Chinook Fund supports community organizations working on issues of racial, social and economic justice in the state of Colorado.

Chinook Fund has given out over $2.85 million in grants since 1987. Chinook Fund pools money from Colorado’s progressive community and distributes it back to grassroots groups working on a wide range of social change issues.

Chinook funding supports the most strategic work unfolding at the local level to address globalization, poverty, war, racism and environmental destruction. Chinook Fund’s grassroots grantmaking is unique. We recruit our board and grantmaking committee members from the communities we serve throughout Colorado. With the direct knowledge these grantmakers bring, we are able to respond to new ideas and fresh thinking. Chinook Fund makes grants that other foundations may view as “risky” but are often funding years later.

Using our grassroots grantmaking process, we have been an early funder on key issues including HIV/AIDS, sexual violence, immigration, and globalization.

Our Staff

Crystal Middlestadt

Executive Director

Originally from Oregon, Crystal moved to Denver in 2004 where she found home and became active organizing around issues of gender justice and anti-violence. Crystal brings over 12 years of experience with nonprofit leadership, resource mobilization, and racial and economic justice. She previously served as co-executive director and resource development director of the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT), a national organization that promotes the connection between fundraising, social justice and movement-building. During her tenure at GIFT, Crystal was proud to host the 2016 Money for Our Movements: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference in Denver.

Crystal is passionate about supporting grassroots organizations to align their funding with social justice values. Her curiosity in how funding influences organizational and movement priorities led her to join her first development committee in 2006 while program staff at a local rape crisis center. Crystal is a member of the Transformative Leadership for Change fellowship, dedicated to building the power and leadership of social change leaders of color in Colorado and currently serves on the board of Resource Generation, an organization organizing young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S.

Crystal previously worked for Survivors Organizing for Liberation (SOL), as program staff and co-executive director, where she helped launch a robust grassroots fundraising program and pushed shelters across the state to shift policies to increase access for LGBTQ survivors. She served on the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program’s Governance Committee and Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Sexual Assault Prevention State Team. Crystal spends her spare time reading sci-fi by people of color, building her music collection, and camping throughout the West. She has a B.S. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Oregon.

Jessica Nelson

Operations & Grants Manager

Jessica was born in Hong Kong and raised in Western Pennsylvania. She moved to California and then Colorado in 2011 to commit two years of her life to public service through AmeriCorps NCCC and City Year Denver. Before AmeriCorps shifted the trajectory of her life, Jessica graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Neuroscience from Allegheny College.

Now she is a part-time math & sciences tutor and a part-time Physics B.S. student at Metropolitan State University of Denver in addition to supporting Chinook Fund in every way she can. Jessica loves being a part of the Chinook Fund team, learning every day about the depths of injustice and how privilege, power, and anti-oppression work can change our systems. She is continually inspired by the unique community solutions Chinook funds and feels empowered in making change from the operational and strategic level for this work.

S. Juliette Lee

Program Director

Juliette grew up 3 miles from the CIA. The daughter of orphaned war survivors, she is dedicated to assisting minority, displaced, or disadvantaged communities. Juliette earned a BA in English and Masters in Teaching from the University of Virginia, and an MFA in Poetry with an Advanced Feminist Studies Certificate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Juliette’s training includes critical pedagogy and intersectional feminist praxis from an ethnic studies standpoint. She has extensive experience mobilizing communities through grassroots fundraising tactics and community dialogue. She previously worked for the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) as a canvass director and campus organizer, and helped to open a field office for US PIRG in New Orleans before working in higher education. She has taught for the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate writing program and at the College of Art Media and Design at the University of the Arts.

Juliette strongly supports the arts as a vehicle for social transformation. In 2005, she founded Corollary Press, a series dedicated to multi-ethnic innovative writing, which she ran for ten years. Though the series ended, Corollary Press is held at the Poetry Center at ASU, SUNY Buffalo, Poet’s House in NYC, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She helped coordinate the 2014 National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival, and has served as an editorial consultant for the Smithsonian Institute’s Asian Pacific American Center and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. An active video artist and author, Juliette has published four books, numerous essays on race and culture, and was a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature.

Chelsea Manley

Communications & Events Coordinator

Chelsea provides the framework, strategy and implementation plan for communications and events at Chinook Fund. She is a passionate storyteller who uses strategic communication skills to build community and cause visibility.

