Tonight, the Gateway Program and its sister project, Wo/Men in Transition (WIT), are celebrating 25 years of service to the Roaring Fork Valley with a birthday celebration and fundraiser at the Glenwood Springs Library Community Room from 5-7 p.m. Jill Ziemann, director of both programs, will serve as master of ceremonies and recognize past participants, and Sonny Conley will appear as a guest speaker. There will be a cash bar, and New Castle Diner has donated hors d’oeuvres.
The Gateway program was founded by Patti Christensen in 1989. It operates under the Carl Perkins federal grant and helps provide single parents eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) an opportunity to advance their education, learn new skills, and move off federal assistance.
It wasn’t always easy. “Many families felt that the program was too invasive,” Christensen reflected. “Seeking public assistance can have a stigma attached to it, and the reporting required to receive these funds is huge.”
Bureaucracy often got in the way, but Christensen and her team soldiered on and made it happen. “Once students were exposed to the classroom and education, their ideas about the world and experiences changed,” she said. “We were breaking barriers by breaking past attitudes.”
Ziemann calls it “the best job in the world.”
“I get to provide tools and resources to parents and watch as they learn to fly,” she explained. “With a guided plan of action and temporary assistance from the many care providers our community offers, these students can better their futures.”
Ziemann is the first to admit that she stands on the shoulders of others.
“Gateway and WIT would not be here today without the dream and hard work of those before me,” she said.
In addition to Christensen, she praised Tricia Murray, who began as department secretary and currently serves as economic division manager for the Garfield County program.
“Tricia has provided sound advice and encouragement to the present case managers, Pam Stark and Robin Bustad, who work hard getting the necessary paperwork completed while helping their clients identify a way to financial sufficiency,” Ziemann said.
On Friday, Colorado Mountain College invites donors to “be the link,” supporting success and helping people reach a secure future. Donations will help fund gasoline vouchers, phone cards, child care, tuition, fees, books and class supplies.
“These items often determine if a young mother can make it to class, show up for a job interview, or know that her children are in a safe place while she is pursuing opportunities to make a difference in their lives,” said Ziemann.
Donations can be made out to the CMC Foundation and sent to Jill Ziemann, director, Gateway & Wo/Men in Transition, 802 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601.