‘She’s just so kind’
A table of 10 women cried tears of joy last night at the 16th annual Garfield County Humanitarian Service Awards.Their grandmother, daughter and friend, Mary Jane Hangs, won the Garfield Countywide Humanitarian of the Year Award, and for some, it was too much to take. “She’s just so kind,” said Hangs’ childhood friend Yvonne Chambers as she wiped tears from underneath her glasses. “She does everything to make everybody comfortable.”Hangs, by everyone’s admission, has been a humanitarian most of her life. When Hangs was in elementary school, she came home and told her mother, Alice Boulton, that she needed to call a neighbor to tell her what she needed to do for a school party. And Hangs has been that way ever since, Boulton said.
“I’ve always loved to run things,” said Hangs, who is the social services designee for E. Dene Moore Memorial Home, part of Grand River Hospital District, an organization Hangs has served for 30 years. “I was born to be a boss. … I hate to admit it.”Others, however, appreciate that quality in Hangs. The selection committee received 11 letters in support of Hangs’ nomination. They ran the gamut: Supporters praised everything from her ability to save a pair of favorite pants with fancy sewing to her appointment by Gov. Bill Owens to the Colorado Commission on Aging.”Occasionally, a person comes along who just naturally embodies the spirit of advocating for those less fortunate,” Linda Hansen wrote in a nomination letter. “Mary Jane Hangs is one of those people.”Hangs, though, was quick to turn the praise to others. “I could have never done any of it without God and without all of you,” Hangs told the crowd that packed the Devereux Room at the Hotel Colorado, in her acceptance speech.
Though Hangs won the highest honor of the evening, plenty of others deserved recognition for years of hard work. “There’s so many wonderful people in our community,” said Julie Olson, a member of the Garfield County Human Service Commission’s selection committee. “They’re kind of like the silent heroes.” Laura Krick, of New Castle, and a senior at Rifle High School, won the youth volunteer award. Both Patty Schaffner, coordinator of YouthZone’s Pal program, and Cindy Skinner, a counselor at Rifle High School, nominated Krick. Krick has been a Pal for two years, and has worked with a soup kitchen, the Salvation Army and Relay for Life and has volunteered in Teen Court, Skinner wrote. “She has been a friend and role model for a young girl in her community who has experienced some very difficult life issues,” Schaffner wrote. “Laura’s involvement in this young girl’s life will have a far-reaching impact.”Jean Huyser won the adult volunteer award and was nominated by Sonja Linman at Yampah Mountain High School; Julie Olson, Janet Gordon and Nancy Reinisch, of Advocate Safehouse Project; and YouthZone executive director Debbie Wilde.
Huyser has worked with Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ Adolescent Day Treatment Program, YouthZone and Yampah Mountain High School in her nearly 20 years in the Roaring Fork Valley. Huyser is a board member for the Advocate Safehouse Project. “She jumps right in and gets things done,” wrote Gordon, who works with Huyser at Advocate Safehouse. “At one point I had to tell Jean we were done working for the day because I and all the other volunteers, most of whom were half her age, were tired.”Peggy Wood won in the senior category. Wood, a 71-year-old volunteer at the Rifle Senior Center, has donated more than 3,570 hours of her time over the past nine years. She’s served meals, delivered takeout meals and more, Debera Stewart wrote in her nomination letter.”I have never seen a more unselfish individual with regard to assisting others. I sincerely wish there were more like her. There is no task too large or small for Miss Peggy,” Stewart wrote. Janet Earley won the professional staff award as the program director for the Carbondale Family Resource Center and board member of the Mount Sopris Montessori School. She received nine letters in support of her nomination, praising everything from her work raising funds for a child’s wheelchair to working to become bilingual to serve clients better.
Wilde, YouthZone’s director, won the Shining Star Award as well as wide praise from her staff and community members alike. “Debbie has been with YouthZone for 22 years. In that time, she has positively affected the lives of literally thousands of young people and their families,” Jim Nelson wrote in a nomination letter.Sandy Swanson, executive director of Family Visitor Programs, won the Above and Beyond award.”Sandy Swanson is truly a champion of families and youth in Garfield County,” nominator Cristina Gair wrote. Swanson received a standing ovation for her award, and like the other award-winners, praised others in the room. “I can only get to above and beyond if you all go along with me,” she said.
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