Reflections on a CWEE Champion: Celebrating the Legacy of Don MacKenzie

Don MacKenzie, a longtime member of the CWEE Board of Directors and a beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, colleague, and friend, recently passed on. The CWEE family has been mourning his loss and reflecting on Don’s remarkable impact on our organization and those who knew and loved him.

Shortly after joining the Board of Directors, Don facilitated the purchase of a large portion of our headquarters at 1175 Osage Street from then-brew master John Hickenlooper. This was an important achievement that helped propel CWEE’s advancement – both from a programmatic perspective and in terms of financial stability.

Don was instrumental in developing and leading a successful capital fundraising campaign with the Board of Directors to renovate the newly purchased space, which included equipping and upgrading CWEE’s first-ever computer lab. Fast forward nearly two decades and CWEE’s program is undergoing a significant evolution as we recalibrate our program to focus on technology learning, digital access, and virtual training to meet the rapidly growing need for our services. Don was passionate about expanding CWEE’s impact and serving more people in need. As CWEE has evolved over the past several months to embrace a virtual training model and expand access, Don was steadfastly supportive. As always, his counsel during times of change and transition was deeply valued.

Don was an involved and devoted leader for CWEE and served on the Board of Directors for over two decades. For at least 16 years Don served as CWEE’s Board Chair. Upon Don’s first visit to CWEE he quickly embraced our mission of empowering single parents to transform their lives through education and employment. Don’s three daughters were young at the time he joined the board, and his wife Suzanne sometimes traveled for business. In those days, Don would often remark that he viewed his responsibilities as a dad as the most important in his life. He recognized that even though he had resources, being a single parent is a difficult balance no matter what. This served to further connect him to CWEE’s mission and fueled his strong appreciation for the single parents at CWEE who are working to change their lives at the same time they are raising children alone.

Don deeply believed in the mission and had an intricate understanding of CWEE’s program and business operations. In 2010, Don led a comprehensive strategic planning process that helped CWEE expand services to more individuals in need, as well as diversify the organization’s revenue sources. It was during this time that CWEE expanded to serve Arapahoe County TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) participants.

Don’s impact and far-reaching legacy with CWEE is embodied by his careful stewardship of CWEE’s financial and property assets, helping the organization to build a strong and durable financial foundation to meet our missions for many years to come. Don shared his vast business and entrepreneurial expertise with CWEE to significantly advance the organization’s financial health through careful planning and long-term investments. This strong foundation has enabled CWEE to continuously expand our impact and pursue our mission without the dramatic financial ups and downs that so many nonprofits experience.

Supporting CWEE was a family affair for Don, his wife, Suzanne, and their daughters, Phoebe, Sarah, and Margot. Suzanne and Don opened their home for CWEE celebrations, and Suzanne generously donated her time to co-chair our 35th anniversary event. Don’s daughter, Phoebe, served as a CWEE intern and in that way left her own mark on the organization. Additionally, Don generously shared his networks with our organization including recruiting many skilled and committed professionals, his own friends and colleagues, to serve on the Board, volunteer, and invest in CWEE.

Don’s compassion, commitment and continued support for many years has left an indelible positive mark on CWEE. For us, the current and former leaders of this organization, Don was a mentor, coach, advisor, and friend. He challenged each of us to grow and to become more effective leaders.
Despite the great pain and sadness we feel due to Don’s sudden passing at just 57 years old, we take some comfort in the fact that CWEE, the organization he so dearly loved, will continue – stronger than ever. CWEE’s strength is a tribute to Don’s achievements during his life, and this organization’s ongoing positive impact is part of Don’s legacy.

On behalf of the entire family of CWEE staff, Board of Directors, volunteers, and supporters, we extend our sincerest condolences to the MacKenzie family. He will be dearly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him. To learn more about Don, view his obituary here.

This tribute was written by Katy Hamilton, current CEO, and Laurie Harvey, former CEO