| PostIndependent.com

Give where you live: Nonprofits strengthen our community

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Mountain West Gives.

Join Mountain West Gives for a rally at the tree lighting ceremony in Carbondale during First Friday, Dec. 6, to drum up momentum for Colorado Gives Day (Dec. 10).
About Mountain West Gives

A group of nonprofit directors from the Roaring Fork Valley got together about 5 years ago to work on a regional campaign after seeing a need to direct Colorado Gives Day donations to local organizations. From Aspen to Parachute, there are 49 nonprofits participating in Mountain West Gives this year. Contributing to these groups will help your money stay right here in the community, providing much-needed services for the people who live and work here in our valley.

To give to one of these organizations on Colorado Gives Day, visit www.coloradogives.org/mountainwestgives. You can also set up donations in advance of Colorado Gives Day, or even set up recurring donations.

With 49 local nonprofits participating in Colorado Gives Day, there are at least 49 ways you could make a significant community impact this holiday season.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, a regional effort called Mountain West Gives is working to drive Colorado Gives Day donations to local nonprofits. Colorado Gives Day, an annual statewide charitable giving drive, is Dec. 10.

“$100 here will do so much more than at the national or state level,” said Julie Olson, executive director of the Advocate Safehouse Project, and one of the coordinators for Mountain West Gives. “It gives soul to our community when we work together and collaborate.”

Olson said that it’s sometimes easy to forget about the work local nonprofits do, but when you look at the services they provide to everyone, it’s easy to see how the impacts are so vast. From environmental causes that affect all of us to English language learning services that contribute to a literate community, nonprofits help us more than we often realize.

“Nonprofits enrich our community,” Olson said. “They are a safety net in our community, and even if you might not need one of them today, you or your family might need our services in the future.”

From Aspen to Parachute, there are 49 nonprofits participating in Mountain West Gives this year. Contributing to these groups will help your money stay right here in the community, providing much-needed services for the people who live and work here in our valley.
Give locally

All of the 49 nonprofits participating in Mountain West Gives have been fully vetted via a rigorous application process. If you’re thinking about making a donation on Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 10, it can be hard to sift through all of the organizations to find the right cause for your dollars.

At www.coloradogives.org/mountainwestgives, you can read descriptions about each nonprofit and make your online donation quickly and easily. All of the money donated will go directly to these organizations thanks to a FirstBank contribution toward Colorado Gives Day that covers all administrative costs.

Join Mountain West Gives for a rally at the tree lighting ceremony in Carbondale during First Friday, Dec. 6, to drum up momentum for Colorado Gives Day (Dec. 10).

Helping our neighbors

Nonprofits play a critical role in the Roaring Fork Valley, providing important services to meet local needs that wouldn’t otherwise be met. Blythe Chapman, executive director of River Bridge Regional Center and one of the coordinators of Mountain West Gives, said giving to these groups ensure funds stay in the community to help our neighbors.

“Nonprofit organizations are a bridge between the private and public sectors that help solve more problems to improve the world in which we live,” Chapman said. “In the past, a lot of people in our community were giving to these bigger statewide or nation-wide organizations and the money wasn’t staying here locally. … We’ve got to start with our community here if we’re going to expect any significant support and change for our entire larger community like the state or the nation.”

Nonprofits play a critical role in the Roaring Fork Valley, providing important services to meet local needs that wouldn’t otherwise be met.
Donation goal: $350,000

Donations to Garfield County organizations alone nearly doubled from $110,000 in 2014, when the Mountain West Gives effort began, to $210,000 in 2017.

In 2018, the local Colorado Gives Day effort raised $325,047 for 47 nonprofits in Garfield, Pitkin and (western) Eagle counties. The goal for 2019 is to raise $350,000 via 1,850 donations. Help Mountain West Gives reach its goal by making a donation at www.coloradogives.org/mountainwestgives.

Making it easy to donate online

Olson said the Mountain West Gives website makes it so easy to donate, which is especially helpful for the smaller organizations that wouldn’t typically be equipped to accept online donations.

If you go to the Colorado Gives Day website and search by county, that brings up a false list of organizations because it includes nonprofits that aren’t truly local. For example, national and statewide organizations that might conduct business in the county will appear on the list, but Olson said those funds aren’t necessarily guaranteed to remain in the community.

“They’re not here — they’re not the heart and soul of Garfield, Pitkin and Western Eagle Counties,” Olson said.

On the Mountain West Gives landing page, you can type in the services for which you’re interested in, such as animal-related services or health and human services. It’ll then display the local organizations participating in Mountain West Gives, including descriptions about the causes they support. This helps donors focus their dollars since it can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know where to give.

“Around here, neighbors are really important. Living in rural Colorado, people recognize that we’re supported by each other,” Chapman said. “Local giving is so important — give where you live.”

The energy-efficient home

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Holy Cross Energy

The Tvarkunas family converted all gas appliances to electric and they’re generating their own electricity with solar panels. They also own an electric car and take advantage of Holy Cross Energy rebates.
Courtesy Photo
Energy-saving measures
  • Operate heat tape only during daytime hours when melting is occurring and turn it off at night. Sun also helps melt ice dams.
  • Use a timer to control heat tape automatically. HCE offers rebates for heat tape timers (50 percent of the cost up to $100).
  • Make sure to turn your heat tape off at the breakers when there is no snow on the roof.
  • Use smart or programmable thermostats to control heating and cooling systems.
  • Don’t heat or cool your home more than necessary when you’re not home (50 degrees is sufficient in most homes to prevent pipes from freezing).
  • Remember to turn off crawl space and garage heaters in the summer months.
  • LED bulbs use 75 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent or halogen bulbs.
  • HCE’s new online store has instant rebates on LED bulbs, thermostat, water saving devices and more.

