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Guest commentary: Aspen Junior Environmentalists striking for a reason

Friday is the Global Climate Strike. Kids and adults across the globe will be leaving school and work to protest the pathetic lack of government climate action. This movement was initiated by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who was inspired by the students who stopped going to school after the Parkland shootings.

Many of our peers and adults have questioned: “Why a global climate strike? It’s not going to do anything.” Some people ignore the science. Others are oblivious to the problem, and others cynically say that it’s too late to do anything.

We are striking because we want to join the growing union of young people and adults around the world who want a livable future. We don’t have time to wait until we are old enough to vote. This is a problem, and it demands action by individuals but more importantly from corporations and government.

What we can we all do personally:

Eat less meat, use public transportation, or ride your bike. Reduce/reuse/recycle, compost and avoid single-use plastics.

Work with CORE (Community Office of Resource Efficiency) to transition to a renewable-energy powered home. CORE saves more than 23,000 metric tons of carbon annually (and more than $3 million in utility bills). It is now possible to become net zero with energy use.

What we can we do locally:

Declare a climate emergency in Aspen and Pitkin County. Aspen and Pitkin County have a climate action plan. Declaring a climate emergency makes it easier to prioritize climate action. This is not a hollow resolution. It should impact every decision made by the city and the county.

Ban single-use plastics. The European Union is banning single-use plastics as of 2021. San Francisco International Airport has banned single-use plastics. Aspen should have the political will to do the same.

Go big with solar and renewable energy. Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year. All new buildings — especially employee housing — should be net-zero.

We applaud Holy Cross Energy for moving their goals forward to provide 70% carbon-free electricity by 2021 (instead of the goal of 2030) — but can they provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 or 2025?

Encourage electric public transportation. We applaud RFTA for purchasing eight new electric buses, and we hope that the entire fleet can be converted to electric.

What we can all do regionally:

Vote to get off our reliance on fossil fuels, which have been subsidized for decades, making oil and plastic cheaper in the U.S. than in other countries. This needs to happen in order to reverse the negative effects of climate change. HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is an economically effective way to reduce carbon emissions in Colorado.

What we can all do nationally:

Support politicians who believe that human-charged climate change is real — politicians who believe in science.

To learn more about the global climate strike and to RSVP for Aspen’s Climate Strike on Friday, visit 350.org and https://actionnetwork.org/events/aspen-climate-strike.

Submitted by Isabella Poschman and Aspen Junior Environmentalists — a group of students from Aspen School District that takes small and local actions to make the world a more sustainable, better place.

Guest commentary: Aspen mayor checks in after first 100 days in office

This week, the City Council will close its first 100 days in office. I am honored to be a part of this council, as well as excited to share with you my thoughts on where we started, what we have done and what is next as we settle into our roles as your representatives.

At the outset, I want to thank you for the great honor and responsibility of being your elected mayor. I have strived to be humble in my approach to this office, and have set my focus on the immediate tasks at hand like identifying common goals, team building, setting agendas, running meetings and providing organizational support. I am learning, and assure you that I will work to improve every day to represent this community.

It was a unique time to be elected. Aspen had an interim city manager, and an interim structure for our administration. Although this could have been challenging for our community, we are fortunate to have the dedicated Aspen city staff that helped guide us through this transitional period, and shared in the responsibilities of continuing services and operations so vital to Aspen.

In our search for our new city manager, we outlined and implemented a nationwide search that included a significant amount of input from our community. In the end, our search was a success and Sara Ott is now our new city manager. We could not ask for a more qualified, experienced and committed city manager. Working in conjunction with this council, she will facilitate and implement the policy direction that represents the best decisions for our community.

My council members are four very smart, dedicated and hardworking individuals. I am excited to work with this team. We share many common goals, and with collaborative representation and joint initiatives, we can do great things for our community. I truly believe that this collaboration includes you, the community. I ask for your input, and know that each council member feels the same. Please, reach out to us with any of your issues, ideas or comment because that is the way this works best. We want to hear from you.

