Gallagher: The good habit of service |

Gallagher: The good habit of service

RJ Gallagher

“If we are clear in our purpose, we will excel in our ideals.” — The Rev. John L. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.

So, when is a good time in your life to start making a difference and incorporating service into your daily routine? At the St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Glenwood Springs, it’s as soon as you enroll in kindergarten. That’s 5 years old, for those of you who are doing the math.

I think most of us would agree that the sooner you start something, the easier it becomes a natural and normal part of our every day. A habit, so to speak. It can also become a daily motivator, and our lives feel a little less fulfilled when we do not find the time to engage in that something. That something can be represented by all sorts of things. If service above self was to become part of our personal growth and culture through our educational environment at the age of 5, that could really amount to “something,” don’t you think?

At St. Stephen’s Catholic School, its service-learning component is an important part of its overall educational philosophy. The students, administration, faculty and parents of St. Stephen’s are often involved in fundraising for charitable organizations, volunteering and collecting items (such as food and clothing) for the needy. This is all part of their mission to be good stewards of the world, both locally and globally. If you are interested in learning more about teaming up with St. Stephen’s in its efforts to make a difference, please go to its website at and click on the “Fundraising” navigation link.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to get to know an active participant of the St. Stephen’s community, Rosario Young. Rosario is the art and Spanish teacher at St. Stephen’s. She has an infectious personality, and she also has a cause. And it’s a good one. It’s called the Builders Club, and Rosario is the faculty adviser.

Builders Club is associated with Kiwanis Club International. The mission of Builders Club is to engage and involve middle school students in community service with the overall goal of developing quality leaders and involved citizens who make sure that its mission of good continues to pay it forward. Builders Club inspires the younger generation to better our world by helping the children of the world.

The Kiwanis Club of Glenwood Springs helps to support Builders Club by providing a club adviser and a faculty adviser. These advisers attend weekly meetings that take place during the lunch hour. Now that’s what I call a power lunch.

St. Stephen’s says it is fortunate because it has a very active Builders Club. In the past few years, its club has built a playground for children in a shantytown in Lima, Peru. It has made donations to children in Africa and the American Red Cross. Two years ago, Builders Club donated money to the Community Center “Tot Lot” and painted its butterfly houses. It has even paid for medical services for a very sick child named Chaim in Israel. Just this past week, “Breakfast With Santa” generated $700 in donations, and this week Builders Club is sending care packages to troops in Afghanistan for Christmas. Building on, it is.

Altogether, over the past 15 years, the Builders Club fundraising efforts have generated more than $40,000 in donations. It has also devoted literally thousands of collective hours of volunteering throughout the community. This year, its goal is to focus on less fortunate children by helping their lives to be a little better. Not bad for a little school of 170 students. St. Stephen’s is the little school that can.

Everyone at St. Stephen’s appreciates the support the community provides when it attends fundraisers, such as a pancake breakfast, a car wash or a sit with Santa. The end result of such community involvement is a rising tide of support for those less fortunate and those who serve in the military. And at the same time, the student volunteers of St. Stephen’s learn and grow exponentially by the giving of their time and service for a cause that makes a difference in the daily lives of others. Isn’t that “something”?

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column in The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open to ideas. You can reach him at