Tough times are said to bring out the best in people. That sentiment rings true still for the legacy of Lila Jean Stewart. In celebration of what would have been Stewart’s 88th birthday earlier this month, The Stewart Family Foundation donated $100,000 to TLC Learning Center to offset cost incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lila Jean loved three things. She loved the city of Longmont and the Stewart Museum is named in honor of Bill (Lila Jean’s husband) and Lila Jean. She loved (University of Colorado)football. She was part of the Champions Center that they built there and the Champions Club. And then she loved TLC Learning Center,” said Matt Eldred, executive director of TLC.
Eldred could not recall how Stewart became involved with TLC, a now 65-year-old Longmont nonprofit organization, however, he knows she “loved the children at the TLC Learning Center,” he said.
TLC is a Longmont infant nursery, toddler care, inclusive preschool, and pediatric therapy center for children with special needs and typical children from Longmont and surrounding communities, according to a news release announcing the gift.
The Stewarts had a daughter who passed away during a surgery in adulthood. Without any other children of their own, Lila Jean Stewart doted on the children at TLC, especially those with special needs, Eldred said.
“She really had a passion for helping people,” he said. “She did big things and small things.”
No task being too small, Stewart would help buy books to read to children or help with the snack program, Elred said. Among her larger contributions were fixing the sidewalk so children in wheelchairs had equal access to the building and donating the money to paya speech therapist’s salary for a year after learning TLC had a long waiting list for such services.
“She was really thoughtful in those ways, really making sure that the kids had access to the services that they needed,” Eldred said.
Stewart died in 2018, however, her passion projects still feel her love.
On Aug. 11, which would have been Stewart’s 88th birthday, The Stewart Family Foundation donated $100,000 to TLC. The funds were not earmarked for a specific purpose, Eldred said. The organization is choosing to use them to offset the costs incurred during the lockdown phase of the pandemic and its inability to host its annual fundraiser, according to the news release.
“Additionally, funds from the donation will be used to provide staff with 100% employer-paid, short-term disability insurance and a life insurance policy.”
Jim Newcomb, president of the Stewart Family Foundation, reiterated the family’s dedication to the organization in the release. "The Stewart Family loved children and wanted them all to have an equal chance as they grew to adults. The Stewart Family Foundation wishes to continue to honor the wishes of Bill, Lila and Linda.”
“Although the facility lost tuition revenue during the lockdown phase of the COVID pandemic, TLC’s board of directors took action to ensure that employees continued to be paid even while not working,” the news release states.
“Lila Jean had a big heart and a big personality; she was always surrounded by friends and made us laugh,” Eldred said. “She’s sorely missed — both her visits on campus and her presence at our events — so we’re so excited to continue being part of her ongoing legacy through the foundation.”