Some celebrate turning 40 with a big party, some have a mid-life crisis and some ignore the milestone altogether. When Denver-based Hyde Park Jewelers hit the big four-oh, founder and CEO Michael Pollak decided to celebrate his company’s ruby anniversary by completing forty acts of kindness within his local community.

Giving back is nothing new for Pollak; it’s one of the core values at Hyde Park. Part of Pollak’s motivation to help others is prompted by the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam or fixing the world though deeds and actions. “It’s our responsibility as citizens and as a for-profit business to help the rest of our society who maybe haven’t received the same benefits as we have,” he explains.

Such is the importance of giving back that more than 20 years ago, he set up the Diamonds in the Rough Foundation to help local charities and individuals in their quest to become “treasured gems.”

One of the ways Hyde Park carries out this work is by making a donation from the sale of every diamond solitaire and in so doing promoting the idea that ‘Diamonds Do Good’.

“We wanted to enhance the way we communicate our support at the point of sale,” says Pollak. “In doing so, we are giving back to the organization and also talking about the good diamonds do. People tend to draw on the negative aspect of the business, but diamonds have done so much to help the lives of so many.”

Among the foundation’s recipients is Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, which works with girls from age seven right through to college, giving them the tools and the skills to be “strong, smart and bold,” a task the nationwide non-profit organization has been excelling at for more than 150 years.

Red Shirts

“We serve the whole girl,” says the dynamic Girls Inc. of Metro Denver president and CEO, Sonya Ulibarri. “We are giving them the opportunity to close the gap; we are making sure they feel confident.”

Part of this confidence comes from teaching the vital tools needed to make good decisions. Activities range from exposing the young women to sports, physical exercise and nutrition, diverting them away from drugs and alcohol and teaching them about health and sexuality in a positive and supportive environment.

Girls Inc. also helps them to thrive to the best of their abilities academically – offering support that might not be found at home – as well as extensive college prep and support in taking the leap into college. This is especially important as many of the girls at the Denver branch of Girls Inc. are the first in their families to contemplate going on to higher education. “

We teach them to make the connection between education and self-sufficiency,” says Ulibarri, something they may not have seen at home.

The organization also teaches leadership skills and encourages its participants to develop a voice and advocate both for themselves and their communities. Nationwide, Girls Inc. operates “She Votes,” a civic engagement program that teaches girls between the ages of six and 18 about voting rights, suffrage and the difference they can make by being involved in the process.

“We want them to become change agents,” says Ulibarri. For many of the girls, who come from backgrounds and cultures where girls and women are not encouraged to speak up and speak out, this is vitally important.

There are plenty of success stories coming from Girls Inc., with alumnae doing “incredible things all over the place” says Ulibarri.

Among them is Alexandra “Sandy” Loya, a student at the University of Northern Colorado who received Metro Inc.’s 2016 Collegiate Scholarship (awarded to a young woman enrolled in full-time education who demonstrates a commitment to community service and is an active leader). She has spoken to girls about her experience as a first-generation college student and routinely hosts Girls Inc. students on campus. “With this scholarship I will also be able to give back to my community and the new generation of Girls Inc. girls by leading by example and showing them that a college education is possible,” she says.

However, bringing about change is intensive – and expensive – work. Girls Inc. offers free or very low-cost programs throughout the school year and during the summer vacation to all for universal participation. While average summer programs cost about $2,000, Girls Inc. runs a full-time summer program for nine weeks for just $75. If this nominal amount is still too much, donations from individuals and companies such as Hyde Park Jewelers, help underwrite the cost. “No girl was ever turned away because of her inability to pay,” says Ulibarri.

DITR 2016

As part of its fundraising work, Hyde Park Jewelers holds an annual Diamonds in the Rough Charity Dinner & Celebrity Golf Tournament. Last year, the tournament raised $275,000 with the money going to Girls Inc. as well as the Denver Health Foundation, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and Judi’s House.

The tournament is also a key date in the Girls Inc. year for other reasons. Program participants act as volunteers at the popular event, which helps the event to run smoothly and exposes the young women to a large network of business people, leaders, athletes, celebrities and situations they might otherwise not experience.

With the hard work of Girls Inc. and the ongoing support of Hyde Park jewelers, more girls are attaining their true brilliance and fulfilling their potential to become strong, smart and bold.