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Glenwood Springs Citizens of the Year award honors contributions of Debbie and Mike Wilde

Mike Wilde was in the know and did his part to convince his wife, Debbie, to attend the annual Glenwood Springs Chamber Gala Saturday night at the Hotel Colorado.

What he didn’t know was that it wasn’t just Debbie who was to be honored as the 2022 Citizen of the Year — but him, as well.

Every so often, rather than just one individual, the honor is bestowed on a local couple who, together or in their own separate ways, have contributed to and made an impact on the community.

And so it was that the surprise was mutual when both were called to the stage during the awards ceremony portion of the 1980s prom-themed party.

To make it extra special, their adult sons, Taylor and Carson, came to Glenwood Springs from out of state to help present the award.

“We had been keeping it pretty quiet,” Mike Wilde said of his behind-the-scenes work with the Chamber to line up co-nominators Mike and Chip Wells, Nancy Bo Flood and Stacey Gavrell for a video salute that was played at the event Saturday.

The words were as glowing about Mike’s contributions as a longtime science teacher at Glenwood Springs High School and his numerous volunteer efforts, as for Debbie’s many years of work in the nonprofit human-services field and volunteering to champion many community projects over their 40 years in Glenwood Springs.      

Among Debbie’s efforts toward the betterment of the community:

  • 30+ years helping kids in trouble through her work with YouthZone (formerly Garfield Youth Services), including 22 as executive director.
  • Creating numerous fundraisers for YouthZone, including the popular Kiss-a-Pig/Kiss ‘n Squeal event.
  • Championing children and adults with disabilities through the Valley Life for All initiative.
  • Working to address homelessness and unsheltered families as a special projects consultant for the city of Glenwood Springs.
  • Creating a drug-and-alcohol-awareness class for area high schools.
  • Developing programs for adults with addictions through the Garfield County Human Services Commission.
  • Volunteering on projects related to the new Glenwood Springs Library and new Grand Avenue Bridge.
  • Leadership training for Glenwood Springs Rotary Club members.

“I don’t do it for the recognition,” Debbie said following the award presentation on Saturday. “It’s always been important to me to make a contribution. Life should matter, and for me, it’s about, ‘Here’s my one little piece of time, and here’s what I’m doing with it.’

“This (award) is a huge confirmation and encouragement for that.”

And, for Mike’s part:

  • Bringing the RiverWatch curriculum to Glenwood Springs High School and providing training statewide for other teachers to use the program.
  • Riverwatch Educator of the Year. 
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy Conservator Award.
  • 25- and 30-year service awards from Rivers of Colorado RiverWatch
  • Volunteer and Network leader for EPIC Experience (supporting cancer patients). 
  • Set design, performer for Defiance Community Theater productions.

“I love kids and working with kids, and I enjoy giving back to the community,” he said. “My work has put me in a position where I have been able to do that, but it’s really a team effort in many ways.

“There’s only one now, so you might as well take the ‘now.’”

2022 Glenwood Springs Citizens of the Year Debbie and Mike Wilde with their award.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Nancy Bo Flood, in her nomination support letter for the Wildes, recalled moving back to Glenwood Springs after several years of living and teaching on the Navajo Nation.

“While standing knee-deep in snow, hunting for a Christmas tree up Four Mile Park, a car stopped. Debbie and Mike Wilde waved and shouted a friendly hello, asking, ‘Are the Floods back in town? Welcome!

“That’s what I remember about both Debbie and Mike,” she said. “Their warm, welcoming greeting.”

She added that the Wildes’ “teaming” extended to their work at the Mountain View Church and its children’s ministries as well as leading high-school youth mission trips to several Native Nation reservation sites.

“I also want to comment on the exceptional personal qualities of both Debbie and Mike — being nonjudgmental, developing creative solutions, inviting and including all, and encouraging others to participate and learn new leadership skills,” Flood wrote.

Former GSHS principal Mike Wells and wife Chip Winn Wells made note of the Wildes’ contributions to youth in the community.

“Mike and Debbie Wilde are incredibly involved in helping improve all facets of our community,” they wrote. “Equally impressive, however, is that their volunteerism does not come at the expense of family and friends … the same spirit of generosity that they demonstrate in the community is evident in their personal lives.”

Stacey Gavrell, who works with Valley View Hospital, acknowledged Debbie Wilde’s more-recent work as part of a task force to develop a new addiction withdrawal and treatment management center in conjunction with the area hospitals, local governments, law enforcement and service providers in Garfield County.

“For those individuals experiencing a substance use episode or disorder, having a place for safe detoxification is important,” she wrote. “Beyond a particular episode, assisting an individual with a plan and connections to additional resources can help create a pathway for continued recovery.”

Retired pastor and fellow Rotarian Darrell Mount added in his own letter of support, “(Mike) and Debbie make a loving and committed team. They are Citizens of the Year for many years past and, hopefully, for many years to come.”

And that work indeed continues. On Sunday, Mike Wilde was heading up to the 7W Guest Ranch to volunteer at a camp for adult cancer survivors for the week — something he’s been doing for eight years.

Debbie Wilde continues her work with the various task forces she has been involved with around addiction recovery and homelessness and added, “I still have a couple of big projects in the works.”

Chamber Business Awards

Also awarded at the Chamber Gala were several business awards, including:

Chamber Ambassador of the Year — Charlene Revoir

Top Brass Outstanding Business of the Year — Hotel Colorado

Top Brass New Business of the Year — Adam Decker State Farm Agency

Business Milestone Awards

130 years: Hotel Colorado

50 years: Alpine Bank, Ami’s Acres Campground, Buddy Program

40 years: Vicki Lee Green Realtors

35 years: Advocate Safehouse

10 years: First Bank

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com or at 970-384-9160.