At the Chinook Fund, Chelsea delivers timely communications to build visibility through print, social media, online and multimedia platforms; while spearheading events from start to finish. Chelsea most recently worked at a Medicaid agency as an administrative director where she led advertising and marketing efforts, as well as client communications. She has also served as a public policy intern at Colorado Nonprofit Association and a program intern at Stride.

Chelsea graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Journalism.

Board Members

Nancy Hernandez

Board Chair
Nancy was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and attended Colorado College where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.  After working in various Denver nonprofits, including the Gill Foundation, Clinica Tepeyac and the Colorado Parent Information and Resource Center, she went on to earn a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management at Regis University.  Nancy served for seven years as a Program Officer with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund where she provided outreach and retention services to students and helped families navigate the higher education process.  Nancy is currently a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership, Research and Policy Program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  She is also the Community and Education Facilitator for Adams 50.  She develops and delivers programs and presentations to inform and engage families on postsecondary and workforce opportunities available to their students.

In her spare time, Nancy supports the Keeping the Dream Alive Conference that provides information on how to help undocumented students who want to go to college.  She is a Board member of the Chinook Fund, and she is co-president and one of three co-founders for the Colorado College Alumni and Students of Color Association (CCASCA).

Anaya Robinson

Board Treasurer
Originally from Michigan, Anaya Robinson now calls Denver home. He has served two AmeriCorps terms performing hands on service in various communities, rebuilding homes for low-income homeowners in Denver and doing beetle kill removal and fuels mitigation in forests around the Front Range. Currently, Anaya continues his dedication to public service through working with the Denver Regional Council of Governments, Area Agency on Aging providing options counseling for individuals living in 47 skilled nursing facilities in the Denver Metro area who wish to explore their options to move back into the community. His passion for working with the Chinook Fund is driven by his desire to support some of the most radical social justice organizations, programs, and movements in his community, continuing to dismantle systems of privilege and oppression in anti-oppressive and trauma informed ways. Outside of this work, he can be found enjoying the mountains and cuddling with his dog.

Mac Liman

Board Secretary
Mac Liman (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Colorado. She is passionate about organizing people around privileged identities — especially young people who, like her, have class privilege — and she is honored to have been able to do this work with beautiful, cross-class, multiracial community at Resource Generation since 2005 and the Chinook Fund since 2007.

In addition to training, facilitating, and moving her people towards collective action, Mac is a bicycle mechanic (so she also has tangible tasks that can be fixed with her hands) and lives with many of her favorite people in a shared community home. She likes being a good neighbor, asking questions, and telling stories that expose the myth of the US meritocracy.

Courtney Banayad

Courtney Banayad is the CoFounder of Moxy Group, an agency that collaborates with social justice organizations to help tell stories, build technology, and raise resources. She is an accomplished fundraiser who believes philanthropy is a tool for social change. She honed her fundraising skills at several social justice organizations, including Global Greengrants Fund, where she raised more than $10 million to propel grassroots environmental action. She holds an M.A. in International and Intercultural Communications from the University of Denver and degrees in Ethnic Studies and American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Courtney lives at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, where she gets up early for sunrise hikes and always has a pint of ice cream in her freezer.

Ken Stern

Ken is a Senior Partner at the Immigration Law firm of Stern and Curray. He has been a lawyer for over 35 years and his practice encompasses all areas of immigration law.Ken received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in 1974.  He received a law degree from the University of Denver in 1978.  Ken has been named “Best of the Bar” in immigration law by the Denver Business Journal and Law Week Colorado and has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since the inception of that publication. Ken is regularly listed in 5280 Magazine as one of Denver’s top lawyers in the field of immigration law.

Ken has received a lifetime achievement award from the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and received the prestigious Jack Wasserman award from the national organization.

Ken has been active in the community serving on the boards of many non-profit organizations. Ken and his wife Linda founded a free English Language Program which served the community of many years.

Ken has been active with the Chinook Fund for over 20 years, serving on committees, the board, and the executive committee. He co-created the Chinook Social Justice Leadership Learning Community and was an active participant in Chinook’s anti-oppression training.  He recently rejoined the Board after a respite for a few years.