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Community profile: The man behind many smiles in the Roaring Fork Valley is retiring 

After 38 years of molding smiles in Glenwood Springs and throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, orthodontist Dr. Jack Hilty is retiring. 

Now, instead of teeth, he’ll be sculpting marble as a hobby and reshaping his plans for a relaxing retirement. 

“It felt like the right time, you know?” he said. “I love my work, and everything but there are other things to do and that’s kind of what I’m looking at.”

Hilty is retiring from his orthodontics practice in Glenwood Springs and leaving it in the hands of another regional orthodontist practice out of Eagle County — Dustin Roden-Johnson of Eagle Orthodontics.

“I felt like he really understands the area, coming from Eagle,” Hilty said. “I think you would have to want to live in a small town. I wasn’t anxious to get somebody moving here from a city.”

The sunshiny corner office at Ninth Street and Cooper Avenue that acted as the flagship location for his other locations in Carbondale and Aspen will soon begin a slow transition through March. 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Hilty said. “So, I really want to make sure people are happy with the transition and everything goes well because I’m gonna see them around.”

Dr. Jack Hilty stands next to one of his patients in the Glenwood Springs office
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

Hilty does plan to continue living in the valley, and spend his retirement enjoying all of the outdoor amenities. He said that being outdoors in Colorado is one of the main reasons he moved here, appreciating everything from skiing to golf.

He’s excited for more time to enjoy them. 

“Instead of going to do three days a week, I’ll be doing seven days a week,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.

Community profile: ‘Care about the cause’ — Roaring Fork Valley’s Salvation Army director eager to beat last year’s fundraising record

Racks of used jackets sit near the front door. They’re smaller in size, mostly fit for women and children. Staff say men’s jackets are hard to come by at this point. 

Near these garments is a controlled clutter of holiday wreaths sprawled across a table and several Salvation Army red kettles standing tall.

In an adjacent office on this chilly Thursday afternoon is Cristina Ruiz, the newest director of the Salvation Army Roaring Fork Valley Service Extension. Ruiz, who took over for former director Karen Lee in July, was preparing for Saturday’s Red Kettle Kickoff.

This is of course a launch-off to seeing bundled-up volunteers ringing bells for donations in front of places like City Market and Walmart.

“Last year we raised $82,000,” Ruiz said. “I want to go at least 10% above that.” 

The local branch of the Salvation Army answers about 15-20 calls a day, with about another 8-10 people who walk through its doors most days. People seek shelter, jackets, food, money to pay bills, medicine.

“We do casework,” Ruiz said. “We just got somebody into rehab yesterday.”

Cristina Ruiz ushers in the Red Kettle Kickoff in Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

The Red Kettle Drive is a major contributor to the entire yearly budget, and its success could be the difference between helping someone or turning them away.

“It’s painful to say, ‘No, I can’t help you,’” Ruiz said. “Sometimes we have to because we don’t have enough funding, or because we don’t have enough staff.”

This year the Salvation Army has secured more than 400 volunteers to ring bells at nine locations from Aspen to Parachute. After Saturday, they ring and ring until Christmas Eve or New Year’s, depending on the location. Ruiz said it’s kettle captains and support from local Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and high school Key clubs who are behind drumming up so many volunteers.

Overseeing Saturday’s Red Kettle Kickoff for the first time is going to be great, Ruiz said. She was elated that Denver-based Intermountain Divisional Brass Band was coming to play for the event, held at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library. 

She also knows just how critical it is for these coming weeks to be successful. Numbers show COVID-19 years were especially tough, with the Roaring Fork Salvation Army aiding more than 3,000 people in 2020, and more than 2,000 in 2021.

“We were here weekends,” Ruiz said. “We were here late in the evening during that whole time.”

