Free at last: MVDS pays off final loan |

Free at last: MVDS pays off final loan

Lynn Burton
Staff Writer

Maybe it’s best that wives were sometimes kept in the dark during Mountain Valley Developmental Services’ early days.

For example, the time the nonprofit group was three weeks from defaulting on a $250,000 loan, following the 1982 oil shale bust when many Denver banks stayed away from the Western Slope economy.

Mountain Valley Executive Director Bruce Christensen and board member Ted O’Leary approached Alpine Bank founder Bob Young. They asked for a new loan to pay off the outstanding balloon loan from a Denver bank. Christensen said Young made the loan, but the pair had to personally sign for it.

“Neither Ted or I told our wives,” Christensen joked. “But if Bob was dumb enough to think our signatures meant anything, we were going to take it.”

That loan was then – and a recent financial transaction is now. On Monday, Christensen told the Garfield County commissioners that Mountain Valley Developmental Services is debt-free for the first time.

In June, he explained, the group had made the final payment on its last outstanding loan.

“This allows us to stay in business,” Christensen told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. “State funding is not adequate.”

Christensen said the $3,000 per month Mountain Valley saves on its old $700,000 loan now goes toward paying salaries for its 110 employees and 40 percent increase in health insurance.

The Glenwood Springs-based Mountain Valley Development Services provides programs for approximately 320 developmentally delayed children, adults or their families in Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle and Lake counties.

Parents and volunteers founded the group in 1973, and community support was crucial from the start. Christensen and founding board member Larry Mincer have fond memories of the early years when Mountain Valley was living hand to mouth. Mincer especially remembers the volunteer efforts that helped turn an old barn into Mountain Valley’s headquarters in Glenwood Park in the early 1980s.

“That was one of the most enjoyable times I had,” Mincer said.

It was Mincer’s job to round up volunteer carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other trades people. He clicked off Carl Schiesser, Butch Blanco and other volunteers, then said, “I hate to mention a lot of names because I know I’ll miss some. … There must have been 15 to 20 plumbers on the job.”

How Mountain Valley acquired the barn is a tale of community involvement as well. Christensen said the barn was located at the ranch that was later developed into Glenwood Park, near the entrance to Four Mile Canyon. The developer offered Mountain Valley the barn, but it had to be moved to a new location. The Upper Colorado River Board of Realtors bought a 1.5-acre parcel in Glenwood Park, and donated it to Mountain Valley for its headquarters.

“We were operating out of three rooms on Blake Avenue at the time,” Christensen.

A later volunteer project came when Christensen found a greenhouse in Denver that was free for the offering, if Mountain Valley came and got it. Christensen said Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, Orrison Distributing and Western Mobile donated trucks and drivers to haul the greenhouse back to Glenwood.

“There were about 85 volunteers who drove to Denver, too,” Christensen said.

The greenhouse was rebuilt behind the Mountain Valley headquarters, and clients now grow tomatoes, herbs and other plants to sell to restaurants and other buyers.

Through the years, Mountain Valley has used reserve funds to buy group homes and other real estate in the four counties it serves. One of Mountain Valley’s high-profile operations is its weaving center and retail outlet on Eighth Street. Christensen said the market value of Mountain Valley’s real estate is about $6.5 million. “And that’s conservative.”

Although the oil shale bust in the early 1980s threw a scare into Mountain Valley Developmental Services, the resulting real estate collapse helped in other ways. Christensen said Mountain Valley bought a building site for a group house in Carbondale for $20,000. That site would be worth several times that purchase price now.

As for the future, Christensen said the Carbondale group house will be expanded so that every client will have his or her own room. He will also ask the Mountain Valley board this week to approve the purchase of a house for married clients.

“It’s in a nice neighborhood,” Christensen said. “The board feels we shouldn’t buy houses that board members wouldn’t want to live in themselves.”

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