This month, we spoke to former Director, Co-Founder Jill Ziemann.
Jill found herself in the valley in 1999. Her husband retired from the military as a medical social worker and was offered a director's position with Catholic Charities -- being given the task for opening an office in Glenwood Springs. After becoming a case-manager for homeless families in Garfield County, Jill took a position with CMC as the Director of Gateway/Women in Transition. She wanted to be a part of the program after seeing numerous parents transformed by it.
Glenwood Springs was a great place for Jill and her family. She felt welcomed by the community -- "St. Stephen's Church family offered an excellent source of support, healthy activities, and friendships." Her children, who were 9, 12, and 13 at the time, consider themselves very fortunate to be from Glenwood Springs. However, this area can be a hard place to live in. Jill understood those complications and offered support when needed:
"In 2011, my coworker Beth Shaw asked if I was interested in obtaining economic development funds from the Garfield County Commissioners (to develop a workforce training program in industrial sewing). She liked the model of providing training in work ethics and job skills while receiving public assistance -- she saw the need for such skills to benefit local employers."
"We got a $1,000 grant from the Manaus Fund to develop a business plan and worked with a local businesswoman, Doreen, who came had experience in design and clothing manufacturing. We were successful in obtaining $38,000 for equipment and $1 per year rent for SSD's place in the Henry Building in downtown Rifle. We opened in April 2012 and have been providing training for parents on TANF for nearly 8 years."
This summer, Jill retired from her position as Executive Director of the GarCo Enterprise programs (GarCo Design Works, amongst many other community outreach programs). Her time here was detrimental to the program, as well as her growth. When asked about what makes GarCo Design Works great, Jill gave us a few highlights:
When Carbondale and Aspen banned plastic grocery bags, we made agreements to make very affordable bags for community and tourist giveaways. Also, discovering the unlimited supply of sterile wrap and arranging for pick up and delivery between Aspen, Valley View and Grand River Hospitals. (These two events enabled us to be uniquely sustainable to our communities -- upcycling hundreds of sheets of sterile wrap each week saving our landfills).
In 2017, we began expanding our services to Grand Junction. We recycle sterile wrap from Community Hospital, making large bags for the city's recycling program, GJ CRI.
Meanwhile, the nearly 100 students that have been trained at Garco Enterprise were able to be successful on TANF while overcoming barriers (to be ready for work and ready for college). These include stabilization of housing, transportation, and childcare, medical issues themselves or with a child, and legal issues that keep them from working full-time. We help them navigate through the system and give them important resources to overcome these needs so they Link to Success! The college is particularly good at providing basic computer skills, GED and college preparation assistance -- helping them find a career pathway best suited to their individual strengths is crucial.
Before GDW, many clients failed to make their monthly activity requirements (24-34 hours a week). Most volunteer sites can't provide that much time. We are open 5 days a week / 7 hours a day, giving some flexibility to schedules.
GDW also provides parents with supportive people in their lives. Many make friendships that last. They continue to support one another long after getting off benefits. They celebrate kids' birthdays, employment, graduations, and job promotions. They become each other's safety nets.
"I'm proud of the students that have participated at GDW, have successfully become economically secure, but come back to volunteer."