A red kettle on display during the Salvation Army Roaring Fork Valley Service Extension’s Red Kettle Kickoff event in Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
Ray Erku/Post Independent

Ruiz, 54, has a long, extensive background that prepared her for times like these. Ruiz moved from Chihuahua, Mexico to Colorado at age 7 and made her way to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1986. In 1989, she started working at a Latino Assistance Organization called Amnesty Health Services. She was also an interpreter at Mind Springs Health for five years and later interpreted for Glenwood Springs’ Pregnancy Resource Center. In May 2020, just as the pandemic began, Ruiz became an emergency social worker for the Salvation Army.

Kathy Wren, Ruiz’s colleague, tears up when she talks about Ruiz’s transition to the Salvation Army.

“She’s very compassionate,” she said. “She’s very caring.”

Wren started coming to the Glenwood Springs Salvation Army office in a volunteer capacity two years ago. It was then Wren started to realize just how much love Ruiz had for her fellow man, she said. 

“You care about the cause,” Wren would tell Ruiz. “You care about what goes on here.”

“A lot of people do things and it’s just a job. They just want their paycheck and go home. It’s not like that with her.”

Denver-based Intermountain Divisional Brass Band performs during a Salvation Army event in Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Ruiz knows there’s still a lot of work ahead. Inflation is still detrimental to a majority working-class demographic, she said. 

“Everything’s gone up,” she said. “Rent is not affordable.”

For Ruiz, it’s all about mitigating life’s struggles, which is why the office keeps what’s called a gratitude jar. In that jar are notes of what people are grateful for.

When staff reads the notes, emotions rise, but it’s a reminder that that made a difference, or what Ruiz likes to call, “something transformative.”

“Everyone takes turns reading one,” she said. “We just cry. We just cry because we remember.”

2021 CULMINATIONS

These are total donations collected in 2021 by Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringers at locations Up and Down valley

  • Carbondale City Market: $5,273
  • El Jebel City Market: $22,487
  • Glenwood Springs City Market: $14,747
  • Glenwood Spring Walmart: $20,140
  • New Castle City Market: $4,123
  • Rifle City Market: $3,685
  • Rifle Walmart: $6,502
  • Aspen City Market: $271

Other sources

  • Other-electronic: $1,718
  • Web income: $1,399
  • Snowmass Village Clark’s Market: $1,339

Valley Life for All: A nonprofit makes good on its promise

Editor’s note: the Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, has been publishing a monthly series about fostering inclusion since 2018. This represents the final installment.

       


This reporter was on a roll, finding more stories to write about for the Inclusion Campaign for Valley Life for All. Having learned so much about people with challenges and disabilities, I wasn’t ready to give it up. 

But Debbie Wilde, Executive Director, and Sandy Schroeder, Vice President of the Board of Directors, are happy to see the conclusion of Valley Life for All, for it is a success story, a book where the reader has come to the last page and is satisfied. 

And, like finishing a good book, there’s a sense of the bittersweet, says Wilde. “It was a wonderful ride with amazing people. I’m delighted to be a part of a nonprofit that met its mission. That’s the ultimate goal of a nonprofit.”

VLFA began in 2010 the dining room of Margaret “Gary” Bender, whose daughter has Down syndrome. She was joined by another parent, Katie Grange, who also had a child with disabilities. They began looking at opportunities for their kids to be able to participate in the community, just like their peers.

They won a grant from the state to fund their 501c3 status in 2011. Not long after, the nonprofit was christened Valley Life for All (VLFA). 

Sandy Schroeder attended one of their meetings as a parent of a son with disabilities, and before Bender moved out of state, she asked if Schroeder would take over VLFA. Schroeder said only if she could work with Debbie Wilde, whom she met at a VLFA evaluation focus group. 

The dynamic duo was born. Wilde became the Executive Director and Schroeder the President of the Board of Directors. At one point they had $11 in the bank account and relied entirely on volunteers. Eventually they gained funding from various grants and sponsors and were able to pay for some positions.

The women, along with a dedicated board and volunteers, created four pillars for VLFA: The Inclusion Campaign; a Provider Collaborative; Leadership Training; and Spanish Culture and Language Support Group. 

