Coombs named Humanitarian of the Year for Garfield County |

Coombs named Humanitarian of the Year for Garfield County

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Tough times are no time to pass blame, says Jim Coombs, community advocate for Catholic Charities of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys and a longtime advocate for area immigrants.”It becomes easy to look for people to blame, but it takes acts of courage to pull together when times are rough and to find that inter-connectedness between us,” said Coombs, who was named Humanitarian of the Year for 2009 at the annual Garfield County Humanitarian Service Awards banquet Monday night at the Hotel Colorado.The economic hardships of the past year were particularly difficult for a lot of people, he acknowledged.”What I’ve learned through my work with Catholic Charities the last four years is that connectedness is what we have in common,” he said in accepting the award. “Integration is a tremendously important concept for everyone … it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you reach out and share your pain, and share your joys, and share your heart.”Coombs, 43, was nominated for the award in the human service organization staff category.Now in its 21st year, the Garfield County Humanitarian Awards honor the human service work in categories including staff, volunteers, senior citizens, senior couples, and youth. One overall humanitarian award is given each year.”Jim is responsible for assisting immigrants in our community,” Martha Fredendall, executive director of Literacy Outreach, said in introducing Coombs’ nomination. “When immigrants have problems they cannot handle themselves, Jim is the man to contact. Dignity and justice are Jim’s middle names.”In addition to his work with Catholic Charities, Coombs is an active member of Club Rotario, was on the steering committee of the Community Integration Initiative, spends time organizing and helping at citizenship days, is involved in Welcoming Colorado, an initiative of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and volunteers for the annual Latin American Festival.According to one of Coombs’ nomination letters, as read by Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, “his compassion translates to all of his endeavors. …He is a constant campaigner for the rights and dignity of those who suffer from human rights abuses and the under-privileged, and is a champion to the underdog.”In Coombs own words, “It feels good to do good. When other people might seem a lot different, what we have in common is much greater.”

Staff – Lori Mueller, program director for YouthZone”This humanitarian lifts parents up, better enabling them to them to be effective and excited to pursue an even stronger bond with their children,” Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said in announcing the staff award winner.In addition to her program work with YouthZone, Mueller has served on the Pregnancy Resource Center board of directors for four years, conducts classes for parents of teens, ran the YouthZone Pals Mentoring program, and volunteers for St. Mary of the Crown Catholic Church.”This is an absolute honor,” she said in accepting the award. “I feel surrounded by people tonight who do so much on a daily basis.”The other nominees in the staff category were Sara Harter, immunization program manager for Garfield Public Health, and Kaaren Peck, volunteer coordinator for the Grand River Hospital District.

Youth – Allie Rippy, Glenwood Springs High SchoolRippy created the Students Helping Our Community (SHOC) philanthropy club at GSHS, where she is a senior. According to one of her nominators, “(Allie) truly lives her life chasing solutions rather than bemoaning challenges.”Rippy is a member of the YouthZone group TITANS (Trained Involved Teen Assisting Nonprofits) and is on the YouthZone Board of Directors. She also participated in the Great Minds Seminar at the Aspen Institute, is captain of the Lady Demons soccer team, and was named a recipient of the Boettcher Scholarship.The other nominee in the youth category was fellow GSHS senior and TITANS volunteer, McKenna Casey

Volunteer – Mari Brennan-Combs, Special Olympic coach with Mountain Valley Developmental ServicesBrennan-Combs was MVDS’ Volunteer of the Year in 2006, at which time she was quoted as saying, “Everybody has a purpose in life. The clients teach me so much, they don’t complain, they are your friends for life and they are always happy to see you.”She also started the recycling program and Glenwood Medical Associates where she works, and hired a developmentally disabled man to run the program, a job he’s had for 12 years. Other nominees in the volunteer category were Melissa English, who helped start and continues to volunteer at the ChildHelp River Bridge Advocacy Center; Ann Lewis, a seamstress, grantwriter, and tax processor for The Garden School and longtime Girl Scout troop leader; Tim Riley, a Meals on Wheels driver for 15 years; and Jon Lindenberg, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

Senior Couple – Paul & Bobbie LightThe Light’s volunteer work ranges from their involvement with the Grand River Hospital District and the Kiwanis Club of Parachute/Battlement Mesa to the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, advocating for responsible oil and gas development.”This couple’s volunteerism and humanitarianism spreads far beyond the county, throughout western Colorado and the entire state,” their nominators said. “They are a strong and determined couple, whose faith in humanity is quite evident.”The other nominees in the senior couple category were Walter (Pete) and Marjorie (Hope) Perrine, who are also active volunteering in the Grand Valley community.

Senior – Jan KaufmanKaufman volunteers at Valley View Hospital’s Gift Shop and is on the RSVP Advisory Council and the Valley View Auxiliary Board. She’s a past member of the Garfield County Community Corrections Board (Criminal Justice Services Board), is on the Garfield County Senior Programs Board, and volunteers for Alpine Legal Services.”She gives of her time and energy to make the community safe, and she emphasizes the seniors are an integral part of the community,” her nomination letter stated.Other senior volunteer nominees were Alice Jones, a volunteer at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Valley Senior Center and helps coordinate the weekly senior meals at Burning Mountains Fire District and elsewhere in the Silt community; Barbara McGinnis, whose volunteer work includes High County RSVP and the Valley Senior Center; and Ric Tanberg, a Habitat for Humanity ReStore volunteer.

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