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Patti Christensen changed lives

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Jill Ziemann, current director of the Gateway-Wo/men in Transition programs at CMC, would like to praise the impact that Patti Christensen had on the lives of many women in our community. The programs Patti developed still exist 26 years later. Women who accessed these educational and social service programs have gone on to become nurses, medical assistants, paralegals, pilots, law enforcement officers, teachers, counselors and, most importantly, parents of healthy families in our communities thanks to Patti’s work and efforts.

Patti Christensen passed away on June 24. A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 11. Please consider a gift to the Valley View Hospital Foundation or the charity of your choice in lieu of flowers.

Patti Christensen came to work at CMC in 1987 as director of the Wo/Men in Transition program. Her responsibilities included providing services to single parents and displaced homemakers under the Carl Perkins federal grant, which is administered by the state of Colorado.

After the passage of the Family Support Act of 1988, CMC sought to partner with the Garfield County Department of Social Service and the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) to service families receiving benefits under the new federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), now known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Each agency had a major role to play, and the Gateway program was formed.

Although Christensen retired from CMC in 2004, she saw many accomplishments in her time with the program. A major accomplishment was receiving one of six $100,000 grants to design and implement a model program in the area of welfare reform. CMC’s model program (Gateway) was invited to present at numerous national conferences. As part of Gateway’s innovative curriculum, the Climb On — From Welfare to a Degree program was developed in coordination with Dr. Bruce Kime of CMC. Climb On included a confidence-building experience on the college’s climbing wall in preparation for moving outdoors to rock climb near South Canyon. It gave students a way to look at their fears and to move on from them.

Another partnership was formed with her husband, Bruce Christensen, director of Mountain Valley Developmental Services, for job coaching. This program, titled “One Rural Community’s Response to TANF and Local Labor Market Needs,” also was presented at a national conference.

As CMC was the educational component of the Gateway program, Patti felt her greatest rewards came in those changes that she saw in the classroom. Attendance, appearance and accountability were factors that some participants had not dealt with before. Self-esteem and self-confidence would begin to grow in these students. Importance was placed on individual goal-setting for each student. The eight-week Link program was developed to assist participants with skills to succeed in both job training and educational goals. The huge cooperative effort to work together as a team of case managers made the programs successful.


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