The council started this term by attending a workday retreat to identify common goals, priorities and aspirations. We are still refining those identified commonalities and applying them to budget and planning processes. We are developing a values and priorities based budget process that will enhance our ability to address community concerns and implement community goals in our decision making.

On current community issues, we have hit the ground running. A top priority is enhancing communication, outreach and transparency. We have a new communications director, Tracy Truelove, who will revitalize communication with the community and internally. I am proud of the progress we have made, including providing for public comment at work sessions, setting regular office hours, refining outreach and meeting with citizens where they are. This council is dedicated to collaboration and inclusive governance. Thank you to all those who have reached out to me about their questions, comments and suggestions.

Affordable housing is a perennial item for our community. We came in at a transitional time for APCHA. The council has a trained eye on both the program development as well as achieving more community, workforce and affordable housing. In the past 100 days, we have forwarded the projects that were in motion and we have started the next projects with outreach, information gathering and planning. One area of focus is land-use code improvements to create inclusive building regulations. It is my hope that with renewed collaboration with businesses, development interests and the county, we will make great progress to keep locals living in Aspen. I encourage you to go on to the city website or attend an open house to learn more about the projects we are working on.

Our environmental commitment is as strong as ever. I am so happy to report that we have great work going in to new environmental initiatives, including reduction of energy consumption, waste management, transportation solutions, building requirements and more. Effective environmentalism requires all of us to make good choices. Our job is to make those choices available and affordable for you. We at council are dedicated to making decisions through a lens of environmental stewardship and enhancing our charge as a leader in green policymaking.

We have picked up the ball on many other community priorities, as well. We are steadfast in our pursuit of child care facilities. We continue to work on transit and traffic solutions. We are focused on helping locally owned and locally serving businesses. We are listening to our citizens and working on the issues that are important to each person. We will continue to support and enhance the history, legacy, character and quality of life in Aspen.

Please come to me with any community questions, comments or concerns. I look forward to the next 100 days.

Torre was elected mayor in a runoff in April. He can be reached at torre@cityofaspen.com.

Guest Commentary: Why a public option won’t work

Health care will be a major topic in the upcoming Democratic presidential debate. Only two of the candidates — Sanders and Warren — support real Medicare for All. The rest waffle around some lesser, politically more palatable version, like Medicare for All Who Want It or other euphemism for a public option. You will hear them insist that, while they agree on the need for universal healthcare, we should get there incrementally, not in one fell swoop.

They are all wrong.

Lincoln didn’t end slavery incrementally, nor did we incrementally become a nation or defeat Hitler. Some things require bold action to help the most people. Medicare for All is one of those things.

There are two fundamental reasons that a public option cannot work.

The big, solvable issue in our health care system is the 30% of every health care dollar that is squandered on administrative overhead — paperwork, the preapprovals, denials and appeals that are an integral part of myriad for-profit private insurance companies. That’s around $1 trillion every year. Only a single-payer system like Medicare for All can cut that trillion dollars in half, by eliminating that bureaucratic waste. That half — $500 billion — can be redirected to providing comprehensive health care to all Americans. It’s not free. We’ll all pay for it in taxes, which for most of us will be less than what we’re currently spending on premiums, copays, deductibles, and other health care expenses. We’ll pay less in the end for more health care, for everyone.

A public option cannot save that $500 billion, nor can it reduce health care costs. It will only add one more choice of insurance provider to the current complex mix. Most of us neither know nor care which company provides our insurance. The choice we really care about is choice of doctors and hospitals. Most private insurers restrict that choice, to maximize profits. They also restrict our access to health care by imposing deductibles and copays, which many of us can’t afford. Medicare for All offers free choice of doctors and hospitals, with no deductibles and copays. What more choice can anyone want?

The other fatal flaw in a public option is that it will likely become the insurer of last resort to the sickest and oldest among us. The insurance playing field will be anything but level. As deficient as they are, for-profit insurers will cleverly market themselves to the young and healthy, leaving those who use more healthcare to the public option. Its costs will balloon, dooming it to fail, to the delight of for-profit companies.