The Tvarkunas family’s efforts to live a more energy efficient lifestyle might sound impressive, but the family believes this is the lifestyle of the future.

Patrick and Lucila Tvarkunas moved into their Eagle home about five years ago and they knew they wanted to make important changes to improve the home’s energy efficiency. After energy assessments from both Energy Smart Colorado and Holy Cross Energy (HCE), the Tvarkunases invested in insulation, LED lighting, air sealing, programmable thermostats, super efficient heat pumps and more. All of these measures have resulted in a net zero home, meaning the home’s solar panels produce more energy annually than the family uses.

“The Tvarkunas family is a perfect example of an HCE member wanting to be carbon neutral, converting all gas appliances to electric and generating their own electricity with solar panels,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for HCE.

Learning how to become more efficient

Seventy70Thirty, 70 percent clean by 2030

HCE aims to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030 by increasing clean and renewable resources and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The path to 70 percent clean energy requires a reduction in coal-fired power generation, improved energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles and businesses, and accelerated investment in new renewable energy resources connected to the electric distribution grid.

The first step in making any home or building more energy efficient is an energy audit.

“HCE provides one complimentary residential energy audit within a 5-year period for the same member at the same location,” said Eileen Wysocki, distributed resource program manager at HCE.

“It’s important to understand what’s using energy in your home and how to reduce usage from those items. People have many misconceptions about what’s using the most energy in their homes, and are often surprised when they see the breakdown of their home’s energy use,” Wysocki said. “Having an audit can also help identify areas of heat loss through the use of an infrared camera. Audits can also help prioritize what projects should be tackled first based on the needs of the residents and the greatest energy savings.”

Those savings can reach 50 percent or more depending on the upgrades. Wysocki said the average home sees about 10 to 20 percent in annual energy savings after making more efficient upgrades, but savings aren’t the only reason to seek more efficiency.

“Upgrades can make your home more comfortable,” Wysocki said. “And a more energy efficient home may have higher resale value.”

Patrick said his family’s home is much more comfortable now thanks to increased insulation and the elimination of drafts.

Small steps for greater impacts

The Tvarkunases use HCE’s energy assessments to guide them toward ways to maximize their efficiency upgrade investments.

“From simple things like switching to LED lights that use 80 percent less power than a normal light bulb, all the way to using rebates for our solar panels and having an electric car charger installed, HCE has been a great partner in helping us both save money on our monthly bills and reduce our environmental footprint,” Patrick said. “Energy Smart Colorado has also been awesome with their own efficiency rebates which have allowed us to invest more with their matching funds.”

The Tvarkunases are committed to doing their part by being more efficient and creating locally produced energy. It saves the family money, but it also contributes to the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the local electricity grid, Patrick said.

The family has even purchased a Nissan Leaf electric car, saving them more than 500 gallons of gasoline per year, or roughly $1,500 in annual fuel and maintenance savings. They’re also composting their organic waste to use in their small garden, and they of course always take the time to recycle.

“Each small step gets us closer to a sustainable future where we all invest locally instead of sending our dollars to huge mega businesses, which definitely do not have our local interests in mind,” he said. “Overall, there haven’t been any drawbacks — we save money and have a more comfortable house while reducing our footprint and being more self-sufficient.”

Energy Efficient Products and Rebates

HCEstore.com is HCE’s new online resource for members looking to give their home an energy efficiency makeover. Members can save up to $400 a year with upgrades such as air filters, advanced power strips, smart thermostats, LED lighting and water devices.

Visit HCEstore.com to learn more.

Where the owner knows your name

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Big John’s Ace Hardware

Big John’s Ace Hardware in Glenwood Springs offers products and services that aren’t readily available anywhere else in the valley, such as RV products, customized paint-matching, mower and grill assembly, electronic keys, hardware needs and more.
Courtesy Photo
About Big John’s Ace Hardware

The original Big John’s Building & Home, Inc. was founded in Glenwood Springs in 1988 and operated until 2010 before losing its lease and closing. In 2013, while searching for a location to open a sporting goods store, Big John fell upon a lease at 2602 South Glen Ave. and opened Big John’s Ace Hardware in 2014.

For more information about products and services, visit www.bigjohnsacehardware.com, call 970-945-5345 or just visit the store!

Big John might have gotten his nickname because of his 6’7’’ stature, but it’s his large personality and willingness to help people that seems to really stick when customers meet him.

“He’s never met a stranger — he’s just that kind of guy,” said Jan Harr, who works for John Lindsey in the administrative office at Big John’s Ace Hardware in Glenwood Springs. “He loves to talk to people and loves to share knowledge — people just really love him.”

When Big John had to close his previous location, Big John’s Building & Home, due to losing his lease in 2010, John’s big, friendly personality and top-notch customer service remained in the memories of those who knew him. Big John and his family had moved to Arizona, but his absence was felt in Glenwood.

