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A stairway from heaven built by youth volunteers

I noticed them out of my office window, at the top of the Senior Center Garden.

They were sporting shovels, rakes, helmets, gloves, goggles and a sledgehammer. A sledgehammer!

What a good day, I exclaimed to myself and ran outside to investigate.

It was the Southwest Conservation Corps, a division of the volunteer organization, AmeriCorps. It operates out of Durango and has three other branches; Tucson, Salida and Los Valles. Their aim is to provide young women and men with structured, safe and challenging work and educational opportunities through employment projects that promote personal growth, the development of social skills, and an ethic of natural resource stewardship. The particular volunteers in our garden will use this experience as resume builders to gain acceptance into their chosen colleges, and in the case of one young volunteer, the Air Force Academy. They were all local youth, ages 12-15, with their volunteer group leaders Fraser Watson and Sarah Foley. Fraser Watson observed that volunteering for the Corps is a “great way to gain job skills, work ethic and practical experience.”

An ungainly and unauthorized path from the top of the garden to the sidewalk existed, a fact that had been brought to the attention of Jim Miller, parks superintendent with the Town of Pagosa Springs. Building a winding stair was the perfect project for the Youth Corps, and Jim made the arrangements.

When the Youth Corps began construction, it was the very same week of our unprecedented 90 degree weather. Every day without shade, eight local young people toiled to dig holes, shape rocks, move them to fit and spread rock around them.

I interviewed them all asking each what was the best part of their job and what was the worst part. The best parts, the majority enthusiastically answered, were getting to be outside, learning to use the tools, helping the community and creating something permanent that they could be proud of. Lauren River, Isaiah Class-Erickson, Brendon Maxwell, Carter Walsh, Aidan McGinn, J.C. Parsons, Dakota Decker and Tyler Fearon all agreed that the worst parts were the heat and that everyone assumed that they were juvenile delinquents sentenced to community service. They are not.

They are volunteers and they are great kids.

My people here at the Silver Foxes Den mostly belong to what journalist Tom Brokaw named “The Greatest Generation.” Some of the many qualities that contributed to their greatness are their courage, work ethic, morality, tenacity, frugality and the knowledge that they can do anything that needs to be done. These 80-plus-year-olds, without regard to income levels, are still shoveling their own walks, fixing their own plumbing, building furniture and farming, because they can. They acquired these qualities when they were young, learning through adversity and by necessity.

Our Greatest Generation created national strength as they created their local communities. Now, roughly four generations later, our own youth have the opportunity through parallel circumstances to give my people a run for this “Greatest Generation” title. And guess what? They are doing it right here in Pagosa Springs, no matter what people think of them.

Sarah Foley, a Corps group leader, poked her head into my office and said, “They are done — would you like to go see?”

Once again I ran outside and stopped at the top of their stair. The happy volunteers were sweeping the crushed rock and making plans to meet on the steps for the Fourth of July fireworks display. I thanked them and admired their impressive work. They asked me to take pictures. Humbled, I watched as they proudly lined up on either side of the descending garden path and waited for me to record the moment.

I am grateful to these young volunteers and their leaders not only for our beautiful stairs, but for reminding me that the people who will have my back when I am 80 years old already have a strong sense of community, courage, morality, a great work ethic, and the knowledge that they can do anything.

Opening chess

Beginning the second Friday in July at 10 a.m., we are hosting chess games in the dining room. We need more chess sets, however. Please bring one with you. Or, if you would pretty please like to donate a chess set, bring it to me or call me at 264-2167.

Help!

We need volunteers to help in the kitchen from 9 a.m.-noon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Your duties might include food prep, dishwashing and lunch setup. Kitchen experience would be helpful, but reliability is a must. In return, you get a fabulous lunch, big love from the seniors and eternal gratitude from us. Call me, Jodi Starr, at 264-2167.

Healthier Living

We need one more volunteer instructor to teach the Healthier Living class series. It is a six-week class that assists and educates people that are living with chronic illnesses. We have a grant that will pay for your training in Denver. Call me, Jodi, at 264-2167.

Thanks

Thank you, Southwest Conservation Corps, for our wonderful stairway.

Thank you, Jim Santee, for your amazing presentation of your homemade instruments and entertainment example. You drew our biggest crowd ever.

Thank you, Eddie Bennett, Kent Schafer, Rick Sautel, Mary Lou Maehr and Jim Estell for pitching in and helping in the kitchen. It was really hard work and we appreciate it.

Happy 80th birthday, Dad. And thank you for adopting me.

Services

Are you homebound or know someone who is? Let the Silver Foxes Den help you with your meals. We have expanded our service to the more rurally-isolated areas of the county and would like to help you help yourself.

These meals are the same meals prepared in our kitchen by the same cooks who prepare those scrumptious senior center meals. Our hot meal home delivery program remains available to those closer to town four days per week, and frozen meals on Thursdays. Meals are available to people age 60-plus for a suggested donation of $3 per meal. Give me or Musetta a call at 264-2167 for further information.

Weekly activities

Friday, June 25 — Geezers 9 a.m.; Stitchin’ in the Kitchen 10 a.m.; Book Club 10:30 p.m.; Tai Chi 11 a.m.; Picnic in the Park, reservations for lunch required. Call 264-2167. Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.

Monday, June 28 — Gym Walk 12:30 p.m., Canasta 1 p.m.

Tuesday, June 29 — Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.; Meditation for Healing 1 p.m..

Wednesday, June 30 — Dance for Health 10 a.m.; Poker 1 p.m.; Alzheimer’s Support Group 1 p.m.

Thursday, July 1 — No lunch, administrative day.

Friday, July 2 — Geezers 9 a.m.; Stitchin’ in the Kitchen 10 a.m.; Tai Chi 11 a.m.; Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.; Parkinson’s Support Group 1 p.m.; Wear red, white and blue day.

This week’s menu

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $3, kids 12 and under and guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, and Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $9.75. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Friday, June 25 — Barbecue ribs, corn on the cob, seasoned greens, potato salad, watermelon.

Reservations required, Picnic in the Park.

Monday, July 28 — Ham and macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, salad, baked apple, roll.

Tuesday, June 29 — Crunchy baked fish, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, pineapple, mandarin oranges, roll.

Wednesday, June 30 — Hamburger, lettuce and tomato, baked beans, french fries, watermelon.

Thursday, July 1 — No lunch, administrative day.

Friday, July 2 — Roast turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, cauliflower and broccoli with cheese sauce, cranberry mold, roll.