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Glenwood Springs Citizens of the Year award honors contributions of Debbie and Mike Wilde

Mike Wilde was in the know and did his part to convince his wife, Debbie, to attend the annual Glenwood Springs Chamber Gala Saturday night at the Hotel Colorado.

What he didn’t know was that it wasn’t just Debbie who was to be honored as the 2022 Citizen of the Year — but him, as well.

Every so often, rather than just one individual, the honor is bestowed on a local couple who, together or in their own separate ways, have contributed to and made an impact on the community.

And so it was that the surprise was mutual when both were called to the stage during the awards ceremony portion of the 1980s prom-themed party.

To make it extra special, their adult sons, Taylor and Carson, came to Glenwood Springs from out of state to help present the award.

“We had been keeping it pretty quiet,” Mike Wilde said of his behind-the-scenes work with the Chamber to line up co-nominators Mike and Chip Wells, Nancy Bo Flood and Stacey Gavrell for a video salute that was played at the event Saturday.

The words were as glowing about Mike’s contributions as a longtime science teacher at Glenwood Springs High School and his numerous volunteer efforts, as for Debbie’s many years of work in the nonprofit human-services field and volunteering to champion many community projects over their 40 years in Glenwood Springs.      

Among Debbie’s efforts toward the betterment of the community:

  • 30+ years helping kids in trouble through her work with YouthZone (formerly Garfield Youth Services), including 22 as executive director.
  • Creating numerous fundraisers for YouthZone, including the popular Kiss-a-Pig/Kiss ‘n Squeal event.
  • Championing children and adults with disabilities through the Valley Life for All initiative.
  • Working to address homelessness and unsheltered families as a special projects consultant for the city of Glenwood Springs.
  • Creating a drug-and-alcohol-awareness class for area high schools.
  • Developing programs for adults with addictions through the Garfield County Human Services Commission.
  • Volunteering on projects related to the new Glenwood Springs Library and new Grand Avenue Bridge.
  • Leadership training for Glenwood Springs Rotary Club members.

“I don’t do it for the recognition,” Debbie said following the award presentation on Saturday. “It’s always been important to me to make a contribution. Life should matter, and for me, it’s about, ‘Here’s my one little piece of time, and here’s what I’m doing with it.’

“This (award) is a huge confirmation and encouragement for that.”

And, for Mike’s part:

  • Bringing the RiverWatch curriculum to Glenwood Springs High School and providing training statewide for other teachers to use the program.
  • Riverwatch Educator of the Year. 
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy Conservator Award.
  • 25- and 30-year service awards from Rivers of Colorado RiverWatch
  • Volunteer and Network leader for EPIC Experience (supporting cancer patients). 
  • Set design, performer for Defiance Community Theater productions.

“I love kids and working with kids, and I enjoy giving back to the community,” he said. “My work has put me in a position where I have been able to do that, but it’s really a team effort in many ways.

“There’s only one now, so you might as well take the ‘now.’”

2022 Glenwood Springs Citizens of the Year Debbie and Mike Wilde with their award.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Nancy Bo Flood, in her nomination support letter for the Wildes, recalled moving back to Glenwood Springs after several years of living and teaching on the Navajo Nation.

“While standing knee-deep in snow, hunting for a Christmas tree up Four Mile Park, a car stopped. Debbie and Mike Wilde waved and shouted a friendly hello, asking, ‘Are the Floods back in town? Welcome!

“That’s what I remember about both Debbie and Mike,” she said. “Their warm, welcoming greeting.”

She added that the Wildes’ “teaming” extended to their work at the Mountain View Church and its children’s ministries as well as leading high-school youth mission trips to several Native Nation reservation sites.

“I also want to comment on the exceptional personal qualities of both Debbie and Mike — being nonjudgmental, developing creative solutions, inviting and including all, and encouraging others to participate and learn new leadership skills,” Flood wrote.

Former GSHS principal Mike Wells and wife Chip Winn Wells made note of the Wildes’ contributions to youth in the community.