“Once a friend, always a friend — John is one of those guys,” said Trey Holt, who has been friends with John for 30 years. “He takes a lot of pride in being a friend — not just an acquaintance, but really being there for you.”

Just as John had been thinking of moving back to Glenwood to open a sporting goods store, he heard that a space in the old Subaru building was available and that his name came up in the conversation about ideal tenants. His return to Glenwood was meant to be.

Locals’ choice

Big John’s Ace Hardware had only been open for six weeks in 2014 when it picked up the Glenwood Springs Post Independent’s Locals’ Choice award for best hardware/home improvement store. It’s now won the award for six straight years.

“That’s a real source of pride for me,” Big John said. “People said, ‘man, did we ever miss you.’”

Holt can’t count the number of times he’s been at breakfast or lunch with John when people come up to the table to ask him about a project that has them stumped.

“They’ll come up to ask how they can fix something and he always helps them figure it out,” Holt said. “He doesn’t leave work when he leaves the store.”

In the business of serving

John Lindsey, owner of Big John’s Ace Hardware in Glenwood Springs, believes “good service equals good results.”
Courtesy Photo

Big John believes we’re all in the business of serving others, and he has a philosophy about how to succeed.

“Everything is cause and effect,” he said. “Good service equals good results. Medium service equals medium results. Bad service equals bad results.”

Harr said Big John’s knowledge about the products in the store is obvious when customers talk to him. He’s great at troubleshooting and often helps people figure out the best way to reach their desired outcome.

By treating people the way he’d want to be treated, customer service at Big John’s isn’t just friendly, it’s genuine.

“I know I’m going to give customers the right solution to whatever problem they’re working on,” Big John said. “I’ll get goosebumps when I know what I told them is going to work — I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

Friendly, knowledgeable staff

Holt said you can bring a part in to Big John’s Hardware and they’ll help you find it in the store, or they’ll order it for you to ensure you buy the right item.

“John’s focused and driven, and he’s all about making his business work in a tough economy against big-box stores,” Holt said. “The personal care is there, and you can even see it in his employees’ character.”

The Google Reviews say it all:

  • “Very helpful and friendly,  Big John’s has that home town friendly feel and is the reason I enjoy shopping at Ace Hardware.”
  • “This kind of dedication to customer service can only be found in a small town local hardware store.”
  • “Caring and courteous. If you want to experience great customer service this is where I would shop!!!! Bar none!”

Impressive inventory

Big John is particularly astute in terms of his store’s inventory, Harr said. If you need anything from a bag of screws to paint to outdoor grills, Big John’s likely has what you need for home improvement projects and more.

“We’re currently better stocked than the warehouse that supplies us,” Harr quipped.

That’s thanks to Big John’s inventory experience. He’s been doing it since he was 8 years old at his father’s lumberyard in Cedaredge.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Big John said. 

Beyond hardware

Big John’s offers products and services that aren’t readily available anywhere else in the valley. Customers can come in for computerized paint-matching or get electronic chip keys made, or they can get door, window or patio screens built or repaired. Big John’s also offers mower and grill assembly, grill repair, special orders, shipping and delivery service.

Free energy consult can add to business’s bottom line

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Garfield Clean Energy

Courtesy Image
Free consulting services

Maximize your energy savings and minimize hassle with free energy consulting from Garfield Clean Energy. Free consulting includes these services:

  • An on-site building energy walk-through with a professional facility energy manager.
  • A detailed written energy action plan that prioritizes projects and calculates paybacks.
  • Contractor referrals and bid analysis.
  • Access to rebates and incentives that can help stretch your project dollars.

For more information, visit cleanenergyeconomy.net.

From poorly insulated buildings to old lighting to out-dated heating systems, energy inefficiencies cost more, aren’t environmentally-friendly and often make business less comfortable for customers and employees.

Garfield Clean Energy offers free walkthroughs to help local businesses reduce their energy bills by improving efficiency, increasing comfort and reducing their contribution to climate change.

Garfield Clean Energy is a program funded by seven local governments plus RFTA and Colorado Mountain College and administered by Carbondale-based CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region). One of its primary purposes is to help local businesses become more energy efficient and identify financing options that include rebates — sometimes thousands of dollars in rebates.

“We are here to help from start to finish and to make the process as smooth as possible,” said Maisa Metcalf, an energy consultant at CLEER. “We have helped complete over 340 commercial upgrades in the past decade.”

Energy Assessments

When a business enrolls in Garfield Clean Energy’s commercial program, it receives a free walkthrough with recommendations on how to improve energy performance.

GCE coaches start by talking to the business owner about their various systems and the building’s overall condition. They look at lighting, heating and cooling, insulation, windows and doors and make an assessment that they share with the business owner or manager.

For businesses that decide to make improvements, GCE energy coaches remain available to provide contractor referral, review proposals from the contractors, and assist with rebates and financing.

Metcalf said the most common energy inefficiency is old, inefficient lighting — both indoors and outdoors. But there are many ways a building can be made more energy efficient to lower costs and improve comfort.

“Our coaches also find poorly insulated buildings, leaky windows and doors and opportunities for heating system upgrades,” she said.

Solutions to inefficiencies

Here are the solutions GCE has been helping businesses to implement in order to become more energy efficient, save money and have a lighter impact on the environment.

