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Our Community Foundation: Healthy food for all is a right, not a privilege

Alejandrina Luevano lives in a modest, dark gray house with a wrap-around porch in the Two Rivers community of Dotsero. Upon entering Alejandrina’s home, a wave of warmth and smells and sounds washes over. Smells of home cooking and the sounds of all of the neighborhood children that Alejandrina takes care of while their parents work 10 or 12 hours a day.

Alejandrina is slight, with dark hair always pulled back and a smile as bright as the Colorado sun. No one leaves Alejandrina’s eclectically decorated house without at least three abrazos and a full stomach.

Me da gusto cuando puedo compartir mi comida con otras personas, me da mucho gusto,” she said. “I like when I can share my food with other people, it makes me very happy.”

Although she is retired, Alejandrina is constantly cooking and looking after her neighbors’ little ones, all to the rhythm of the songbirds that she keeps as pets in her living room. She often has a smile on her face, but she is firm and frank when talking about the challenges that low income, Latino communities face here in Eagle County.

Life in a ‘food desert’

Alejandrina said she started coming to the Eagle River Valley Food Bank’s mobile market in Two Rivers sometime last summer when she first found out about the program. Ever since, she said she comes whenever she is able to get food for her family.

“Well, I come because it helps me a lot,” Alejandrina said. “What I go to the market for is basically just the vegetables and in the stores all of that kind of stuff is very expensive but you know I like to give vegetables to my children and my grandchildren.”

When she is unable to come to the no-cost market put on by the food bank, Alejandrina must drive 20-25 minutes to Eagle City Market or Costco to shop. The town of Dotsero is only made up of homes, with no grocery stores or other services available in the whole town.

The nearest place to get fresh food is the Ridley’s in Gypsum, which is still 15 minutes away and has a much smaller selection of produce than the City Market in Eagle. Rita Mary Hennigan, the sustainability coordinator for the Eagle River Valley Food Bank, said this is often referred to as a “food desert.”

“So a lot of times communities are identified as ‘food deserts’ because they only have a convenience store and they don’t have a real grocery store,” Hennigan said. “Dotsero doesn’t even have that. So Dotsero residents really do not have easy access to any kind of food, much less fresh food.”

Compounded with the issue of transportation in Dotsero, this can pose a real problem for families who want to feed their families healthy, home cooked meals on a regular basis.

While the Eco Transit bus line makes frequent stops up valley and even in Eagle and Gypsum, Alejandrina’s husband, Manuel Luevano, said the bus only comes to Two Rivers once or twice in the early morning and twice in the evening just before 4 p.m. and then again around 6:30 p.m.

“During the day there is nothing, the bus doesn’t come at all,” Manuel said. “It’s impossible to get anywhere on the bus during the day or outside of those few times so if you can’t drive it’s very hard.”

Alejandrina has had a few surgeries on her shoulder, which still cause her pain and prohibit her from being able to carry heavy shopping bags while walking. She said her doctor told her recently that she should no longer be driving, but luckily her husband works part-time and is often available to drive her to the store.

“My arm hurts when I have to lift and carry heavy things,” Alejandrina said. “So imagine if I had to take the bus to shop, it would be impossible and also there’s only one bus stop here which is far from my house. But many people have no other choice.”

Feeling the housing crunch

There are many low-income families in Eagle County that live farther up the valley, closer to grocery stores and other amenities. However, an increasing number of people working in low wage jobs, many in the service industry, have been forced to look to downvalley towns like Gypsum and Dotsero in the search for affordable housing.

Jenny Lang-Burns, a family nurse practitioner for Mountain Family Health Clinic, said that one of the biggest issues to look at in addressing hunger and access to healthy food in the valley is the availability and location of affordable housing.

“The greatest barrier here is people’s inability to find affordable housing in the same place where they work,” she said.

Manuel commented that oftentimes even people willing to make the hour commute from Vail in order to live in Dotsero still end up working two or three jobs just to stay afloat.

“The cost of living here is so high, it’s important not to underestimate that,” Hennigan said. “In our community, folks can be well above the federal poverty level and still not be making enough money to make ends meet.”