“Mike and Debbie Wilde are incredibly involved in helping improve all facets of our community,” they wrote. “Equally impressive, however, is that their volunteerism does not come at the expense of family and friends … the same spirit of generosity that they demonstrate in the community is evident in their personal lives.”

Stacey Gavrell, who works with Valley View Hospital, acknowledged Debbie Wilde’s more-recent work as part of a task force to develop a new addiction withdrawal and treatment management center in conjunction with the area hospitals, local governments, law enforcement and service providers in Garfield County.

“For those individuals experiencing a substance use episode or disorder, having a place for safe detoxification is important,” she wrote. “Beyond a particular episode, assisting an individual with a plan and connections to additional resources can help create a pathway for continued recovery.”

Retired pastor and fellow Rotarian Darrell Mount added in his own letter of support, “(Mike) and Debbie make a loving and committed team. They are Citizens of the Year for many years past and, hopefully, for many years to come.”

And that work indeed continues. On Sunday, Mike Wilde was heading up to the 7W Guest Ranch to volunteer at a camp for adult cancer survivors for the week — something he’s been doing for eight years.

Debbie Wilde continues her work with the various task forces she has been involved with around addiction recovery and homelessness and added, “I still have a couple of big projects in the works.”

Chamber Business Awards

Also awarded at the Chamber Gala were several business awards, including:

Chamber Ambassador of the Year — Charlene Revoir

Top Brass Outstanding Business of the Year — Hotel Colorado

Top Brass New Business of the Year — Adam Decker State Farm Agency

Business Milestone Awards

130 years: Hotel Colorado

50 years: Alpine Bank, Ami’s Acres Campground, Buddy Program

40 years: Vicki Lee Green Realtors

35 years: Advocate Safehouse

10 years: First Bank

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com or at 970-384-9160.

Lighting the menorah surrounded by Christmas trees in the Roaring Fork Valley

Monday marks the last day of Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of a temple in Jerusalem some 3,000 years ago.

The Aspen Jewish Congregation and Mountain Minyan hosted a get together on Friday, combining their regular Shabbat gathering with the final days of Chanukah. Attendees celebrated with music, community and traditional Jewish foods like latkes with sour cream or applesauce.

The Chanukah menorah, one of the most widely recognized symbols of Judaism in the United States, is a candelabra with nine branches. Jews light a candle each day of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting eight days in the reclaimed temple so many years ago.

But for every family that celebrates Chanukah, the holiday can hold a different meaning. 

“What’s wonderful about a tradition that is 3,000 years old is that there are actually a number of stories associated with Chanukah,” said Rabbi Shira Stutman of Mountain Minyan. 

This year, the holiday held special significance for many Jews in the United States. After seeing a spike in antisemitic rhetoric on social media and prominent pop culture stars, most infamously Kanye, spewing hatred against Jewish people, visibly celebrating Chanukah felt more important than ever.

Candles are lit during a Chanukah celebration and Kabbalat Shabbat hosted by the Aspen Jewish Congregation on Friday inside the Aspen Chapel.| Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“I think the rise of antisemitism in America over the last number of years has led Chanukah, in an unfortunate way, to be even more meaningful. Because for the 2,100 years since 164 BCE, the Jews have been fighting to just be allowed to celebrate our religion without infringing on anyone else,” Rabbi Shira said. “And even in 2022, we still find ourselves working hard just to be allowed to be who we are.”

Still, Rabbi Shira counts the United States as a place where Judaism is safe to practice openly, relatively speaking. 

“I still am very grateful to the United States — where Jews have been treated better than we have in just about any country that we have lived in, in the diaspora throughout the entirety of our history,” she said. “But at the same time, we are always conscious that there are people who don’t want us to be allowed to live our religion and our culture in the way that we’ve been doing for thousands of years.”

The Aspen Jewish Congregation considers the Roaring Fork Valley to be a safe, welcoming place for practitioners of Judaism. They said that swastika graffiti surfaces in school bathrooms most years, and that is alarming, but that young people can be taught out of hateful acts.

The exact dates on which Chanukah falls each year changes in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. It is celebrated on 25 Kislev of the Hebrew calendar, which generally hits around December of the Gregorian calendar.