1. Lighting: For all businesses, switching to more energy efficient light bulbs indoors and out can save money right away.

Modern LED lighting is more cost effective and lasts for years, whereas incandescent and fluorescent bulbs burn hot, burn money and burn out much more quickly than LED lighting. Installing LEDs is a simple way to reduce maintenance costs for a building or business owner.

Lighting controls and occupancy sensors also increase comfort and save on utility bills.

Installing a system to manage parking and security lighting is a great and often easy way for businsses to achieve significant energy savings. Metcalf said GCE coaches have seen the price of such lighting systems come down in recent years with significant improvements in quality.

2. Temperature Control: Upgrading heating and cooling systems have saved hundreds of businesses working with GCE tens of thousands of dollars on their utility bills over the last decade.

For larger businesses with a large space or multiple buildings, a more comprehensive plan may be worth considering. GCE coaches will help identify all possible areas of improvement and help develop a plan to meet the specific business’s needs. That may include additional insulation, replacing single-pane windows, or installing an up-to-date, highly efficient HVAC system.

But sometimes the solution is as simple as the thermostat on an office wall.

“You’d be surprised how much more efficient your heating and cooling systems can be with a new thermostat,” Metcalf said. “It’s a low-cost solution that can bring big savings.”

3. Industrial settings: GCE coaches also have experience working in complex industrial settings. In workshops and garages, GCE coaches can identify opportunities for installing variable speed pumps and motors, controls on ventilation equipment, and other maintenance measures which can improve the efficiency of equipment while also extending its life.”

Improving heating and lighting systems makes businesses more comfortable, which can equate to an increase in its employees’ productivity and customer/client comfort. Retailers have said better lighting improves their displays and art galleries say LED lighting protects the art they sell.

“When a building addresses air leakage by sealing the leaks and adding insulation, occupant comfort increases immensely and can also make the space quieter,” Metcalf said.

More about CLEER and GCE

CLEER is a nonprofit consulting company located at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. CLEER manages Garfield Clean Energy, which offers energy consulting to homes and businesses in Garfield County. CLEER also manages the Glenwood Springs Electric Sustainability Program, which offers rebates for energy efficiency upgrades and solar PV projects for homes and businesses.

Garfield Clean Energy is a collaborative of all the municipalities — the county, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and Colorado Mountain College (CMC) — that provides education energy efficiency solutions, and alternative and renewable energy opportunities for residents, businesses, organizations and governments.

Rebates and benefits

Paying for upgrades may give some business owners pause, but there are actually many resources available to reduce costs and make larger investments possible.

“There are several different rebates available through utilities and local organizations for both heating and lighting systems to help reduce the upfront cost and the payback time,” Metcalf explains. “GCE can help you find and sign up for those rebates.”

Black Hills Energy, Xcel Energy, Glenwood Springs Electric and Holy Cross Energy all offer rebates and incentives to encourage businesses to become more energy efficient. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) also offers rebates in the Roaring Fork Valley.

CLEER is also registered to offer The Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing to businesses in Garfield County. Repayments are made through an assessment on the property’s county tax bill, with no upfront capital outlay.

C-PACE can be used to finance a variety of improvements, including new heating or cooling systems, lighting, water pumps, insulation, solar panels, and other renewable energy projects, and water efficiency upgrades.

The easiest way to learn about rebates and financing opportunities is to call CLEER at 970-704-9200 and talk to an Energy Coach.

For more information about GCE’s programs for businesses, visit http://garfieldcleanenergy.org/com-free-energy-consulting/

Why mental health is an essential component of physical health

Editor’s Note: This sponsored content was brought to you by Connect for Health Colorado

Every Mountain Family Health integrated clinic has behavioral health professionals on staff that offer both individual or group counseling.
Getty Images

Mountain Family Health Centers believes that you can’t have physical health without mental health. When you keep the entire body well and whole, you’re keeping families and communities well and whole.

“The link between our mind and our soul and our body is really a powerful one,” said Garry Schalla, development director for Mountain Family Health Centers, which has 10 clinics that serve more than 20,000 people in western Colorado.

Mountain Family’s integrated care model includes medical, dental and behavioral health. Services are offered to anyone, whether you have private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, or no insurance.

In each Mountain Family Health integrated clinic in the mountain region — in Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Edwards — there are behavioral health professionals that offer both individual or group counseling. Behavioral health providers are also available to work with medical or dental patients at a moment’s notice, Schalla said.

Mountain Family Health Centers are not free clinics, but there is a sliding scale fee offered for those who are uninsured based on household size and income.

“We want you to be invested in your health,” Schalla said.  

Behavioral health is part of overall health

Patients who visit any Mountain Health clinic fill out a short patient survey that includes some questions about mental health. Schalla said the front desk staff, physician assistants, nurses and doctors are trained to identify signs that could indicate some mental health challenges.

Mountain Family Health Centers also works directly with crisis response providers such as Mind Springs and Aspen Hope, bringing not only follow-up counseling, but medical and dental support when needed, Schalla said.

“We also continue to do bilingual education around the stigma surrounding mental health for the Latino communities due to the cultural differences in how they view it,” Schalla said. “We want them to understand they don’t have to carry these burdens and there are resources for them to reach out that are bilingual and culturally acceptable.”

Educating communities about mental health resources is so important due to the fact that mental health is linked to overall physical health and longevity. Research shows that those suffering from mental health challenges live shorter lives than those who don’t.