The Provider Collaborative, in which communities collaborated to provide services and support in the transition from school to community, dissolved as other organizations picked up this mission. The Spanish Culture and Language Support Group for Latinx parents with children with special needs, morphed into La Esperanza de Emily, spearheaded by VLFA Board Member Cecelia Garcia. Its success was in helping other services grow to involve Latinx parents and helping Latinx parents become self-advocates for their children.

The Leadership Training collaborated with the Roaring Fork Center for Community Leadership to enroll adults with disabilities who are a match for the leadership class. VLFA supported their participation with scholarships and provided mentors for support and curriculum modification. The goal was to focus on personal strengths, goals, desires and interests to facilitate futures of choice for people with disabilities in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Inclusion Campaign, a favorite for both women, includes Amy Schuster and Erin Gallimore. The goal, says Schroeder, “was to eliminate the fear about how people interact with people who have different features. We focused on the value added to our community.” VLFA achieved this in a personal way, through stories in the newspapers and on the radio about individuals with disabilities and challenges. 

Wilde recalls a VLFA story about a friend named Corey who has degenerative muscular disease and uses a wheelchair. She ran into him some time after his story was published in the newspaper. “I recall Corey as saying, ‘I’m a social media star. People come up to me and say, I saw you in the newspaper and heard you on the radio and I just want to say hello to you. There must’ve been 200 people who have come up to me.’ And it was perfect because his message in the story was, ‘If you see me, don’t be afraid to come up and talk to me.’ So I believe we had an effective way to get an important message across while honoring people and celebrating their stories.”

Of course, there will always be more stories to tell, but, as Schroeder says, “The goals of our four pillars have been met. The community now has the capacity to meet the needs we have identified.”

As this reporter came together with Wilde and Schroeder at a restaurant table to congratulate them, Schroeder deflected, saying, “We think all of this was well spent because we have a changed community, so it’s not necessarily a congratulations to VLFA, but a congratulations to a new community.”

Adds Wilde, “And that people of all abilities can make significant contributions and have full inclusion for all of our citizens in our community.”

As the bill comes and payment is delivered to the waiter, Schroeder says: “We want to say thank you to everyone who participated and who volunteered their time and opened their minds to look at things differently.” Piped in Wilde, “And to everyone who sponsored and helped with the funding.”

The restaurant has closed for the day. As Wilde and Schroeder get up to leave, they are confident that the mountain communities that VLFA featured will carry on the mission of inclusion for all. 

Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. For more, visit http://www.valleylifeforall.org or find them on Facebook.

Lt. Col. Richard Merritt honored at Aspen Elks Lodge

A familiar face in Aspen was the guest of honor at a packed Aspen Elks Lodge earlier this month when more than 150 people attended a celebratory dinner at the Elks Lodge to honor Lt. Col. Dick Merritt (Ret) for his contributions to veterans affairs on the Wester Slope.

Merritt served in the Marine Corps for 22 years and the Navy for four years. He is known to many for the role he plays presiding over Aspen’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day services.

He is also a co-founder of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition. Based in Glenwood Springs, the organization serves veterans who need help readjusting to civilian life.

Huts for Vets, another initiative Merritt helped start, brings veterans who have experienced trauma on trips to 10th Mt. Division wilderness huts.

He also led the effort to create the Veterans Memorial next to the courthouse in Aspen.

Homes for Heroes and the Smiling Goat Ranch are two of the many other organizations that Merritt has served.

Diane Spicer, co-chair of the Aspen Elks Veterans Services Committee, said, “The Elks are committed to honoring and supporting veterans. It was a privilege to host Col. Merritt as our guest of honor on Thursday so that his many friends in the Elks could convey their appreciation, love and respect for all he has done to help veterans.”

Fred Venrick, a Vietnam veteran and long-time member of the Elks who has been instrumental in leading many of the initiatives the Elks do with Western Slope veterans, said, “Dick Merritt is a true American patriot. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore!”