Sanders and Warren understand this. They understand that fear of change is what causes people to think that they would rather keep their present, inadequate, expensive insurance plans. They understand that most people are eager to turn 65 and trade their employer-provided plans for Medicare. They understand that everyone would be better off with Medicare for All, and that a public option simply won’t get us there.

Incrementalism is often a valid approach to change. Allowing people to choose between keeping their current restrictive plans or a Medicare for All option sounds reasonable, but it just won’t work. As with emancipation, the Declaration of Independence and World War II, this is a time for major change that will benefit the most people.

It may seem scary, as all change does, but it’s the only way to get all of us the health care protection we deserve, at lower cost than we’re paying now. Rather than fear it, we need to understand and embrace Medicare for All.

Dr. George Bohmfalk, a retired neurosurgeon who lives part time in the Roaring Fork Valley, is a member of the Colorado chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. He may be reached at ImprovedMcare4All@gmail.com.

Judson Haims: Frequent sleep deprivation causes health concerns

Unfortunately, many of us are so used to irregular and short sleep cycles that the signs of sleep deprivation may not be clear. Knowing and being aware of some of the signs your body needs more sleep may be helpful.

Sleep deprivation can lead to hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and, possibly, stroke. Sleep is an integral time for the body to repair. When the body is deprived of sleep, it doesn’t complete all of the phases needed for muscle and tissue repair, memory consolidation, release of hormones and the regulation of cortisol and blood pressure.

If these non-visual threats aren’t enough of a wake-up call for changing your sleep habits, perhaps your vanity may want to take note — there is an association between sleep and weight gain. Too little and too much sleep has a proven correlation to excess body weight. Ever find yourself surfing the refrigerator late at night?

There are biological reasons that people who are sleep deprived find themselves hungrier than normal. Sleep deprivation affects glucose and insulin levels. When your body is tired and in need of energy, high calorie and high fat foods provide quick energy fixes.

Two hormones that affect weight are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is produced within our gastrointestinal tracts and sends hunger signals to our brain. When our stomachs are empty, ghrelin is secreted. The leptin hormone helps to tell you that you are full. Leptin is secreted primarily in fat cells, as well as the stomach, heart, placenta and skeletal muscle. According to research posted in The European Sleep Research Society, after just two consecutive nights of four hours of sleep, test subjects had a 28% higher ghrelin (hunger) hormone level and 18% lower leptin (satiety) hormone level in their blood compared with subjects who had slept 10 hours a night.

The association between sleep deprivation and hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and stroke is complicated. However, without trivializing complex issues, it all comes down to stresses on the body. When the body becomes stressed hormones are often released — some are beneficial, and others are not.

Out-of-balance hormones can wreak havoc in your circulatory system. Complications include increased blood pressure, damage to the walls of the arteries, increased heart rate and blockages in blood vessels.

Altitude can also play a part in quality of sleep. As altitude increases, oxygen levels in the air decrease. For many people, the decreased oxygen can cause irregular breathing patterns where stop-and-start breathing occurs. When these occurrences happen, your brain is forced from deeper stages of sleep in effort to get the body to breath again. This particular type of apnea is called central apnea.

Common signs of sleep deprivation and/or lack of quality sleep include depression, hunger and cravings for carbohydrates, increased agitation, low levels of patience, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation and even reduced sex drive.

Many of today’s fitness monitors can track wake and sleep times — some can monitor oxygen levels while you sleep. Earlier this year, I purchased a wrist pulse oximeter and heart rate monitor from Amazon. We lend it to clients overnight so they can monitor their oxygen saturation levels and heart rates while they sleep. Our clients use the overnight data to learn if there are abnormal drops in oxygen levels called desaturations, or if there are heart rate variation. They share this information with their medical practitioners and gain a better understanding of their health.

Sleep is important to your entire body. If you are not getting enough sleep, perhaps it’s time you look into the situation. The effects are deeper than just being tired. Consult your doctor and ask questions. You need to be your best advocate.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

Giving Thought: School resource centers help keep region’s families afloat

As students are settling into a new school year, it’s an opportunity to take a look at how schools throughout the Aspen-to-Parachute region are supporting students and families.