“We know that it’s often those outside factors — the stress, fear and anxiety — that really contribute to our lack of well-being, so it’s really important that we offer an integrated system that includes that mental health portion of care,” Schalla said.

Shopping for health insurance

Since the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment in 2013, Mountain Family Health Centers has been partnering with Connect for Health Colorado to help get people signed up for health insurance. For the last three years, Mountain Family Health Centers has been an official assistance site, meaning their Health Coverage Guides can help people fill out financial assistance applications and review plan eligibility. The only thing they can’t do is advise people about specific health plans.

“Navigating the insurance system is hard and people often have trouble signing up or getting started,,” said Silvia Santana, outreach and enrollment manager for Mountain Family Health Centers. “We want to spread the word that we’re here to help people enroll in insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. Mental Health is considered one of the 10 Essential Health Benefits included in qualified plans under the ACA.”

For longevity in both the mind and body, stimulation is essential

Editor’s Note: This sponsored content is brought to you by Renew Senior Communities – Glenwood Springs

A senior community’s enrichment and activity program must be designed to redirect focus away from a resident’s limitations and toward productive, educational and social activities that will enhance the quality of life.
Courtesy of Renew Senior

Ample research demonstrates the mind’s capacity to influence a person’s health, both positively and negatively. If left unchecked, depression and despair can inhibit recovery from illness and lead to hopelessness and premature death.

Researcher Ken Wells, in the landmark Rand study at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 50 percent of all depressed people are over 65. Wells studied depressed versus nondepressed people and found that depressed elderly patients used four times the amount of health care dollars than nondepressed seniors, and had a 58 percent greater mortality rate within the first year of admittance to a skilled nursing facility than their nondepressed counterparts.

For example, depressed people tend to lack motivation to get up and move about. This inactivity makes them susceptible to urinary tract infections and pneumonia, which if left untreated can lead to kidney failure and death.

Stimulating the mind and body

For a community’s enrichment and activity program to be effective, it must be sensitive to the emotional forces that motivate people in this age group. The program must be designed to redirect their focus away from their limitations and toward productive, educational and social activities with a positive emphasis that will enhance the quality of life.

Today’s senior apartments are full of activity. Residents are attending college courses, cooking classes, traveling, and remaining active in service organizations in the community. Variety and respect for individual preference are key elements in a successful recreational activities program. Leisure interests are lifelong habits that each person develops. These interests continue into later life, even after one has entered a senior living community.

Courtesy of Renew Senior

A sense of purpose

Many innovative programs utilizing different services and modalities have been developed. Where communities provide supportive living and socialization, along with medical care, resident functioning is enhanced and deteriorations of old age are significantly delayed.

More and more research shows that if seniors want to feel younger and stay healthier, they need to get involved with life. The very act of volunteering and interacting with others brings a sense of purpose and contribution to one’s self and community in a way that can actually build longevity while strengthening the body, mind and spirit.

Improving brain function

According to recent studies, there is a strong and direct link between physical activity and how the brain works. Different types, amounts and intensities of physical activities improve brain function. Michelle Carlson of Johns Hopkins University is working with a novel new program called Experience Corps. This program embeds physical and mental activity into weekly volunteering for older adults to mentor children in local elementary schools.

“We need to address socioeconomic barriers to motivate older adults to regularly engage in healthful behaviors,” Carlson says. “And many people don’t appreciate the power of physical activity for our brains.”

Multiple studies from this and other similar programs have found that regular physical and mental activity has resulted in improved memory and other cognitive functions.

Theme-based activities

Intergenerational programs are part of the routine at Renew Roaring Fork. “We have a weekly music expressions group which brings seniors at the community together with toddlers to share a regular musical journey and explore the feel, sound and vibrations from various musical instruments,” according to Jennetta Howell, Renew enrichment director who leads the group.

As a musician and former singer/performer, she has both experienced and personally witnessed how the children and residents interact through the common string of music.

“The residents, children and moms all look forward to these weekly sessions which leave everyone invigorated and engaged,” she said.

She has found that targeting low-intensity activity that is theme-based, in this case music, is an important and scalable intervention that leaves everyone challenged and satisfied.

Renew Senior Communities are full of activity. Residents are attending college courses, playing golf, traveling, and remaining active in service organizations in the community.
Courtesy of Renew Senior

Meaningful impacts

Many older adults have a desire to participate in meaningful, productive activities that have been proven to be highly beneficial. In one recent study published in Aging magazine, epidemiological data suggests that for older adults, volunteering and intergenerational activities have been associated with lower mortality, improved well-being, life satisfaction and may decrease functional decline.

We all age differently mentally physically and emotionally. Whether you are you are simply experiencing “senior moments” or have been diagnosed with dementia, research shows that the condition is never bigger than the person and that there is something everyone can do to make an impact.

Whether it is helping children with reading skills or making art to donate to an underprivileged children’s program, seniors are not done yet and they still have something to contribute — and seniors are strengthened from that contribution, according to research in major universities like Johns Hopkins.

“We use activities and programming to promote a sense of well-being and purpose,” explained Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Management. “This provides a sense of accomplishment and contribution that is ‘instrumental’ to combatting the unhealthy effects of boredom and depression.“

Active aging

Research shows that creativity and imagination are untapped reserves in all elderly people and even in those with dementia. Given that, it’s possible that true retirement can actually become obsolete for active adults.