Growing up in Enumclaw, Wash., a small town at the base of Mount Rainier, Merritt was an outdoor enthusiast and Eagle Scout. He attended University of Washington on an ROTC scholarship, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marines in 1957, Merritt went on to serve in the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan.

It was on one of his leaves from Vietnam in 1967 that he first visited Aspen. He purchased his first property in Aspen that year, returning on leave to ski.

In 1979, when he retired from the military, he moved here permanently to raise his family. He’s been married for 47 years to his wife, Patricia. The couple’s children, Matt and Heather, went to the Aspen schools before heading to university.

Merritt worked as a ski instructor and on the ski patrol at Aspen Highlands and later became vice president for mountain safety from 1979-91. He continued working for the Aspen Skiing Co., teaching children skiing at Buttermilk for many years.

In 2017, Merritt was inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame.

CMC Spring Valley vet tech farm open house is Saturday

Colorado Mountain College’s Veterinary Technology Program at Spring Valley invites the public to visit its 220-acre farm and teaching hospital from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The open house provides an opportunity to learn about the Vet Tech Program, and children are encouraged to wear costumes for the Halloween-themed event.

“Some of the animals will be wearing costumes, too,” a news release states. 

Children can have photos taken with the animals, and there will be a petting and feeding area, plus a scavenger hunt, a silent auction, jack-o-lantern smashing (pumpkin pieces are fed to the farm’s animals), and Halloween treats. 

“In addition to the vet tech lab, small animal hospital and equine teaching barn, the college’s veterinary technology program houses a variety of large animals including horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks. Small animals include rodents, snakes, birds, ferrets and chinchillas,” the release states.

Visitors should leave their own pets at home, as federal regulations do not permit unauthorized animals on the premises or in vehicles. 

The CMC Veterinary Technology Center and Teaching Hospital is located at 3000 County Road 114, Glenwood Springs, (across from the main Spring Valley campus, past Colorado Animal Rescue).

For more information, call 970-945-7481.

Former Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf’s life a lesson in civic involvement

There will be a lot to celebrate when family, friends and community members gather next week to remember the life of Mildred Alsdorf.

After all, it was a full life to the end for the former longtime Garfield County Clerk and Recorder who maintained a calendar of civic and community involvement well into her senior years.

Alsdorf died Aug. 28. She was 93.

The family has planned a celebration of life for 1 p.m. Sept. 24 at Two Rivers Community School in West Glenwood.

“She taught all of us to care, to be kind, to work hard and always be willing to help,” daughter Cheryl Hurst Page said.

That went not only for her children, but also for everyone Alsdorf met along her life’s path, she said.

“She just couldn’t slow down, and that was to the community’s benefit, no doubt,” Hurst said.

Alsdorf was one of the longest-serving Garfield County elected officials, becoming Clerk and Recorder in 1978 after seven years working for her predecessor and remaining in the clerk’s position until 2006.

In that role, she oversaw many county elections, as well as motor-vehicle registrations, real-estate transactions and vital records.

“It was such a pleasure working for her, and she was such a wonderful example for us,” said current Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico, who immediately succeeded Alsdorf and is also retiring after this year. 

“She was a public servant at heart, and she loved being county clerk,” Alerico said. “She was just a warm, caring person.”

After retiring from the county clerk’s job at age 77, Alsdorf would continue to work for the senior transportation Traveler Program and was a champion of senior causes on the Garfield County Senior Advisory Board, and with organizations such as Senior Matters in Carbondale.

She volunteered on numerous other boards and civic organizations and remained an active member of the American Legion all her life. She was an organizer and regular attendee at the annual Memorial Day services in Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.

Even though she was an active member of the Garfield County Republican Party, she was the consummate nonpartisan when it came to carrying out the duties of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and in helping people understand the political process, daughter Pati Moreno noted.

She recalled that her mother always enjoyed speaking to high school and college civics and government classes alongside representatives from the local Democratic Party and helping explain the different points of view and the elections process in general. 