Educators know that kids are more successful at school when the situation at home is stable and secure.

Bearing this truth in mind, the Roaring Fork School District established its Family Resource Centers in 1995. The idea was to assist students and their families to address any problem — financial, emotional, medical or anything else — in order for the child to show up on time and be ready to learn. Today the RFSD has a bilingual, bicultural family services liaison in every school to help families remove any non-academic barriers to a student’s success.

Sometimes, the liaisons work directly with families, but often the liaisons refer students or families to other providers. In 2018-19, 1,164 specific services or needs were provided to families, including food, medical or dental care, mental health support, rental assistance, clothing or help with Medicaid applications. More specifically, 114 students were designated homeless and received support.

“In order for a student to be successful in school, they need a stable home life,” said Sarah Fedishen, family services director for the district. “We need to engage the whole family to address their basic needs.”

And family disruptions aren’t confined to the lower and middle portions of the Roaring Fork Valley. In 2016, Aspen Family Connections opened its doors at Aspen Middle School to fill a similar role there. Aspen’s affluent reputation might lead many to assume that nobody in Pitkin County needs help, but the reality is different. Aspen’s higher-than-normal rates of substance abuse and mental health problems are well-known, but residents of the upper valley experience unemployment, divorce, bereavement and illness just like people everywhere.

“Life is complicated, and we see the full range of human conditions and economic problems because Aspen is a very expensive, difficult place to live,” director Katherine Sand said. “As soon as something affects a family, you see those effects playing out in their children.”

Now, a similar operation has opened its doors in the Garfield 16 School District in Parachute, the western extremity of Aspen Community Foundation’s service area. It’s good to see this concept of school-based resource centers catching on, because we’ve seen the positive results from Glenwood to Aspen, and we know there’s a need across the region.

Of course, each city or town from Aspen to Parachute is unique and the services provided by family resource centers are tailored to meet the needs of each school community. Recently, the Garfield 16 school-based Family Resource Center partnered with a local church to give away 116 pairs of new shoes to students.

“When we can provide some of their basic needs, we start to build a culture and a climate of ‘this is my community, my school district. They know me, they care about me, and I belong here,’” said Claudia Flores Cruz, director of the school-based center. “It all starts by providing things like food, safety and love.”

Anyone who drives Highway 82 during morning or afternoon rush hour understands how the Parachute-to-Aspen region is interconnected. Much of Aspen’s workforce commutes daily from western Garfield County, and Aspenites often travel to Glenwood or Rifle for everything from car repairs to clothing to building supplies.

We are all connected by the fibers of our regional economy, where the high cost of living and seasonal fluctuations in weather and work make for a transient population. Like it or not, we’re all floating in the same regional boat, and we need to look out for one another.

“We’re all vulnerable, every single one of us,” Sand said. “It’s one big community, and the more we think about it that way, in terms of service and relationships, the better.”

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Scott Bayens: Is the dream of owning a home in Roaring Fork Valley still possible?

Type the words “affordable housing” into the search bar of any local paper and you’ll hit a veritable bonanza of articles, commentary and endless letters to the editor on what I would describe as the issue of our time here in our mountain “paradise.”

From Aspen to Glenwood Springs and beyond, it’s an enormous and far-reaching problem and one that epitomizes the larger national crisis of an ever widening socio-economic gap and the price we all pay for neglecting and ignoring the working and middle class.

A recent survey of affordable housing needs here concluded we will require but not be prepared to provide as many as 6,000 housing units by the mid 2020s. As of today we’re behind by nearly 4,000 units region wide — an area that includes not only the Roaring Fork Valley but also the section of Interstate 70 that runs from Eagle to Parachute. Further, that shocking shortfall affects those who make between $50,000 to $150,000 of household income annually.

Yes, you read that correctly. Unbelievably, even those making six-figure incomes here are in need of subsidized or more reasonably priced housing. According to a recent article on the subject, one respondent wrote, “Housing costs compared to incomes are horrifying. I have zero savings because of the rental market. I have little recreation time because I work so much for so little and I have a master’s degree.”