“We believe there are no age limits and that age is just another limit to shatter,” according to Mr. Tuchfarber. “Participating in a volunteer program drives health benefits through increased physical activity, a sense of contribution, and social connectedness. … Keeping busy by volunteering is a form of active aging and if you don’t use it you lose it, but if you do use it, you become stronger,” he concluded.

Youth mental health: Recognizing the signs and seeking help

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Mind Springs Health.

While emotional distress is a natural part of life as kids grow up, sometimes this distress can lead to more serious mental health concerns. As parents, it’s important to check in with your children often and ask them questions about how they’re doing.

Bullying, social media use, trauma, peer pressure, substance use, family violence, poverty — these are all factors that can influence the mental health of children and adolescents.

While emotional distress is a natural part of life as kids develop and mature, sometimes this distress can lead to more serious concerns.

Mental health isn’t just the absence of disease or a diagnosable disorder

— it includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, social well-being and factors relating to quality of life, according to Youth.gov, a U.S. government website that promotes positive, healthy outcomes for American youth.

While research shows that youth or teen suicide often happens after a stressful life event, there are many other factors to consider when thinking about youth suicide risk.

Mind Springs’ Resiliency Program

Mind Springs Health has developed an entire curriculum called the Resiliency Program to promote positive mental well-being within local middle schools. The 30-week program includes activities and education on a variety of topics — such as optimism, building healthy relationships, positive emotions and more — that teach behavioral skills and help youth build resiliency.

“One of the things we know about building resiliency is practicing gratitude,” said Dr. Amy Gallagher, a licensed psychologist and vice president at Whole Health, a subsidiary of Mind Springs Health.

“The program is designed to help schools and other groups change culture, so everyone is speaking the same language to enhance mental well-being and to build strong and healthy relationships.”

The curriculum is designed for the classroom, after-school or recreation programs, but Gallagher said Mind Springs hopes to expand the program to provide educational opportunities for parents and communities, as well. She said the Roaring Fork School District intends to implement it during this school year.

What are kids struggling with?

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, conducted every two years in schools across the state, provides a lot of answers about what kids are struggling with these days. Gallagher said the survey shows youth are reporting varying levels of depression and anxiety, experimenting with substances, and some are coping with thoughts about suicide.

Depression is the number one risk factor for suicide by teens, the

third leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In ages 15 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, surpassed only by accidents.

One of the most effective ways to understand whether your child is experiencing mental health issues is to check in and ask them questions such as, “How are you feeling today? What’s going well? What’s not going well?”

“Make sure, as parents, you’re keeping communication lines open and really checking in with your children,” Gallagher said.

Addressing trauma

Every child or teenager is going to react differently to traumatic situations, which can include anything from abuse to neglect to grief or other stressors. Some children might have a significant response while others might not appear to be affected at all, said said Michelle Doll, licensed professional counselor (LPC) and program coordinator for Mind Springs Health outpatient services.

“When something traumatic occurs, we don’t want to minimize it,” Doll said. “It’s very important we don’t just assume that a kid is tough and therefore will be OK. Take the time to make sure they are in fact managing the trauma and we’re not seeing any signs of post-traumatic stress.”

Children will exhibit different symptoms of post-traumatic stress depending on their development level and age, but some signs might include social withdrawal, sleep problems, increased aggression, impulsivity, poor problem-solving, sadness and emotional regulation challenges.

Because a lot of these symptoms can be common among developing children and teens, it’s important to look at what else might be going on.

“When a child begins manifesting certain behaviors or symptoms, we look into whether there’s any history of trauma or trauma-related circumstances,” Doll said.

A thorough assessment with the youth and his or her parents or primary caregivers could determine the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment for a kid suffering from post-traumatic stress is going to look a bit different than treating a kid with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example.

“Is it post-traumatic stress, struggles with adjustment as a child transitions into different stages of development or changing life circumstances, or are we looking at another mental health concern such as an anxiety disorder emerging,” Doll said, “or is it an age-appropriate response and maybe the youth could benefit from support in a different capacity, for instance support with social skills?”

Removing digital stressors

Screentime is an everyday activity that might seem like no big deal, but it could be having serious effects on children and teens’ emotional well-being. Teens that spend 5 or more hours online per day are at significantly higher risk for suicide and depression than those spending less than 1 hour, according to research.

From video games to YouTube videos to social media, the effects of the Internet are far-reaching. One example is bullying, which isn’t a new problem facing youth, but it has been exacerbated due to social media. Kids can no longer leave school for the day and get a break from the teasing or harsh comments— bullying can now continue on in the digital space outside of school hours.

“Having an electronic diet can be helpful — what can families do to have electronics-free time,”  Gallagher said. “Parents need to model this for their children.”

In Silt, a unique retail gift shop with impressive variety and a big heart

Small-town shopping has something that big box stores or online retailers will never have: Charm, character, human interaction and genuine customer service. 

In Silt, small-town shopping also has another one-up on less personal shopping experiences: Carol Back, owner of the Whimsical Wagon. 

Online reviews link Carol and her unique store — which won first place for  “Best Gift Shop” in the Post Independent’s 2019 Locals’ Choice awards — together like a two-for-one special.