A broken food system

And then, on top of it all, you have the elevated cost of buying fresh grocery items in Eagle County. Kelly Liken, interim food systems director for the Eagle River Valley Food Bank, said that the price of fresh goods here is representative of a broken food system which is not serving all members of the community efficiently.

“The cost alone of fresh produce as compared to its processed and packaged counterparts is a barrier for many people,” Liken said. “Healthful food is a basic human right, not a privilege. This is why we are committed to sourcing and distributing fresh produce. If we can eliminate that impossible choice, and take the pressure off the grocery budget in the most expensive areas, then our customers can spend their grocery dollars as they see fit; knowing they are feeding their families in a way they can feel good about.”

Alejandrina is all too familiar with the struggles of preparing healthy meals for a large family on a diminishing budget, especially living in Dotsero where families feel the negative effects of a resort economy but are unable to share in the wealth that tourism brings to the valley.

“We have a lot of bills and expenses to pay and then I have to buy food for the whole family with what is left over and, sometimes, there’s not much left,” Alejandrina said.

“This is a real source of stress for low-income families in our community because people have a natural desire to raise their families well and to raise their families in a way that allows them to live active and productive and happy lifestyles,” Hennigan said.

Traditionally, food banks and other food assistance programs have relied on long-lasting food to fill their shelves such as canned or processed goods because these products are less logistically challenging to source and distribute. This model made sense in the era when most food assistance programs began, in a post-WWII society wrought with extreme hunger and a need for emergency food services.

However, according to Lang-Burns, hunger in our community today looks a lot different.

“Here, hunger is not the skinny malnourished child that you see pictures of,” she said. “It’s the people who have to eat more high fat, low nutrition foods because they are more affordable but then don’t get all of the nutrients that their bodies need to be healthy.”

Filling the gaps

In the new era of food assistance, organizations are realizing that many of the gaps that still exist in the area of equal access to food center around providing more fresh, healthy food options that don’t break the budget. After all, access to healthy food is a right that should be afforded to all people, regardless of income.

But if the traditional food bank model needs to change, then the traditional food drive model should change with it. This means opening up the conversation to new ways that people can support organizations in striving to improve access to nutritious food.

In the interest of furthering this conversation, the Eagle River Valley Food Bank will have a booth at the Edwards Corner Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9-1:30 p.m. At the booth, we will be giving out more information about our services, selling merchandise to support our emphasis on securing fresh produce and hosting a “fresh food drive” in coordination with the local food vendors.

Through this program, we are encouraging shoppers to add a little extra of whatever foods they are buying for their home and then donate that food to our booth to be redistributed to local, low-income families.

“So with the fresh food drive, we are trying to kind of change the narrative around how we can best serve our communities based on the needs and desires that we have heard the community members that we interact with express,” Hennigan said. “We’re trying to bring access to these really fresh, nutrient dense, Colorado grown foods to people who traditionally don’t have as much access or as easy a time accessing those kinds of food.”

To reflect our growing role within the community and our renewed focus on providing fresh food, the Eagle River Valley Food Bank will now be referred to as The Community Market. If you would like to come visit us at the Edwards Corner Farmer’s Market to learn more about our work, look for The Community Market banner!

“I think [the fresh food drive] is a very good idea,” Alejandrina said. “This is what we need, good food, especially for the children that I take care of. They say that children are like little trees, you have to feed them well when they are small so that they grow up beautiful and strong.”

Kelli Duncan is a marketing and volunteer coordinator with the Eagle River Valley Food Bank, a project of Our Community Foundation.

Land Title closing agent Charis Patterson honored

Charis Patterson, a closing agent with Land Title Guarantee Company for the past five years, recently won two awards from the firm: the 2018 “Incredibles” designation (her second year in a row) for recognition in many different areas of expertise, and the prestigious Closer of the Year, presented to the Top Closer in Colorado throughout Land Title’s 55 offices across the state.