The disparity of affordable options to the free market is most apparent in the upper valley where the local community plan calls for housing 60% of the workforce, a number local government is nowhere near and likely never to fully achieve. To be fair, Aspen officials are on track to build an additional 300 units in Burlingame as well as the BMC lumberyard along 82 adjacent to the Aspen Business Center. But those projects aren’t scheduled to start coming out of the ground until 2021 and 2024, respectively, so clearly we remain well behind the eight ball.

So why don’t private developers step in? After all, such ventures have been successful and even profitable in other parts of the county. With a few notable exceptions, those who try have been stymied valley-wide by myriad challenging factors.

In Aspen, the city requires developers to provide housing for a portion of the workforce their projects will require upon completion. The principals of such projects rarely build such housing on-site as it takes away from income producing square footage.

The preferred option is a program known as cash-in-lieu. Essentially paying the city a substantial mitigation fee instead of building and providing the housing themselves. Those monies are then used by local officials for their own housing initiatives.

The third option are affordable housing credits. It’s a program designed to incentivize and subsidize developers willing to tackle projects that provide finished product for a lower price. To offset the lower ROI, the city rewards the credits to the affordable developer who can then sell them to other larger developers looking to mitigate their own projects.

Unfortunately, the program is the least popular for a number of reasons the city is working to correct. And so far, longtime local Peter Fornell is the only Aspen developer to utilize and advocate for the option.

Down the valley, the issue is the availability and high price of developable parcels within local towns and cities, again preventing the potential venture from penciling out. Those who look outside the city limits run up against density restrictions as defined by local comp plans.

To make it work, you’ve got to build multi-family complexes, smaller homes, closer together, with access to public transportation, as well as water and sewer.

And if you think this isn’t a problem that affects you, you might want to reconsider as you sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 82 during rush hour. Studies say the time it takes to commute can lead to poor work performance, tardiness, fatigue and turnover. It affects the cost and availability of child care, the loss of family and recreation time and results in higher rates of depression and anxiety, not to mention the obvious impacts to our pristine environment.

In the areas where these projects have been built, they are snapped up in hours’ time. Owners and occupants tend to walk or bike to work in larger numbers, utilize public transportation, and because they have more time and money, contribute to the economy via local restaurants and businesses.

The need is overwhelming. The challenge is indeed daunting. But with the right leadership and policy incentives, the dream is far from impossible.

Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty with 15 years of experience. He can be reached at scott.bayens@sir.com or 970-948-2265.

Guest commentary: You’re never alone, you just have to know when to talk

It doesn’t take too long to notice that there’s some rough things that go on in life. None of us are immune and all of us have a story to tell. The question that begs asking is this: Do you have someone to tell it to?

I can remember times where I felt that I had no one to talk to about what I was experiencing, feeling and thinking, which prompted me to carry the weight of my circumstances alone. After all, no one would understand because it was happening to me, not them. Nobody could possibly identify with the unique storm that hovered over my days.

This was the story I told myself and I told it so well, in fact, that I believed it. The very things that I prided myself on being strong enough to handle became the very things that weakened my spirit and added to my burden.

There is a concept that you may be familiar with called the Circles of Support. At the center, of course, is you. The next smallest circle may be family and friends; outside of that is community and neighbors, maybe next is spiritual leaders, service providers and so on.

It’s understood that not everyone has similar circles, and I remember as well having to redefine these circles for myself many times due to things like broken trust, misunderstandings, toxic relationships and so on.

This led to me clearing many from my circles, which wasn’t a bad thing. However, it prevented me from adding to my circles, and that wasn’t a good thing. It eventually led to carrying the weight of my woes on my heart and shoulders like an awkward Atlas. I realized that I needed to talk but where to start? Who would listen?

What I found is that there were caring people who took the time to listen and talk with me.

Have you had a time where someone has poured out their heart to you and although you didn’t really say much at all, yet they told you that they felt so much better just by talking? I had such an experience recently with a woman who had the weight of the world on her shoulders and shared that she appreciated being able to talk about the pain and hurt.