Every single item in the store is meant to evoke a certain playful spirit within each shopper, which reflects Carol’s personality and joy for what she does.
Courtesy photos

“Wonderful gift shop, lots of variety. Great place to get a last minute gift. Carol is a delight,” wrote one reviewer. 

“Great local shop whether you stop in for a cup of coffee, or need that perfect gift! Carol the owner is so friendly and has great jewelry, home decor, candles, and Jelly Bellies,” wrote another.

Back has lived in Silt since 1992. While she said it wasn’t the easiest place to open up a retail store due to the lack of foot traffic, it was the only place she wanted to have her store. Silt needed a little gift shop, she said, and The Whimsical Wagon is located in a great spot on Main Street.

“We’re long-time Silt residents and my existing customers thank me for being here — they’re happy the store is in Silt,” she said. “I have a lot of customers who come in and want to support local businesses, and they want to touch and feel the products they buy. Many of my customers have become long term friends I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”

The Whimsical Wagon is located in a great spot on Main Street.
Courtesy photos

An evolving store

Carol opened The Whimsical Wagon in 2004 after spending 11 years as a banker. She had always made fun and creative gift baskets as a hobby, and her colleagues had been telling her for years that she had a special talent and should open up a business. 

Her husband had been operating a motorcycle shop out of their building in Silt, so they built an addition to it and she began The Whimsical Wagon in about 800 square feet of space. It started out mostly as a gift basket and collectibles retail shop, but over the years it has grown — both physically and literally — into so much more. 

“This is probably the hardest job I have ever done, but I like it, it agrees with me,” Carol said. “I click with it. I like to decorate and I do all of the displays, and I use a lot of unique things like antiques throughout the store. There’s life in antiques, so you get that warm feeling from them.”

The Great Recession hit and that caused the Backs to close the motorcycle shop, which allowed for The Whimsical Wagon’s expansion. As customers changed their habits — people weren’t as into collectibles anymore — Carol responded and started diversifying her inventory. 

“I do everything from my heart, including offering free gift-wrapping,” she said. “We’re one of those stores that has evolved. I have a kids’ corner, but we also have a lot of snarky humor items, too. It’s a store that caters to a wide range of people from all generations. In the past two years, the collectibles part of the business has picked up and Carol has added some new items to the many wonderful items already in stock.

She recently discontinued the espresso bar due to having two other coffee shops in Silt. She said it was a necessary change that has made room for more gift items.

A whimsical theme

Peruse The Whimsical Wagon and you’ll find unique gifts, lotions, soaps, greeting cards, wind chimes, puzzles, mugs, stuffed animals, jewelry, home decor and so much more. She added Charlie Bears in 2017— an English company that makes handmade collectible bears and characters — which keep with her whimsical theme and add something fun to the shopping experience, she said.

That’s what every single item in the store is meant to do — evoke a certain playful spirit within each shopper. It’s a part of Carol’s personality, and she loves to share this playfulness with her customers. 

Even the business’s hours are fun and unique: She opens from 9:57 a.m. to 5:49 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9:01 a.m. to 3:49 p.m. on Saturdays. 

“It’s kind of a giggle,” she said. 

Carol loves to see new customers’ amazement when they walk into the store. She keeps things interesting and authentic, and it shows when people see the store for the first time.

“First time there and I could get lost in all the fun whimsical items and local artisan items,” wrote one reviewer on Google, “definitely will be going back again and again.”

Sustainable living isn’t just about the environment, it’s about smart consumerism

When Alin Turcea and Antonia Pitica recognized the significance of plastic products in their everyday lives, they felt compelled to do something about it. 

Bags for produce, groceries, to-go cups, toothbrushes, water bottles — these items are a part of our everyday lives, and they’re almost always plastic. 

What if they could create these products for people who cared about living more sustainably for the sake of our planet, while also educating consumers everywhere about the importance of our individual actions? 

“We had a lightbulb moment, and we began reading about climate change to see what we could do to develop habits that were better for the environment,” Alin said. “We started EcoRoots when we realized how much of an impact consumerism was having on our lives and the lives of those around us.”

By creating this minimalist, earth-conscious brand, Alin and Antonia aim to encourage an economy that considers the future. They want consumers to have the power to choose, through the products they buy and use, what kind of world they want to live in.

“As we did our research, we realized that we had been making many of our choices out of convenience, without considering the consequences,” Antonia said. “We knew that, in order to ask other people to change, we needed to change first. So, the first step we took toward our new lifestyle was simply refusing what we didn’t really need.” 

Here are some of the reasons that making these small steps can not only change the way you live your life for the better, but also positively impact the environment..

Future generations

Alin and Antonia feel personally responsible to do their part to address pollution and climate change for future generations. Climate change is one of the most significant issues we’ll face in our lifetime, Antonia said.

“We have to consider how devastating the effects of plastic consumption are on our already fragile environment, including our oceans and marine life, but also our own health and well-being, too,” he said. “We can all make changes to ensure that our children and grandchildren aren’t left to clean up the mess we’ve made.”

Small steps are easy

Activities such as brushing your teeth or shopping at a grocery store are habits for most people. We do these things without thinking much about them, but what if the products you used didn’t end up harming marine life or clogging up landfills? What if you could use products as a consumer that actually meant something?