Patterson joined Land Title after leaving her career as a broker assistant. Her book of business includes complex transactions filled with entities, attorneys, 1031 exchanges and more. Her personality, eagerness, and extensive knowledge of real estate, has earned a dedicated following among Eagle County Realtors.

When not in the office, Patterson can be found attending industry events, local fundraisers and community gatherings. For more information, call 970-748-4784 or email at cpatterson@ltgc.com.

Edwards’ 6 West Apartments welcomes its first residents

Vail developer Gore Creek Partners, LLC has announced it is nearing completion of a class “A” multifamily community in Edwards. Residents began moving into their new homes in early June.  

The 6 West Apartments consist of 120 rental apartment units located on 5.7 acres in West Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. The community includes a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans with quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, walk-in closets, and storage closets on each patio.  

The property also features a 3,000 square foot community building with amenities including a fitness center with the latest in cardio and weight training equipment, business center, cyber/coffee café, and indoor/outdoor areas for socializing. Also planned are a “bark-park,” a “tot-lot” and bike parking areas.

Gore Creek Partners, LLC is a real estate development, investment and asset management company based in Vail. The company is active in acquiring and developing a variety of property types around the US, and was formed in 2009 by Steve Spessard.  

For more information, call 970-922-3636, email 6WestInfo@CorumRealEstate.com or go to www.6WestApartments.com.

Minturn-area shooting range cleanup is set for June 24

The Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District and a group of volunteers will host a clean-up at the Two Elk Target Range on Monday, June 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The range will close to shooting at noon June 24 for the safety of those participating.

Volunteers should bring water and should wear a hat, long sleeved shirt, pants, gloves and shoes or boots with enclosed toes. Children are welcome to accompany a parent or guardian. Please do not bring pets to the clean-up event.

A local group will be on site recruiting volunteers for similar monthly clean-up projects.

For more information, email Paula Peterson, paula.peterson@usda.gov or call 970-827-5159.

Michael Bennet’s office to host listening session in Avon in July

Do you need help dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs, IRS, Social Security Administration or another federal agency? Do you have a suggestion for Congress that will help your family or community?

If so, then Senator Michael Bennet invites you to meet one-on-one with a representative from his office at an upcoming listening session July 9 at the Avon Public Library.

Matt Kireker, Bennet’s Central Mountains Regional Representative, will meet one-on-one with constituents in Avon. Kirecker will be available to listen to Eagle County residents from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. The library is located at 200 Benchmark Road in Avon.

To schedule an appointment, send an email to Matthew_Kireker@bennet.senate.gov. Please include a brief description of the issue you want to address, as this will help Matt assist you. If you are already working with someone in Bennet’s office, please include that information in your email, as well.

Those without email access can call 303-883-3119. Constituents do not need to wait for listening session dates to ask for help or share opinions. Please call any Bennet office at any time for assistance.

Craft beers, chamber orchestras, diving dogs and more: Tricia’s weekend picks 6/21/19

Vail Craft Beer Festival

Elevate your craft beer experience by pairing it with a little education and adventure. That’s the idea behind the third annual Vail Craft Beer Classic, happening now through Sunday.

Colorado is known for its legacy of microbreweries throughout the state. The Vail Craft Beer Classic will showcase some of those pioneer breweries like New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing Company, which have been around for decades, as well as local establishments like Bonfire Brewing and 7 Hermits Brewing Company. There will be over 300 beer, wine and spirits samples to try throughout the festival.

For those looking to learn, there are various opportunities to geek out with the experts in the industry. Hear about current trends and practices as well as cooking techniques with beer. If being active is more your style, hike, bike or go fly fishing with beer experts while enjoying the Colorado scenery and, of course, beer. This event really blends the best of Colorado, letting you enjoy the outdoors while being inspired by some of the craft brewers’ stories and insights and rewarding yourself with a brew afterward.

The biggest events of the weekend will be the Sip at the Summit on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and the Toast of Vail on Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. The Sip at the Summit takes beer enthusiasts on a trip up the gondola, which sits at 10,350 feet above sea level, for gorgeous views and a barbecue dinner. Craft beers from members of the Colorado Brewers Guild will be served. The Toast of Vail brings everyone to the heart of Vail Village to sample over 50 breweries and live bluegrass music.