The beautiful part is that I also appreciated being able to relieve her heaviness if only for a few moments. Nothing was solved and yet so much was gained by both. This is part of the human experience and a vital part at that.

There is a German proverb that says: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”

Who are you able to share with today? If you are struggling and want to talk, there are those around you who want to listen. A friend, family member, support group, counselor or warmline. Caring people are waiting to listen to you at Colorado Crisis Services (844-493- TALK (8255)/Text ‘TALK’ to 38255. It’s 24/7/365, free and confidential).

Remember that what you have to say is valuable and that you are worth listening to.

Jill Davis is Peer Services Coordinator for Mind Springs Health. She can be reached at Peers@MindSpringsHealth.org.

Guest column: Celebrating and understanding Dr. Schweitzer’s ‘Reverence for Life’ at Aspen Chapel

“Reverence for Life” is a phrase from Dr. Albert Schweitzer and it became his axiom for living. He said, “Reverence for life affords me my fundamental principle of morality. What we call love is in its essence reverence for life.”

Exactly 70 years ago in July, Dr. Schweitzer spoke at the tent in Aspen for the Goethe Bicentennial, “Looking with the eyes of the spirit upon nature, as it is within ourselves, we find that in us also there is matter and spirit. Searching into the phenomena of the spirit in us, we realize that we belong to the world of the spirit, and that we must let ourselves be guided by it.”

Perhaps this was a seed planted for the origin of Aspen’s axiom of “Body, Mind, and Spirit.” Three years later, Dr. Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Exactly 50 years ago in August the Aspen Chapel of the Prince of Peace was dedicated. Bishop E. M. Yost, founder of the Aspen Chapel, stated then: “We hope to see theologians from throughout the world — leading thinkers of all faiths — participating in seminars and dialogues to be held at the Aspen Chapel. We are in the midst of an exciting era for religious thought. We are observing a renaissance in which old values are being subjected to critical scrutiny. This thrust for renewal is a vigorous challenge to our Judeo-Christian ethic. The era holds bright hope for a bewildered humanity seeking relevant answers in a complex 20th century world. It is within this context that we propose to dedicate the Chapel of the Prince of Peace at Aspen. We hope this Chapel will make a contribution to religious understanding and will, in its own way, bring us closer to personal and world peace.”

Bishop Yost was familiar with Aspen and it was intentional to locate the Chapel here as a place that now attracts people from all over the world and has established community values as initiated in the Goethe Bicentennial, which, in many ways, became the rebirth of Aspen and origin of the Aspen Institute and Music Festival. The theme of Body, Mind, and Spirit had been established. It was and is aspired that the Chapel could share and contribute toward this vision.

Earlier this month, the Aspen Chapel celebrated the 50th anniversary of its dedication. The Service included a message from our current Chaplain Nicholas Vesey and myself.

Cameron Yost, great nephew of Bishop Yost and son of Lyle Yost who financed and became Chairman of the Board, was present to read a liturgy of dedication. Celebrative music was led by Susan Nicholson, Ellen Stapenhorst, Mack Bailey, Barbara Bloemsma and an inter-generational choir. The last hymn included the affirmation, “This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands a far and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”

The purposes and goals expressed 50 years ago are still in place. There are thousands of people who, over the 50 years, have made progress toward the purposes and fulfilled many of the goals. In many ways the Aspen Chapel has become Aspen’s Chapel. It has created a more universal spiritual approach of being inclusive of diverse progressive perspectives. It is the Aspen Chapel’s intention to further the principle of “Reverence for Life.”

Aspen Chapel is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is writing a monthly column in 2019. Rev. Gregg Anderson is the Chaplain Emeritus.

Guest commentary: 70 years of Aspen Thrift Shop magic

The Aspen Thrift Shop was born in 1949 in response to a need for staff housing for the old Citizens Hospital, which was located in a Victorian home at the base of Red Mountain. It has been proudly serving the Roaring Fork Valley for the last 70 years, ever growing and changing locations several times over the years.

