Citizen Spotlight: Shelley Aibner nurturing Rifle’s community roots
Citizen Telegram Contributor
“Citizen Spotlight” is a monthly feature profiling a longtime resident of Western Garfield County and their contributions professionally, personally and otherwise to make this area an attractive place to live. If you know someone who might be interesting to tell others about, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 384-9114.
Shelley Aibner’s kids refuse to go to the grocery store with her because it takes forever for her to catch up with everyone she runs into there.
Aibner, 45, is passionate about community and about Rifle, a combination that has earned her high praise and a few bruises over the years.
Her most recent and prominent effort, helping make the New Ute Events Center a reality, will begin hosting live performances early this summer. That’s something she’s wildly excited about.
Aibner is a successful massage therapist, focusing on injury and surgery recovery. She decided to pursue a career in massage after she realized schooling to be a physical therapist would be too long and expensive for her to afford on her own.
“I still absolutely love my job,” Aibner said. “I know I was put on this earth to facilitate healing and health.”
Aibner was reluctant to move down valley from Glenwood Springs 13 years ago. But she wanted to own a home and found more affordable options in Rifle. It took her some time to warm up to the sleepy bedroom community, but once she adopted it, Rifle immediately began to benefit from her nurturing spirit.
“I want to create health and vitality in our community,” Aibner said. “I want us all to be more connected and to have a greater sense of community.”
Starting with her first foray into community building, creating connections and building culture has always been her focus.
Aibner got a group of six ladies together about seven years ago. They were going to try to play Bunco. That never quite panned out, but the now-robust “Marvelous Mermaids” group was born. It’s a diverse networking group of more than 100 ladies of all ages, from all different fields and backgrounds.
“It turned into quite an amazing group that helped a lot of women find their jobs, babysitters, the loves of their lives – anything,” Aibner said.
Creating that group was her first accomplishment and one she’s happy to stay involved with. But her passions in recent years have turned to bigger projects.
Aibner led a group that hoped to see a recreation center built in Rifle, where people could connect and build a stronger, healthier community. The sales tax that would have supported the center was rejected by city voters.
“The rec center falling through was devastating,” Aibner said. “But at least I knew the Ute was right around the corner.”
For the last four or five years, Aibner has been an active New Ute Theatre Society board member, working to revitalize the former Rifle Creek Theater into the New Ute Events Center. The performance venue will provide space for major acts and local talent alike.
A “soft opening” on Friday, May 23, will feature a number of local performers, including Johnny O, Aibner said.
“My main focus is definitely the Ute,” she said. “When I first stepped foot in that building – wow – the potential is just amazing. Something just hit me.”
Aibner is hopeful the performance venue will draw crowds for events and people will go to Rifle restaurants and shop in Rifle businesses, strengthening the local economy financially and community culturally.
“I think of the Ute as our gold nugget,” Aibner said. “I think it’s going to help the roots of our town grow stronger and stronger.”
Aibner has been grateful for the support of her tight-knit family, including her parents and brother in Waverly (a small farming community outside of Fort Collins, where she is from); her husband, Scott; adult stepchildren, Andrea and Angela; and her teenage children, Elliott and Chloe.
Even if they won’t go grocery shopping with her any more.
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