“When people talk about her, you can just hear the smile in their voice,” Moreno said. “It just brings so much joy. … And she always accepted people and passed onto us that we need to be more accepting of others.”

Added son Mike Alsdor: “I know those who knew her and dealt with her in all that she did have their own stories, but, for me, she was just my mom. She was special, and I’m glad she was able to share that with everyone else she met.” 

Longtime Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said he admired Alsdorf for staying active as a single mother early in her career following the death of her husband, Carrol, and later in life, well beyond retirement years.

“She was one of the kindest (people) and always up for a challenge,” he said. “She never stopped caring for people and doing things for others.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Community profile: Mountain Fair production manager Mark Taylor reflects on quarter century helping pull it all together

All of Carbondale’s Sopris Park is a stage the last full weekend of July each summer, and for about half of the Mountain Fair’s 51 years, Mark Taylor has been more than a mere player.

Taylor’s Mountain Fair volunteer roots run as deep as the early 1990s, when the North Carolina native first came to town to attend Colorado Mountain College. 

His first Mountain Fair was actually 1989 when he was living in Leadville for the summer and heard about the little hippie fair over on the other side of Independence Pass. He decided to come over with his girlfriend at the time to check it out.

After several years of helping out here and there alongside hundreds of other volunteers who make Mountain Fair happen, Taylor was tapped in the late 1990s by then-director Thomas Lawley to be the official production manager.

In that role, Taylor manages the fair’s set-up crew, which includes everything from installing all of the needed electrical and water infrastructure, building the fair operations booths, setting up the cantina, erecting tents, putting up signs, installing the recycling/compost/trash stations … you get the picture.

During final set-up on Thursday and Friday, and throughout the weekend, there’s also a lot of trouble-shooting and making sure vendors are well taken care of.

“It’s more than that, though,” Taylor said. “Mountain Fair is its own thing and has its own energy. So I think of it more as I’ve had this great opportunity to be the one who’s tasked with opening up that bag.

“It’s been one of the greatest honors for me to be a part of it, and to work with the folks at the Carbondale Arts Council and all of the relationships I have now because of the Mountain Fair.”     

Taylor and Amy Kimberly, the Mountain Fair director since 2004 and Carbondale Arts director since 2011, both announced this spring that they will be stepping away from their respective roles after this year’s fair.

“Mark has been with the fair longer than I and has been the keeper of the spirit of the fair,” Kimberly said. “He taught me how to keep the magic going in this fair.”

Kimberly, who refers to her decision to step aside as a “rewirement,” said it’s important to remember that Mountain Fair isn’t about any one person or group of people.

“It belongs to the community,” she said. 

Along the way, Kimberly said it was always Taylor and a core group of longtime Mountain Fair magicians who would remind her that, because it’s a community festival, they should never do anything like charge admission or have visible sponsorship banners hanging everywhere.

“As long as I followed that advice, the magic proliferated,” Kimberly said.

It’s something Taylor remains passionate about.

“The collective joy that we have been able to bring together over the years, you know, it is magic,” he said. “And I don’t say that flippantly.”

It’s one of the reasons some 300 volunteers step up every year to help with all the various aspects of running a smooth community festival.

“And they do it for a T-shirt, some cold beer and some snacks,” Taylor said. “Mountain Fair doesn’t belong to anybody, it’s all of ours. And that’s what I love most about it.”

Mountain Fair again takes center stage in Carbondale this coming Friday through Sunday in Sopris Park and along the downtown streets.

Small-town vibes

Taylor, who turns 55 next month, grew up in the town of Elkin, North Carolina, which is smaller even than Carbondale. 

“It was very ideal in the sense that you knew everybody and all the store owners,” he said. “We all got along and played well together.”

There wasn’t a big festival like Mountain Fair in Elkin, but he said his grandparents in particular instilled in him a strong sense of community and of service to others.

Taylor studied outdoor education at CMC when he came to Carbondale, but didn’t end up pursuing that career path. He did work a summer internship with the Appalachian Trail Club, but soon returned to Colorado and worked in the ski business for a spell before starting his own construction company.