Therefore, the holiday is often conflated with the Christian, and highly-commercialized, Christmas.

Jason Schnissel, executive director at Aspen Jewish Congregation, said the conflation of Chanukah and Christmas in the United States is not necessarily a bad thing.

“We were laughing at some of the decorations that we were hanging up for our Chanukah celebration tonight because you can walk into a HomeGoods and find them. And 20-30 years ago, you certainly wouldn’t,” he said. “I think that speaks to the commercialization of Chanukah in some way. I also think it speaks to the comfort that we as Jews currently have living in America, that we can go to any commercial chain store and find something to hang up on the walls.”

Aspen Jewish Congregation estimates that about 200-230 households from Aspen to New Castle comprise the Jewish community in the valley. Many of them will cook fried foods over the eight days of Chanukah, though exact dishes vary.

“Fried food and oil (recipes) changed drastically depending on where Jews were living. Potato pancakes became very popular in Eastern Europe because there were a lot of potatoes, but in other cultures where there was more cheese,” Rabbi Shira said. “In Arab Jewish cultures for instance, you’ll see a lot more fried cheese pastries, but the common link is always oil.”

The use of oil harkens back to the miraculous oil that kept the menorah lit for eight days. 

Within the Jewish faith, Chanukah is not one of the major holidays. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival, and Yom Kippur, which follows 10 days after the new year, are considered among the holiest days in Judaism. They signify atonement and redemption. 

But because of Chanukah’s conflation with Christmas in America, Rabbi Shira sees it as an opportunity for Jews in the country to pay special attention to an otherwise secondary holiday.

“It’s actually one of the blessings of living in America for us is that we get to celebrate a holiday that — in some places throughout our history — was barely celebrated the way we get to do it here,” Rabbi Shira said. “So it’s the gift of living in America.”

Special Event for New Hope Church Christmas Eve Service

Join us for a Christmas Eve celebration on Saturday, December 24th! The doors will open at 6:30pm for cookies & coffee, with service beginning at 7:00pm. Service will consist of hymns and a Christmas story for the kids. Join us during this Christmas season for a time of reflection. All ages welcomed!

Pet Obit for Buster

Our beloved Buster, just weeks away from turning 12, has left us for the great doggy beyond. We already miss you so much and we are so grateful to you for being just about the best companion ever. I know you are in a great place now- with unlimited rabbits to chase, carrots by the truckload and hopefully a house that needs your protection (when you’re not fast asleep in the middle of the driveway). Bears beware up there. Size doesn’t matter for any bear in your yard. Your fierce bark and lack of size awareness will send the beast away quickly. Your Buster smile will light it up even more where you are. Up there all the other dogs will respectfully sniff you but otherwise leave you alone as you prefer. Your favorite place in warm weather was on your special chair by the front door or just smack dab in the middle of the driveway all sprawled out. There you could check out the neighbors walking by in between long naps, occasionally making yourself heard. You just wanted to make sure everyone knew this was YOUR house and we were YOUR people. Buster, you gave more to us than we could ever have given to you. We will always love you and never forget you.

Engagement for Jacqueline Nickel and Nicholas Miller

John Nickel and Jennifer Baker of Glenwood Springs, Colorado are elated to announce the engagement of their daughter Jacqueline Nickel to Nicholas Miller, son of Clayton and Krista Miller of Manassas, Virginia. Jacqueline is a Glenwood Springs native and is thrilled to have been able to return home and work as an eye doctor at 20/20 Eyecare after graduating and receiving her Doctor of Optometry degree from IAUPR School of Optometry. Nicholas graduated from George Mason University and came to Colorado for its outdoor adventures and is an avid snowboarder and dirt biker enthusiast. A June wedding is planned.

PHOTOS: Kids and families enjoy Thanksgiving feast at Sopris Elementary School

Kitchen staff at Sopris Elementary School started their morning many hours before students arrived last Thursday to prep a traditional Thanksgiving meal for students and their honored guests. One hundred pounds of potatoes where hand mashed, 72 pounds of whole turkeys were roasted and over 300 rolls were baked to create around 350 meals paid for by the parent teacher association.