“It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to change habits that you’ve had your whole life, but the key is being patient, and knowing that real change won’t happen overnight,” Alin said. “There are many small steps that you can take if you’re just starting out on this journey, and these small habits will become second-nature overtime.”

Alin and Antonia started their sustainably living journey by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. From there, they began to avoid plastic-wrapped produce, switched to biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, began using reusable water bottles and switched to a reusable razor instead of single-use disposable razors.

Becoming more conscious overall

By making these small changes, Alin and Antonia became more conscious consumers everywhere they went. They checked packaging when they went shopping to avoid plastic whenever possible. They realized that while it’s not always possible to avoid plastic entirely, they could use a lot of substitute products such as reusable or recyclable packaging including glass, stainless steel or cardboard to ultimately have less of an impact on the environment.

“After you’ve made changes like composting, packing reusable bags for shopping trips, looking for products that come in recyclable, non-plastic packaging, look around your home and see what other products can be replaced by a sustainable alternative,” Alin said. “Using sustainable products will save you money in the long run.”

Steps that ALL consumers can take

Here are some of the ways Alin and Antonia make changes in their lives by using EcoRoots products. They believe this is a good starting off point for anyone interested in living more sustainably. Visit ecoroots.us for product options.

  • Buy fresh produce rather than produce wrapped in plastic. Check out your local farmers market or another grocery store if yours doesn’t have what you’re looking for.
  •  Unless medically necessary, skip the plastic straws. Because they’re not accepted by most recycling centers, many larger companies are beginning to ban them anyway, so this is one of the easiest to implement. 
  • Call your local recycling center if you’re not sure if something is recyclable, don’t just throw it out.
  • Compost your food leftovers. 
  • Bring reusable bags with you whenever you go shopping so you don’t have to take home any plastic bags.
  • Use a reusable coffee cup and water bottle so you can skip the paper and plastic.
  • Walk, use public transportation, car-pool, or ride your bike to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Eat locally. You’ll know exactly where your food is coming from, and you’ll get to support local businesses and farmers. This is especially easy in the summertime when most towns have weekly farmers markets.
  • Consume consciously. Buy things out of necessity, not boredom, and when you do need to buy something, try to find ethically sourced clothes and other products. 
  • Support small, local businesses.
  • Use alternatives to plastic whenever possible in products for the home, kitchen, health and beauty. 

Embrace the Chase: $1,000 prize money on the line for charity digital scavenger hunt

Advocate Safehouse Project is putting the FUN in fundraiser with its inaugural digital scavenger hunt Embrace The Chase, a competitive game that anyone and everyone can play from anywhere — with some serious prize money to boot.

From noon on June 22 to noon on June 23, participants will be asked to submit photos or videos, complete brain teasers and riddles to earn points. The top four teams at the end of the 24-hour digital event will win the prize money: $1,000 for first place; $750 for second place; $500 for third place; and $250 for fourth place.

Not your average fundraiser

Julie Olson, executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project, said the fundraiser idea came about when the organization decided it wanted to do something different from the typical walking/running race.

“We wanted to think outside the comfort zone,” she said.

When a board member suggested the digital scavenger hunt, the organization held a test version at its board member retreat last fall. Olson said many members were skeptical they would enjoy it.

“We had so much fun. Ours only lasted for 20 minutes, and when it was over none of us wanted to be done yet,” Olson said. “This is an opportunity to have some fun with your friends, family or co-workers.”

What to expect

Players are encouraged to sign up in teams of four, however single players or smaller teams can also play the game. You must download an app on your Apple or Android phone or tablet to play (see factbox for registration and other instructions).

There will be more than 200 challenges available to complete in the 24-hour period. Sarah Buckley, community education advocate for Advocate Safehouse Project, said some of the challenges relate to Advocate Safehouse Project’s work, such as education-based challenges about healthy relationships, while others might be tied to sponsors or popular community information.

Players might have to answer a question — such as “When was Advocate Safehouse Project founded? — for one mission, while another might require they upload a photo or video.

Here are some tips for how to play and take home that prize money.

Tip No. 1 – Go for big points

Since the missions can be done in any order and there are various amounts of points tied to each mission, Buckley said one strategy might be to go for the challenges with the most amount of points first.

Players can see the points — and bonus points — tied to each challenge before they start it.

“You want to complete as many challenges as possible so you can have as many points as possible in those 24 hours,” she said.

Tip No. 2 – The app is your friend

For photo and video challenges, players cannot find shortcuts by uploading previously taken files from their phones. You must use the app to shoot all photos and videos in real time.

For example, if the challenge is asking for a picture connected to the 19th Street Diner in Glenwood Springs, you either must go to the diner in person or you’d need to access the internet to snap your image. However, if using the internet to complete a photo or video challenge, you’d have to access it via a separate device than the one from which you’re using the game app.

The app also features a dashboard that allows players to see where they rank in real-time as the scavenger hunt progresses, giving players the opportunity to be competitive and try to beat out other teams.

Tip No. 3 – Break up challenges among team members

Once a challenge is completed by one member on a team, it’s completed for the entire team. So, another strategy might be to break up the list of possible challenges and assign them out to team members.

Tip No. 4 – Players can correct wrong answers

Advocate Safehouse Project volunteers will be approving and disapproving entries during the 24-hour game period.

If players submit an answer and it’s wrong, they’ll have the option to go back in and change it to collect those points.