“We did high performance remodels and upgrades mostly, and worked with (clients) to realize appropriate energy efficiency technology and things like that,” Taylor said of that era of his life, which was similar to the work-a-day lifestyle that shaped a lot of Roaring Fork Valley locals.

About 10 years ago, Taylor was hired to be the facility manager at Carbondale’s Third Street Center, the converted former elementary school building that now houses several nonprofit organizations and serves as a community gathering space for meetings and events.

“Because of the Third Street Center, these organizations are able to flourish and do some amazing work. To be a part of helping make that happen is humbling at times,” he said, crediting the center’s longtime director, Colin Laird, with facilitating most of that effort.

“He’s an absolute gift, and has a gift,” Taylor said of Laird, who now sits on the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

Maintaining the magic

Mark Taylor, center, shares a moment with a couple of volunteers backstage at a past Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Carbondale Arts/Courtesy photo

Taylor said he always takes pause during the often-hectic Mountain Fair weekend to pull one of his crew of volunteers over and just have them look out over the crowd.

“I’ll ask them, ‘What do you see out there?’ And it’s all these happy people just dancing and laughing and carrying on and having a good time, you know.

“We’re responsible for that,” Taylor said. “For a moment in time, we helped make everything OK … and that’s powerful.”

As with any event or organization that has that much impact, though, it’s important to pay that experience forward, he said.

In the nonprofit world, there’s a term for it — “founder’s disease,” Taylor said. It’s something he’s learned along the way from some of his Mountain Fair mentors who’ve backed away previously and let others take their place.

“I could keep going, but it wouldn’t be fair,” he said. “There’s a status quo that comes with being in any position for a long time, and the fair deserves to grow.

“It’s a little like ripping a Band-Aid off, though,” Taylor admits, choking back some emotion.

But it’s hard to ignore the new crop of young, enthusiastic, creative folks who love Mountain Fair just as much as him, and who want to be that next generation to move into those leadership roles, he said.

“I think it’s important that we get out of our way and let that happen,” Taylor said.

Already, a group of successors have stepped up to take on some of those key roles, including community activist and longtime Mountain Fair volunteer James Gorman as Taylor’s successor to lead the production crew.

Also among them are Aly Sanguily, who’s the new entertainment lead for Mountain Fair, Alta Otto as vendor director, and Deborah Colley, who will now handle duties as chief of operations.

The theme for the 51st Mountain Fair is “New Moon Magic,” and fair-goers can likely expect some magical moments as Taylor, Kimberly and others are honored for their many years of work to keep the vibe going.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

It’s About Time feature photo: Outside the Odeon Theater

The northern facade of the Odeon Theater, 312 Seventh Street, circa 1920 (during prohibition). The front of the building is covered with event posters and a sandwich board is placed at left advertising dancing until midnight. The stone front pillars are partially covered with signage reading “Odeon” and “Dancing.” Two men, dressed in suits, are standing on the steps leading into the entrance. The man on the right is identified as Ernest Rowe, and the man on left is George Weirick. The site housed the Glenwood Eagles Club for several decades, and is now KC’s Wing House.
Glenwood Springs Historical Society photo

It’s About Time historical photo: Roll out the barrel

Glenwood Springs Lions Club taking a look back on 100 years of community building

Four years after two Chicago businessmen founded the first Lions Club in 1917, about a dozen residents from Glenwood Springs followed suit, forming one of the city’s first organizations dedicated to strengthening community bonds.

A century later, members of the Glenwood Springs Lions Club still work diligently — funding scholarships, promoting eye care and volunteering around the city — to uphold that legacy.

Adorned in red fleece vests and gathered in one of the city’s oldest chapels, the First Presbyterian Church, a handful of local Lions gathered Tuesday, May 3 for coffee, donuts and business as usual.

“We spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary with members from all over the region,” Club President Dave Merritt, 73, said. “On Saturday, we hosted the district convention, and on Sunday we held our 100th anniversary dinner at Glenwood Vaudeville Review.”