This is a ticketed event and many of the seminars and other offerings sell out quickly, so take a look at the website and plan your weekend around the Vail Craft Beer Classic. For details visit www.vailcraftbeerclassic.com.

Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge

If you missed all the high-flying canine action during the Dock Dogs events at the GoPro Mountain Games, don’t worry, you have another chance to see some talented pooches this weekend. The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge (PPPIDC) returns to Nottingham Park in Avon with competitions held on Friday and Saturday.

The PPPIDC may sound familiar to you because it is a nationally televised series that showcases some of the strongest, fastest and most agile dogs who complete some amazing feats. Nottingham Park and Nottingham Lake provide the perfect backdrop for the obstacle course utilizing the lawn, sand and lake. There will also be diving competitions utilizing Nottingham Lake. The Freestyle Flying Disc competition will showcase the skills of both the dog and the handler with a bit of choreography added to the tossing of the discs.

Although the PPPIDC is open to all breeds of dogs, there is one event that is specific to the Jack Russell terrier breed: Hurdle Racing. Watch as those small terriers chase a lure while jumping over obstacles and going through tunnels in this timed competition.

This event is free and spectator friendly with bleacher seating set up to provide more areas to view the events. For a full list of competitions and practice schedules, visit www.proplan.com/dogs/incredible-dog-challenge.   

Bravo! Vail Music Festival

The Bravo! Vail Music Festival brings a world of music to the Vail Valley this summer. Renown musicians will delight the ears of the seasoned classical music lover to the novice.

Bravo! Vail kicks off its 32nd season this week and will bring in long-standing favorites like the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra, but before they do, Bravo! Vail has a special treat. Making its North American debut will be Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin. The leading players from the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics come together to perform Mozart and Haydn on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Joining the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin throughout the weekend’s performances will be award-winning violinists Paul Huang and Anne-Sophie Mutter. Even though the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin has been collaborating for over a decade, they both are still known for the distinctive sounds they bring to the stage. The smooth Viennese elegance and the passion of the Berliners will be evident on stage.

Gates open at 5 p.m. and the shows regularly start at 6 p.m. Take advantage of the free pre-concert talks that happen throughout the festival. On Saturday, the pre-concert talk, which starts at 5 p.m., will give you insights about the selections of Mozart’s music that will be played that evening and more details about the performers. That added detail is sure to move you to have more affinity for this type of music.

Tickets to Bravo! Vail start at $29 for lawn seats (kids 12 and under get lawn seats for $12) and go up in price from there depending on where you want to sit. For more information, go to www.bravovail.org.

Vail Arts Festival

The 35th annual Vail Arts Festival returns to Lionshead Village this weekend. This three-day event draws over 60 artists covering diverse mediums such as glass, metal works, wood, mixed media, paintings, drawing, fiber, digital art, graphics, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry and more.

Although some artists will be local, many artists will be coming from 22 other states. There will also be emerging artists present who have earned their opportunity to show their creations at the Vail Arts Festival. Have an emerging artist of your own? The Kids Creative Kingdom returns once again to help foster creativity in the youngsters at the kids’ activity area.

This free event happens rain or shine and opens each day at 9:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday and ends at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and goes until 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, go to www.vailartsfestival.com.

Solstice Trail Run

The longest day of the year is June 21st and to celebrate, the Vail Recreation District is once again hosting its Dynafit Summer Solstice 10k, 5k, and Kids Fun Run at Beaver Creek on Saturday.

John Muir once said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” Follow this environmental philosopher’s advice and hit the trails on Saturday morning, rain or shine. The course will take runners (you can walk it if you need to) up through aspen groves and across the front side of Beaver Creek Mountain before the descent.

Reward yourself with an after-party complete with food, entertainment and prizes for the top finishers at Creekside Park, which also serves at the start and finish area for the race.

