A silent volunteer: Snowmass local Sue Smedstad to be honored, inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame
Trustworthy. Selfless. Compassionate. A ball of sunshine, love and kindness.
These are just a few of the words and phrases that have been used to describe Sue Smedstad, a longtime Aspen-Snowmass local set to be inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame on Saturday for her exemplary volunteerism.
In a 12-minute video on Smedstad created for the induction ceremony, a handful of her colleagues and closest friends described her tireless passion and drive to support a multitude of health, human services and youth initiatives in the Aspen area, and how the reach of her impact is unmatched.
“There hasn’t been a hurdle that Sue hasn’t figured out how to go around,” Nan Sundeen, director of human services for Pitkin County, said in the video. “If I have an initiative I’m working on, I will seek Sue to be on my team. … She will help bridge the paradigms between nonprofits, government and community so that we’re successful and that we’re sustainable.”
From working her way up the ranks at Aspen Skiing Co. — starting as someone who handed out trail maps at the base of the mountain and finishing as the company’s vice president of administration — to co-founding and serving on more than a dozen local and state nonprofit and advisory boards, Smedstad has dedicated her adult life to the betterment of the Aspen-Snowmass community.
But on a recent morning at a local coffee shop, she credited much of her service work and accomplishments to her upbringing, and the fact that opportunities to give back always have been available.
“This community provides so many opportunities for people like me to get involved, and there are so many people doing great things,” said Smedstad, a Portland, Oregon, native and over 40-year Snowmass local.
“For example, you could walk into a room with folks who have been here for a range of time, say 5 to 50 years, and you wouldn’t have to go a foot in either direction to find someone engaged in the community in so many ways.”
For Smedstad, one of the first community engagement opportunities presented itself when she was working as the personnel director for Skico.
She said many of the employees were coming to her and her staff with personal struggles the skiing company didn’t have the resources to address, sparking her to reach out the local mental health authority at the time and start the first ski area Employee Assistance Programs in the country.
From that point on, Smedstad said she became interested in anything and everything that supported health, human services and youth in the Aspen area. She helped found organizations including the Aspen Hope Center, Response, Aspen Youth Center and Hospice of the Valley; has been recognized for her local and state efforts to combat substance abuse; and has organized the “Girls to Women, Women to Girls” and “Boys to Men, Men to Boys” annual conferences for Aspen eighth-graders, which connect girls and boys to adult women and men role models who help the students establish career aspirations, for over 20 years.
Smedstad and the rest of this year’s Aspen Hall of Fame inductees truly stand out for their integrity and dedicated local volunteerism, said Lorna Petersen, the hall’s president.
She said the 2020 class is one of the strongest ever, and that the annual induction ceremony sold out in roughly a week’s time. Also being honored this year are Peter and Barbara Guy, Rick Deane and David Swersky.
“I’ve known Sue for a long time and I knew she volunteered but I had no idea all of the things she’s actually done,” Petersen said. “This year all four of our inductees are phenomenal and are silent volunteers. … I don’t know if there’s been another group inducted that’s so solid.”
While Smedstad said she is honored to be a part of the 2020 Aspen Hall of Fame class, she also said she’s much more comfortable working behind the scenes and again credited the overall generosity and volunteerism of the entire Aspen-Snowmass community for her accomplishments.
“I’ve learned that when you develop a passion for something you always have time for it, absolutely always have time,” Smedstad said. “This is a community of volunteers.”
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The Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing hosted the first in a series of volunteer service days focused on facilities work as the camp looks toward a possible reopening this summer.