the Board of the NOCO Chapter of the American Red Cross, a Member of the Leadership Fort Collins Steering Committee, and a Member of the Northern Colorado Construction Industry Partnership.
In her free time, she loves to cook, garden, play golf, travel, and experience new adventures with her husband Nick and son Grant.
Amy Dixon, Vice Chair
Amy Dixon is all about two things: kindness and community. As a local social media manager, she runs the I Love Loveland and We are Northern Colorado Networks. She also owns her own social media company called Emotive Media. In 2018 she joined forces with The NoCo Secret Samaritan when she was asked to be the “face” of the illusive person in order to collaborate with other entities and answer questions at events.
She cofounded Pantry in the Park with her 9-yr-old buddy Makya and mom Sarah, and has helped run The NoCo Secret Samaritan Free Toy Store for the past 4 years. She is committed to helping and empowering children to spread kindness in their communities.
After her son Ben died of cancer last July at only 11 years old, she has become an advocate for childhood cancer awareness and education. She now educates others on how to support a family in crisis and connects with other mothers who’ve lost their children in order to support them.
Amy was adopted into the Be Kind FoCo family and feels beyond grateful to be surrounded by such incredible people.
Huston Hoffman, Secretary
Colorado State Graduate Huston Hoffman is a local commercial property manager, employing broker, and small business owner. She is a former Women’s Commission board member for the City of Fort Collins, former graduate and current steering committee member for Leadership Fort Collins, a committee member of the Chamber of Commerce Local Legislative Affairs Committee, as well as a board member for Be Kind Foco.
She is passionate about being involved in her community, relationships with others, affecting necessary change, her family – which includes the two cutest bulldogs in the world, and being the self-proclaimed unofficial Fort Collins nacho-critic.
Prior to joining the board of Be Kind Foco, I volunteered at the first Kindness Expo the group hosted. To see the excitement in children and their families about wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves, helping their community or specific people within the community, was impactful for me.
This is not only why I wanted to be a part of the group, and its vision, but helped me see how kindness can be spread on a mass scale. I see kindness everyday as an individual, from people paying for the next person’s coffee, to being at-home caregivers for loved ones, thinking about how your business can be better for the community it thrives within, it’s always there.
Kindness exists on all levels in our community, but I think it’s important to highlight and encourage that, because it’s easy to miss those things when going about our everyday lives, and its easy to feel stuck and alone when going through stressful times (which we have had a lot of recently).
Joe Morrongiello, Treasurer
Jennifer Cooper, Member
My name is Jen Cooper, and I have served as a proud member of the Be Kind FoCo Board since 2020. My professional life is one of service, with 23 years at SummitStone Health Partners and 28 total years of dedicated service in non-profit behavioral health. My passion is people. I am humbled to do the work I do and am confident that I have learned my greatest life lessons though the people I get to meet and work with every day.
My personal life is filled with a love of the outdoors, and with fun times with friends and family. With my daughter as my inspiration and shining star… I live a life filled with joy.
At the heart of it all, the core values that have guided my way have always been kindness, community, and gratitude. My path to BeKind Foco was paved by being lucky enough to have been involved with Leadership Fort Collins since 2013 as a class member, and continued involvement as a now Steering Committee member.
The LFC connection has afforded me the opportunity to continue to foster a lifelong commitment to community volunteerism and service, to include mentoring years of LFC service projects that have brought kindness into the community in so many different ways. What inspires me most with this though is seeing, sharing, and knowing that my values are shared by so many. Kindness is contagious, and I feel honored to continue to share my passion in spreading kindness through my commitment to BeKind.
“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.” -Harold Kushner
Ann Hutchinson, Member
Ann Hutchison, CAE, became President & CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce on January 1, 2021. She started with the Chamber in 2003 as Policy Committee Coordinator and was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2005.
Before moving into the CEO role, Hutchison directly managed the communications and event departments, assisted in the day-to-day operation of the Chamber and managed issues and political advocacy as well as the Chamber’s Leadership Fort Collins and Leadership Northern Colorado programs. Most recently, she has been a key leader in the community pandemic economic Response, Recovery and Reignite efforts.
Brian Kiel, Member
Ali Raza, Member
Ali Raza (he/him) is the Assistant Director of Involvement as well as a Ph.D. student in the Education Leadership & Human Resources program at Colorado State University. He is a passion driven educator, positive change agent, and advocate of social justice issues in and outside of our community.
Ali is involved on the Leadership Fort Collins Steering Committee through the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce and also serves as a board member with Homeward Alliance and Diverse Fort Collins. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Government from The University of Texas at Austin and Master of Science in Higher Education from Florida State University. Ali enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends, learning new things, and travel hacking around the globe.
Colan Scheidenhelm, Member
I’m a Colorado native and have been a part of the Fort Collins community since enrolling at Colorado State University in the fall of 1996. I love being a local small business owner, providing digital marketing and website design to small businesses. My passion for Fort Collins and Northern Colorado is brought to life through serving on the Board for Be Kind Foco, being a principal board member of an emerging non-profit centered around mentoring young adults and student-athletes and also serving as a steering committee member for Leadership Fort Collins.
Colan loves spending time with his wife and two daughters, including coaching all of their sports teams. He loves all sports, the outdoors, coaching baseball and playing golf.