Saturday’s run is part of the Dynafit Vail Trail Running Series put on by the Vail Rec District each summer. The series showcases some of Colorado’s most iconic trail runs. The Kids Fun Run starts at 8:30 a.m. followed by the 10k at 9 a.m. and the 5k at 9:15 a.m. Register online or in person. Entry prices vary, but proceeds from this event go to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, which supports Eagle Valley residents in medical crisis. For more information, go to www.vailrec.com.

Edwards motorists, ECO buses cope with roundabout construction traffic

EDWARDS — The traffic at the Edwards roundabout project on U.S. Highway 6 and along the Edwards Spur Road has gotten to be too much for ECO Transit.

The county bus system isn’t alone in that sentiment. And, like residents of the community, the bus system is altering its travel patterns to avoid the impacts.

‘”Construction projects can be messy and sometimes difficult,” acknowledged Matt Figgs, Colorado Department of Transportation Engineer. The Edwards project is especially impactful because of its expedited schedule and high profile location.

The Edwards Interstate 70 Spur Road improvements project launched in February 2019 and will include a new roundabout at Edwards Spur Road and U.S. Highway 6, widening of the Edwards Spur Road, bridge reconstruction and pedestrian improvements. The total project cost is estimated at $21.75 million and is being funded by CDOT, Eagle County and the Edwards Metropolitan District.

The project will be substantially completed by the end of 2019 with some landscaping, finish work and railroad bridge construction continuing in 2020

ECO alters routes

In an announcement distributed this week, ECO Transit said due to congestion occurring as part of the Edwards Spur Road improvement project, it has suspended service to Freedom Park on its Highway 6 East and Highway 6 West bus routes. ECO says its buses were experiencing delays in excess of 40 minutes, so the temporary suspension has been put in place in an effort to keep buses running on time. Other routes are unaffected.

Transit users at Freedom Park can use the pedestrian path behind the Edwards Field House to access the Highway 6 and Bull Run Road bus stops along both sides of U.S. Highway 6.

Roundabout construction has also required temporary closures of the westbound bus stop at Highway 6 and Edwards Spur Road and the eastbound stop at Highway 6 and the Riverwalk. Passengers can use the nearby westbound stop at Highway 6 and the Riverwalk westbound and the westbound stop at Highway 6 and Edwards Spur Road while closures are in place.

Work update

According to Karen Berdoulay, CDOT resident engineer for Eagle and Lake counties, new road stripping and temporary traffic signals contributed to longer delays at the Edwards roundabout site this week.

“Right now, we have just started one of the most challenging parts of the construction — shifting from a signalized intersection to a roundabout configuration,” she said.

She noted the project recently completed a big milestone, but it’s one that motorists likely can’t appreciate.

“We have completed the bulk of the underground utility work. That’s a big accomplishment on the construction end to get that done,” Berdoulay said.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the underground utility projects led to the biggest traffic backup to date at the site.

“We had some night work for the water line that didn’t progress as quickly as we hoped and it spilled into the morning time,” Figgs said. “I don’t know exactly how long the traffic wait was, but we did have it cleared out by about 9 a.m.”

Figgs added that more than 2,000 linear feet of water line has been replaced at the site to date.

Roundabouting by back to school

Berdoulay said CDOT’s goal is to limit construction delays to 10 to 15 minutes at maximum. She added that volume at the intersection and along Edwards Spur Road significantly dropped when the Edwards schools began the summer break. Once the kids were out of classes, a more aggressive construction schedule was launched.

“The goal will be to get the intersection in roundabout configuration before school opens,” said Berdoulay. “As soon as you can get the intersection functioning as a roundabout, that’s a huge shift. We think that is coming at the end of the summer.”

In the meantime, she hopes motorists will be patient with the disruption.

Hopefully, the challenges in the short term will be overcome by all the benefits in the long term,” she said.

ECO Transit bus routes will be monitored and adjusted as construction progresses. For more information and assistance with trip planning, visit www.eaglecounty.us/transit or call 970-328-3520.