My involvement began with an off-hand comment from a friend: “You could be a great volunteer at the Thrift Shop. Maybe you should consider it.” Consider, I did, and 20 years later I am still there and marvel every day at the blessings it has brought to my life. What blessings, you might reasonably ask, can be found sorting through piles of old clothing, unexpected treasures and cast-off junk?

In the beginning, I was just sorting and hanging incoming donations, but as I slowly came to know the volunteers, generous donors and customers, I began to look forward to the twice-monthly shifts. Friendships form with women I would likely never have met. People I see every day around town are valued customers. The steady stream of locals delivering donations become the unsuspecting partners that contribute to the “magic.”

Fast-forward 20 years and I am fully committed and enticed by all things TS. I love learning of and meeting scores of other volunteers in our valley who are committed to making the world a better place. The Thrift Shop funds over 150 nonprofits in the valley as well as college scholarships in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. It is humbling each spring to read high school scholarship applications and almost impossible to choose the most deserving recipients. Above all, the process brings untold joy and optimism to get to know the committed and talented young people we are sending out to the world.

I particularly enjoy sharing countless stories of “Thrift Shop Magic.”

One of our board members created a nonprofit initiative as a direct result of networking she did for the shop. That valuable family-support program has served and will continue to, for years to come, the needs of countless families and individuals in our valley.

One morning, a group of us was inspecting a curious garment that appeared to have a medical purpose. At that moment one of our volunteers joined us and exclaimed in tears (and disbelief) that it was exactly what her young daughter needed to treat a serious medical condition. Not only was the item her size, but also very expensive.

One spring day we were becoming discouraged and tired, as we couldn’t begin to keep up with the massive amount of donations. The faster we worked to process everything, the more cars pulled up to dispense more bags and boxes. I was just ready to beg mercy to the burly man who purposefully strolled into the back room with several large boxes. He didn’t say a word but quietly opened the boxes to reveal a beautifully prepared four-course meal. We were stunned and thrilled that a local caterer would make such a thoughtful and generous gesture. He wouldn’t tell us his name and left before we could properly thank him. Energy restored and spirits lifted, we made tremendous progress the rest of the day.

Remember when Boogie closed his iconic clothing store? After the final sale, he donated the remaining merchandise to the TS. The challenge was to remove all inventory in just three days. The amazing ladies of the TS managed to find a donated retail space in town, move every item of clothing and footwear, advertise, set-up, staff, and successfully pull off a “flash sale.” I love the memory of volunteers pushing garment racks through the quiet streets of Aspen early in the morning. The contrasting hilarious memory is of the frantic stampede that ensued when the sale began!

A large painting from the ’70s of a couple on a motorcycle was donated for the Art Sale. The models looked familiar as did the setting, which appeared to be local. We had fun guessing at the identities of the beautiful subjects. Answers came soon enough when a longtime and well-known local man purchased the painting for his ex-girlfriend. They had continued to be dear friends and he gifted her the painting along with the memory of happy times. She succumbed not long after to a health issue she had battled for years.

On a rare occasion a disgruntled customer may become angry and abusive. The source of one such dispute is long forgotten, but the lovely woman who witnessed it is not. She immediately ran to Paradise Bakery and returned with cookies and muffins to soothe our rattled volunteers.

We often welcome men and women in need of community service hours to help at the shop. I was holding silent judgment of one unsavory looking young man covered with tattoos and piercings. Reservations were cast aside as I observed him hard at work. My heart melted, though, when I witnessed him playing Barbies on the floor with a volunteer’s granddaughter. A valuable lesson I will never forget.

There are surely endless stories to be mined from the hundreds of volunteers who have served over the years. Speaking of volunteers, we have an incredibly diverse, talented, smart and energetic group of hardworking ladies. Among our ranks: retired and working teachers, nurses, journalists, restaurant owners, artists, executives, a rabbi, retired judge, geologist, ski pro, hairdresser, doctors, lawyers, etc.