The club’s inaugural bell, brazen and glinting in the morning sunlight, rested on a table at the center of the group.

“All Lions Clubs use a bell to start and end meetings,” Merritt chimed. “And, there’s a tradition of rival clubs trying to steal the bell. It’s a bit of a fun prank we like to pull on each other.”

Traditions are important to Lions, and among the oldest is a commitment to eye care, Lions member Kathy Wren, 64, said.

“Hellen Keller charged the Lions with becoming ‘Knights of the Blind’ in the 1920s,” Wren explained. “And it’s something we as an organization continue to strive for even to this day.”

Changing with the times

While the club’s membership is double that of the original charter signatures, Lions member Rob Trebesh, 77, said the roster count is a far cry from its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s.

Rob’s wife, 67-year-old Margie Trebesh, ran her pen down a printed list, tallying the local membership at 25, including four members who now reside out of state.

“Society has changed,” Rob Trebesh lamented. “The generation following us is more self-serving and self absorbed.”

Finding new members is increasingly difficult as older members age out or move away, he said. Margie Trebesh emphasized the need for growing membership, encouraging anyone with an interest to attend a meeting or call Merritt to learn more.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she said. “Lions Club is more of a physical organization. We get up, go outside and pick up trash, man the gates at high school football games and build projects to benefit the community.”

Margie Trebesh unofficially joined the club in 1982, when she married her husband. At the time, club membership — locally and internationally — was restricted to men, but women’s auxiliary groups supported the official efforts.

In 1987, women were officially welcomed into the international organization, but Margie Trebesh waited until 2010 to join the roster.

“Rob was president then, and we needed to recruit a certain number of people,” she recalled. “So I officially joined to help make sure we met those numbers.”

Long before doling out a membership fee, however, Margie Trebesh paid her dues in sweat equity, earning the coveted Anne Sullivan award, which is given to members and non-members alike for their tireless efforts behind the scenes.

The honorific is a tribute to Keller’s caretaker, Anne Sullivan.

One of the club’s newest members, Sharon Crosby, said she joined for a few reasons, the least of which being peer pressure.

“Everyone on my block was a Lions,” said Crosby, 70, chuckling. “So I figured it was time, and I wanted something I could do that would give back to the community.”

Looking ahead

Nowadays, the local Lions contribute to Glenwood Springs through fundraising efforts, volunteering at local events and promoting eye health and early eye-problem detection.

Over the past 100 years, however, the organization has left a mark throughout the community.

Merritt said they rallied together after World War II to build the bleachers in Sayre Park, unofficially known as Lions Park.

Before the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was well-established, Lions members maintained the park, building a picnic structure that has since been removed.

Before the Grand Avenue Bridge was built in 2017, the Lions decorated the thoroughfare with garland during the holidays, Wren said.

Before helicopters dumped loads of fish into Deep Lake, Lions Members filled milk pails with trout and hiked them up on foot, helping the Colorado Division of Wildlife stock the lake.

In the 1980s, the Lions Club was in charge of the city’s Independence Day fireworks display, which initially attracted Rob Trebesh to the organization.

And through it all, their commitment to serving the sight-challenged remained stalwart.

“We harvest corneas from organ donors around Colorado and Wyoming,” Merritt said, explaining the program benefits a wide-range of people struggling with eyesight ailments. “We also conduct early life eye testing throughout the elementary and pre-schools in the area, helping parents identify early eye conditions at a crucial point in a child’s life.”

Though hindsight is always 20/20, the group is polishing their lenses for the future as well.

Internationally, the organization has created a number of cyber charters, consisting of members who meet and conduct business via the internet, rather than in person, Merritt said.

Locally, members have opened meeting attendance to digital formats, such as Zoom, and recruitment efforts are underway to attract the next generation of Lions.

“In 100 years from now, the Glenwood Springs Lions Club may not exist in the same way it does today,” Margie Trebesh said. “But, it’s not going away, either.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.