Sopris Elementary School kitchen crew member Bozena Sak (middle) and her daughter Aneta Dabek dish out plates of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy for kids and families on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School third grader Jayden F. makes his way through the line before enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal with his family on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School employee Alan Dabek volunteers in the kitchen to help dish out plates of traditional Thanksgiving meals to students and their guests on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School third grader Angel Diaz makes his way through the line before enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal for lunch on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School kitchen crew member Bozena Sak (middle) and her daughter Aneta Dabek dish out plates of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy for kids and families on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School third grader Emma C. looks on with excitement before receiving a plate of turkey and all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving meal on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Sopris Elementary School second grader Rory Smith makes his way through the line before enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal for lunch on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Happy Birthday for CBQ

Hope you have a great day. Keep marching to the beat of your own drum and keep those eyes wide open and clear. You are one of a kind in a world where so many try to be something or someone else. You are my favorite girl.

Thank You for Thank you Cowboy Up Carbondale 2022!

Roaring Fork Athletics would like to thank the board members of Cowboy Up who chose us as their recipient of their fundraiser this year. It was a great community event and helped raise $15,000 for Roaring Fork Athletics. Many local businesses donated to our silent and live auctions to bring in the funds for RFHS Athletics. Thanks also to the local ranching families and businesses that bought a table and enjoyed the event with us.

Couldn’t have done it without you: Erin Bassett, Eric Rudd, Natalie Bassett, Scott Haycock, Mike & Jayme Goscha Thanks Y’all

Crista BarlowAD Roaring Fork High School

Thank You for Pastor Eddie Piker

Retirement and Going Away Party for Pastor Eddie and Denise Piker will be held at New Hope Church in New Castle on Friday, November 4, 6pm-9pm. It will be a potluck dinner and an event that will include songs and public sharing of thanksgiving for this family who have shared their lives with many in the New Castle Community.If you have any questions please call 970-984-2656 or email office@newhopeinfo.com.

Valley Life for All: Celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act

Editor’s note: the Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, publishes a monthly series about fostering inclusion.

Jimena De La Cruz was being wheeled around by her parents, Andrea Ramos and Mario De La Cruz. The sights and sounds were exciting; Glenwood Springs had its first annual American with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebration at Two Rivers Park this July. It was also disability-pride month.

There was a small and diverse crowd, but one in which all had a commonality: They either supported those with disabilities or were a person with a disability, some of who prefer to call a challenge or an ability.

For Jimena’s parents, the celebration — complete with speakers, live music and some vendors — was an opportunity to be a part of a community. Jimena, 9, has cerebral palsy.

“I do feel alone sometimes,” being a parent of a child with disabilities, said her father, Mario. “It would be nice to have community.”

Mia Obreque, age 10, has autism. She was helping hand out flyers with her mom, Maribel Obreque, director of family services for The Arc of the Central Mountains, which promotes the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supports their full inclusion into society. Mia sees no barrier in her life, although she no longer wants to be pulled out of class for speech therapy. She wants to play piano, paint and go to class with her peers.

Maribel said the ADA has done so much for people, but there’s still unmet needs: “We need age appropriate information on autism. People think negatively of themselves instead of focusing on the awesome skill sets they have.” She hopes to see more education and support within the community.

Bobbie Meriwether was delighted with the ADA celebration. Deaf since her 30s, she reads lips and uses sign language. She wished more people turned out for the celebration.

“The hearing community suffers enough with isolation,” she said. “And, while we value our community, we also love to mingle with and sign to the caretakers, the families — our fellow citizens!”

Said Maribel Obreque, who spoke to the gathering that evening, “The work’s not done yet, but we’re excited to have this valley behind us.”

“This is our first ever ADA celebration, and we hope it’s the first of many,” said Jill Pidcock, Executive Director of The Arc.

As the sun sunk lower to the horizon, people who were once strangers at the start of the evening’s celebration exchanged names and numbers — and hope for the future.

Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at www.valleylifeforall.org or on Facebook.