It is truly magic that 140-plus women can accomplish so much. We all think we are right and we all do it a different way; that is magic indeed! Our numbers are impressive and well known; 70 years, hundreds of volunteers, millions of dollars supporting scores of nonprofits. What might be surprising is the news that the Thrift Shop continues to welcome new volunteers to ensure our future sustainability. The hope is to serve the community for another 70 years as we accomplish our mission: to sell donated goods at affordable prices, to make grants to other nonprofit organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley and to provide scholarships to valley high school graduates.

Thank you, Aspen Thrift Shop volunteers, donors and shoppers, for the magic and blessings you bring to my life. Perhaps this “love letter” will inspire a reader to join us. For more information, please visit www.aspenthriftshop.org.

Ellen Walbert is co-president of the Aspen Thrift Shop.

Guest commentary: Colorado Mountain College taking the long view — for Aspen

Aspen is exceptional — a place of majestic beauty, inspired creativity, extraordinary foresight, and demonstrated generosity. However, even with world-class services and resort amenities, and high-quality health care, schools and public transportation, Aspen lacks several key components that make a community self-sustaining, including abundant early childhood education, ample housing to meet its needs and a fully realized college that trains and feeds a talent pipeline to fuel a resilient workforce. The moment is now to open new doors of opportunity for our leaders of tomorrow.

In 2017, just prior to Walter Isaacson’s retirement as CEO of the Aspen Institute, The Aspen Times asked him if a particular subject captured his interest. His response:

“I do believe strongly that what Aspen needs is expanded presence of Colorado Mountain College, because any great community needs a great center of education and job training. … And I think if they expand the campus they have across from the (Aspen-Pitkin County) airport, it’s a way to bring diverse, younger people into town without overwhelming what the town can handle. Having a steady stream of young, eager people with different interests can help create an innovative, entrepreneurial economy in the whole area. … I think that would be the next big thing I would hope for Aspen.”

Your local college of 54 years also hopes to deliver what Mr. Isaacson described and what another Walter (Paepcke) envisioned decades ago.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are central to CMC’s core values as an open-access institution. Whether you are a high school student taking concurrent enrollment classes, starting or finishing your associate or bachelor’s degree, charting a new career or hobby — everyone is welcome.

However, this commitment is difficult to fulfill in Aspen. The greatest barrier to CMC students isn’t tuition; it is the high cost of housing. We are not alone in this challenge, but uniquely well-positioned to address it.

The CMC trustees recently voted to prioritize our Aspen Campus amid heavy internal competition for capital investments across an 11-campus system that serves nearly 20,000 students annually. The vision includes enhanced academic programming, community facilities, infrastructure and transit improvements, and student and faculty housing. Also inherent are programmatic and housing partnerships with local nonprofits and businesses, designed to support a thriving economy for the region.

CMC’s campuses are small, personal and safe. Four currently have some form of housing. Students often choose us for the privilege to live, work and learn in our mountain towns. Woven into the fabric of our region, CMC students intern for various organizations, apprentice with the National Forest Service, provide technical support at the Aspen Ideas and 5Point Film festivals, and become teachers, nurses and EMTs. Notably, CMC alumni include 26 of the 28 members of the Aspen Police Department, 22 of the 24 deputies in the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Aspen’s fire and police chiefs.

Steve Skadron, who recently completed a third and final term as Aspen’s mayor, starts Monday as vice president of CMC’s Aspen Campus and Carbondale’s Lappala Center. A longtime local resident with close ties to the college as a former marketing consultant and Isaacson School instructor, Steve understands the region, having also served on Aspen’s Planning & Zoning Commission and the RFTA Board of Directors. He joins a talented group of campus leaders who are innovative, astute in complex organizational dynamics, and relationship-builders — each working closely with a cadre of academic deans and faculty to align offerings with community priorities.

Though CMC is only one voice in a larger conversation, our failure to responsibly provide relevant programs and adequate facilities in an otherwise out-of-reach location would run counter to our mission. Instead, we stand ready to contribute to thoughtful and collaborative solutions to alleviate disparities that lie between Aspen’s venerable ideals and its long-term economic viability and resilience.

We welcome all to be part of a long view and exciting next chapter for CMC in Aspen.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at president@coloradomtn.edu or @CMCPresident.