Quartet of women honored as this year’s Garfield County Humanitarian Award recipients
Accolades were delayed a few months by the pandemic and the hugs were virtual this year instead of in-person, but no less meaningful as the annual Garfield County Human Service Awards were announced Monday.
This year’s recipients — chosen from among 11 total nominees — are Brisa Chavez, Sarah Fedishen, Marlene Manown and Mary Lee Mohrlang. They were honored during a Zoom Webinar Monday evening, in place of the usual banquet event.
Humanitarian Award — Sarah Fedishen
Fedishen was director of the Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork Schools until this spring, when she took on her new role as a caseworker with the Ninth Judicial District’s Bridges Program. In that capacity, she works to connect those in the criminal justice system with mental health services.
“Her hard work and dedication has had a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals,” County Commission Chairman John Martin said in presenting the Humanitarian Award to Fedishen. “With a passion for mental health, systems work and providing direct service, she has worked tirelessly to ensure the well-being of children and families in our community.”
Fedishen was also acknowledged by her nominators for promoting social justice and equity in the work she does, and “approaching each situation with integrity and grace, always delivering excellence and maintaining only the highest standards.”
“This award is a great honor,” Fedishen said in receiving the award. “The nomination is heartfelt, and it means a lot.”
Community Empowerment Award — Brisa Chavez
Chavez is part of the Garfield County Public Health staff, and also spends a fair amount of her time volunteering on the Garfield Re-2 School District Accountability Committee and with Colorado Mountain College’s West Garfield Advisory Council.
“Her personal commitment, dependability and passion, but also her ability to increase capacity through engaging others in this work, reveals the truly unique way in which she contributes to our region,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said in reading what Chavez’s nominators had to say about her.
“She repeatedly goes beyond the scope of her normal work requirements, and has helped families formulate plans for improving their language skills, encouraging them to attend ESL classes or to just practice English in their daily lives.
“She believes in a bright future for all of Garfield County residents, if they are willing to work hard and become part of the solution to community issues.”
Said Chavez in receiving the award, “I want to say thank-you to our youth and the children, and to remind them to do whatever you want to do from your heart, and realize change for our community.”
Talk of the Town Award — Mary Lee Mohrlang
County Commissioner Mike Samson got a bit teary-eyed telling of Mohrlang’s personal impact on him when she helped care for a dear friend of his as a volunteer at Grand River Hospital.
“When there is a need in the community, [Mohrlang] is one of the first people to step up to volunteer or to help raise funds,” Samson said of Morhlang, who was instrumental in starting the Care Cart Program at Grand River in 2018.
“Over the years, she has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for different organizations throughout the valley,” he said.
Mohrlang’s “homegrown Coloradoan” roots is also reflected in her weekly talk show, “Community Connections,” on Battlement Mesa’s KSUN radio.
Rock Star Award — Marlene Manown
Manown has been a volunteer in the Glenwood Springs and greater Garfield County community for many years. She currently volunteers for and is a member of the board of directors at River Bridge Regional Center, which assists in investigations involving victims of child sex abuse crimes.
“The dictionary defines rock star as ‘a star or celebrity in any field or profession or anyone who is highly admired’ and, according to her nominator, she is the essence of a ‘rock star’ to River Bridge Regional Center and everyone who meets her,” Jankovsky said in making announcing Manown as one of the evening award recipients.
Manown is also a supporter of many other Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit organizations and groups. As a volunteer builder for Habitat for Humanity, she received that organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award. Prior to that, she was the first female instructor and a founding member of Outward-Bound Colorado.
“I think my years in the early part of my life, working with Outward Bound, trained me well in the importance of service to communities and the people around us,” Manown said in accepting the award.
“At River Bridge, when I look at their staff, they work so hard on some pretty difficult issues, so the work I do is easy compared to the work they do,” she said.
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