For the love of volunteering |

For the love of volunteering

Trina Ortega
Carbondale Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Trina Ortega Valley Journal

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Eighty-eight-year-old Emma Natal gets tired sometimes. If she has spent all day in the kitchen cooking, for instance, she realizes later that it may have been “a little too much” on her legs.

Otherwise, the Carbondale native is well-known for her energy and longtime volunteerism at the Near New thrift store in Carbondale.

Natal has been a member of the Rebekah Lodge Seven Stars #91 since 1947, and has volunteered at the popular second-hand shop since “the beginning” in 1975, when the Rebekahs took it over.

The Rebekahs are an altruistic organization that aims to support its members and the community. The group uses proceeds from the sales at the Near New for student scholarships and grants for nonprofits.

The shop gets especially busy on Mondays, when the ladies are often greeted with a pile of donations from the weekend. But the women stay busy every day of the week, sorting through clothes, books, dishes and other donated odds and ends.

Natal, who regularly volunteers two days a week, said the community aspect is one of the reasons she likes to be at the Near New.

“That’s why I volunteer. I do love to see people and meet people,” she said. “It gets me out.”

When she’s not at the Near New, she enjoys cooking and tending to her large garden in the summer months. She and late husband Arthur purchased a small house on one acre near downtown in 1954. Now it’s one of the “last green spaces” downtown, she said.

She attended school through the eighth grade but quit when she got married at age 15.

Natal served as the head cook at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, an independent college preparatory school in Carbondale, upon its opening more than 50 years ago.

She also worked as a maid in Aspen but knew without a doubt that she would retire when she turned 62. Her only son, August Natal, lives in Carbondale with his wife, Donna, who is also a Rebekah.

“I was gonna have 12 kids but you know it didn’t work out, so I was lucky to have just one,” Emma Natal said. She has three grandkids and one great-grandson, who loves to visit from Evergreen, Colo., to pick vegetables from Natal’s garden.

In addition to gardening, Natal still loves to cook and had most recently made a batch of butterscotch brownies. Near New volunteer Jillene Rector commented that Natal’s runzas and cinnamon rolls are delicious, too.

“I’ve always loved her … her spunk. She’s just amazing,” Rector added.

Rector said she admires the Near New ladies and their contributions to the community.

“I grew up here and I’ve always wanted to be a Near New lady,” said Rector, who promotes the idea of recycling used goods.

For longtime Near New lady Natal, it’s a compliment, but she said she feels fortunate that her mind and body are still strong at her age. “There are some things I can’t do, like lift that,” Natal said, pointing to a large bucket of brass doorknobs and hardware blocking the doorway.

Her secret? “You need a balanced meal at least once a day … and stay active,” she said.

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