To learn more about the construction schedule or make comments about the work, call 970-446-1001 or email edwards@acig-pr.com. Additional information is also available at https://www.codot.gov/projects/edwards-spur-road

Eagle’s Castle Peak center hosts ‘Longest Day’ event fundraiser on Friday

The Castle Peak Senior Live and Rehabilitation Center will host a “Longest Day” fund raiser June 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The event features beer and wine and hot and cold appetizers prepared by Chef Marty. Ryan Ericsson will perform, playing original music and cover songs in the country and folk traditions.

The event also includes a silent auction. Items available to bid on include art pieces created by residents through the Memories in the Making Art Program, and other items donated by local businesses.

All of the funds raised through the art auction will be donated in support of The Alzheimer’s Association.

A $15 suggested donation provides access to the event, food, drink, and live music.

Online donations are accepted at http://act.alz.org/goto/castlepeakmemoriesinthemaking, or bring your money to the event.

For more information, call Stephanie Sheridan, 970-989-4727.

Financial Focus: Here are some tips for planning in the ‘gig’ economy

Not that long ago, most people worked for some type of an organization, such as a business or the government or a school district. But today, more and more workers are going their own way and joining what’s known as the “gig” economy. If you will be one of them, you’ll want to make the right moves to advance your financial goals in what can be a challenging work environment.

But first, you may find some comfort in knowing the prevalence of gig work. About 36% of U.S. workers are now gig workers, according to a study from the Gallup organization, which defines the gig economy as one made up of a variety of arrangements — independent contractors, online platform workers, contract workers, on-call workers, temporary workers and freelancers. People join the gig economy for many reasons, but most of them, like you, could benefit by considering these actions:

• Establish your own retirement plan. When you’re a full-time employee, your employer may offer a 401(k) or similar retirement plan. But as a gig worker, you need to save for your own retirement. Fortunately, you’ve got a lot of attractive options. Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to open a SEP-IRA or even a “solo” or “owner-only” 401(k), which offers many of the same features of an employer-sponsored 401(k). Both these plans allow you to make pre-tax contributions, which can lower your taxable income. Plus, your earnings can grow on a tax-deferred basis. (Keep in mind that taxes will be due upon withdrawal, and any withdrawals you make before you turn 59 ½ may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.) 

• Create an emergency fund. Working in the gig economy can bring rewards and risks. And one of those risks is unpredictable — and often uneven — cash flow. This can be a cause for concern during times when you face a large unexpected expense, such as a major car repair or medical bill. To avoid dipping in to your long-term investments to pay for these costs, you should establish an emergency fund containing at least six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account.

• Address your protection needs. Many companies provide some life insurance as a benefit to their employees, though the coverage is often inadequate. But, as is the case with your retirement plan, you will need to meet your own protection needs if you work in the gig economy. In addition to purchasing enough life insurance to protect your family, you also may want to consider disability insurance. A financial professional can help you determine what types of coverage, and how much, you require. 

• Keep track of your expenses. If you do your gig work out of your home, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses — phone lines, utilities, internet, newspapers, equipment, mileage and so on — from your taxes. Consequently, you will need to track all these costs. And you will need to consult with your tax advisor on what can, and can’t, be claimed as a business necessity. 

These aren’t the only moves you may need to make as a gig worker — but they can help provide you with a steady path in a world in which you can’t always tell what lies around the corner.

This article was written for use by local Edward Jones financial advisors. Edward Jones and its associates and financial advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Chuck Smallwood, Kevin Brubeck, Tina DeWitt, Charlie Wick and Bret Hooper are financial advisors with Edward Jones Investments and can be reached in Edwards at 970-926-1728, in Eagle at 970-328-0361, 970-328-0639 or 970-328-4959 and in Avon at 970-688-5420. 

Arapahoe Basin extends ski season another weekend, to June 28-30

VAIL — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area said Thursday that it will extend its season for at least another weekend.

The resort will be open Friday, June 28, to Sunday, June 30, said A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth.

Henceroth left open the door for July 4 skiing.

“The upper mountain is looking great and Lake Reveal is finally revealing itself,” Henceroth said on his blog. “We still do not know about the 4th of July but stay tuned.  We hope to celebrate the holiday with skiing.

A-Basin’s chairlifts run from 8:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. during these late-season weekends.