A look back at Lolly’s life of fearless faith and adventure
What an amazing life Lolly Colombo, BDI’s late Chief Client Officer and my dear friend, lived here on this earth.
From her youth in upstate New York to adventures all over the world… Lolly touched so many lives with her sparkling personality, imaginative word-smithing and her never-ending energy. Her love for her family, BDI’s client partners and each and every one of her friends and colleagues showed through in all that she said and did.
Although my heart is still so saddened by Lolly’s sudden passing, I also celebrate the abundant life she lived. I want to tell you a bit more about her incredible life. I hope you’ll be inspired to carry with you even just a bit of her bravery and compassion forward in your own life.
Rooted in Rural New York
Lolly grew up in the heart of the Catskills in a small town called Woodstock. From her earliest days, Lolly had a passion for serving others and caring for anything and anyone that lived and breathed.
At Lolly’s recent Celebration of Life service, her brother shared about her tendency, even as a young girl, to collect rocks and sticks in her dresser drawer so that they “wouldn’t be alone”! Empathy for others – the lonely… the hungry… those without a place to call home – was a value that guided Lolly throughout her life.
“As teenagers, Lolly and I would talk about our plans to solve the world’s problems. I thought ‘high-tech’ solutions were the answer. But Lolly had a different approach: ‘high-touch.’ She believed in building relationships.”– anecdote from Lolly’s brother Howard, shared at her Celebration of Life service
Lolly went on to study Foreign Service, International Food Policy and Dimensions of World Hunger at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. It was also during her time in college that she committed her life to following the Lord. Upon graduating at the top of her class, Lolly looked for a way to make a lasting difference in the world.
Planting Seeds Around the Globe
God led Lolly on many adventures! She served overseas in Thessalonica, Greece with a World Bank agricultural development project for third-world nations.
In 1985, she was commissioned to La Paz, Bolivia with Food for the Hungry International to manage child sponsorship and community development programs in the El Alto slums. Lolly also served as a liaison, grant writer and project manager for USAID’s Food-for-Work initiatives in La Paz.
During her time in South America, Lolly met her husband, Nestor, who was serving as a missionary to bring God’s Word to Spanish-speaking youth. They were married within three months and relocated to his home country of Chile.
Throughout more than 40 years of marriage, the Colombos welcomed four children, five grandchildren, and undoubtedly brought many “spiritual” children into this world through their generous hospitality and missionary work together. Lolly often served as Nestor’s translator, as he would preach to packed stadiums of youth in South America.
Together, they also founded a nonprofit broadcast media and compassion-based organization to produce Spanish-language Christian television and minister to families in need. During this time, Lolly also served as the national director in Chile for Operation Blessing International (OBI).
In 1997, Lolly was honored with the UN World Peace Prize in Chile for excellence in community service.
Cultivating a Community of Faith-Driven Fundraisers
Upon returning to the States in 1999, Lolly worked at In Touch Ministries as their media relations and special projects manager for their Spanish-language department. She put her extensive experience in South America to good use and helped expand international distribution of In Touch’s programs.
She was also responsible for planning international crusades for Dr. Charles Stanley in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santiago, Chile, as well as rallies across the US. During this time, her work with OBI also continued. (I’m just amazed at how much she was able to gracefully fit into her days, always full steam ahead!)
In 2002, Lolly co-launched a Hispanic marketing agency after seeing both the opportunity and the need for Spanish-language media and marketing services within the nonprofit sector. Through her years with the agency, she served a number of leading faith-based and humanitarian organizations in their broadcast media, public relations, marketing and fundraising endeavors.
“Lolly and I would come to work without any makeup on… because we knew we’d cry it off as we started each morning of work praying together.”– anecdote from Lolly’s best friend, and former business partner, Steffi Ewing
Lolly’s impact touched many lives, not just personally but also professionally. Most recently before coming to BDI, she served notable organizations like The Salvation Army, as Vice President/Senior Strategist for Grizzard Communications Group.
She may have been working for a “competitor” agency, but Lolly believed we were all on the same team… serving together in this important, exciting and at-times challenging field of nonprofit fundraising. Her goal then, even as it was at the beginning of her life: to care for others and help save the world.
I miss Lolly dearly. BDI – and our world – are not the same without her. But I smile when I think of her sitting at the feet of a Savior she dedicated her life to serving with her whole heart. She no doubt heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”