Brian and Kirsten Shirken have always woven community involvement into their lives. A couple of years ago, as they transitioned into an empty nest, they began fulfilling their dream of spending more time in Park City, and at the same time started becoming even more involved in our community, especially in the new Early Childhood Initiative. They have been very active in community work and nonprofits throughout their lives in Los Angeles, volunteering and investing their time and money in programs around leadership, education, the environment, immigration, and more. We are so lucky to have them as members of the Park City community, where they will continue to take a strategic, participatory approach in leveraging their philanthropic dollars and collaborating to help solve our community’s biggest issues.
Q: What brought you to Park City?
A: Skiing. We have been skiing at the Canyons and Park City Mountain for 25+ years. Our primary residence is Santa Monica, and the ease of flying into Salt Lake in just over an hour and driving 35 minutes to fabulous snow (with low risk of getting snowed out), made Park City a very attractive ski destination for our family. Although the skiing initially attracted our family, we’ve evolved into other fun local activities over the years including snowshoeing, mountain biking, golf, water skiing/tubing at the reservoir, horseback riding and even fishing. The other factor that has kept us coming back is the smaller town feel in PC than what we are used to in a large metropolis, and the people. We really like the people here; they’re down to earth, physically active, educated, and interesting.
Q: How do you fit giving into your life here in Park City?
A: Our plan has always been to be in Park City more regularly once we hit the empty nester stage. We are now in our second empty nester season, and although we are still splitting time between Santa Monica and Park City, we are finally beginning to realize the dream of spending more of our time in Utah. Given that, we are also finally able to start engaging in our respective areas of philanthropic interests in Park City, the way we have always done in LA. In LA, we have woven community involvement into our lives through the institutions in which we are affiliated; schools, neighborhood, and community.
In sum, we tend to engage in the spaces in which we operate, no matter what and where that is, and we tend to do that in active participatory ways versus simply with dollars, although we certainly do that as well. Our goal is to maximize the philanthropic dollars we invest, by leveraging and scaling our dollars by way of smart strategy and principles.
Q: Why do you think Park City is a unique place to live and give?
A: Park City is a fabulous small town, where everything is so accessible. And it is of a size where you can actually see the impact of your involvement and make even more of a difference than in a larger metropolis. Problems in Park City show up in a more acute way, you can grasp the problems, and be really active in assisting in real problem-solving. The scale here is different and so is the impact.
Q: What is it about early childhood that makes you so passionate?
A: We approached the Community Foundation and asked about the biggest issues they are dealing with relative to the immigrant communities in Park City, and what the Community Foundation or local nonprofits needed in order to solve those issues. We are in a town that relies heavily on immigrants to help make it tick and we wanted to engage in helping serve that community at the grassroots level.
The lack of good affordable early childhood education emerged as an issue and because we prefer solving problems at their source, we decided to get behind this initiative. Solving for early childhood education stems the tide of a costly lifelong journey for children into adulthood (both from a personal development perspective and its impact on society). Studies show that inferior early childhood education leads to an exponentially large high school drop-out rate, which then leads to a negative impact on society, and sometimes prison. Investing in children and stemming this negative trajectory ultimately results in productive adults later on. And it goes without saying that we want happy productive people in our communities.
Q: What do you love about Park City Community Foundation?
A: Park City Community Foundation is comprised of a wonderful group of proactive caring people doing great things. The Community Foundation has deep knowledge of Park City’s needs and of the nonprofits that are attempting to address these needs. We like being involved with institutions and groups of people who care about their community and who are active in making it the best it can be.
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