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Helping people manage grief: Local church program a big asset as Eagle River Valley works to strengthen behavioral health services

Grief over loss can make for heavy burdens and leave people in crisis. A support group offered for free and now in its third year at Gracious Savior Lutheran Church is helping people who are struggling with grief find the support, coping skills and healing needed to move forward in their lives.

Kris Miller said the group is something the community needs — and something she herself has needed. “There’s other support groups, and the more the better, no matter what, but this one is free of charge. That makes a big difference. So many people don’t have the means to pay for a group of some sort,” she said.

Three years ago this month, Miller faced the tragic death of her husband, Kenny Dahlberg, a longtime local business owner in Avon who ran the Brass Parrot bar for 21 years. “I couldn’t make any decisions, I couldn’t do anything,” Miller said about the grief she was feeling at the time.

Miller learned about the GriefShare program that the Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards was starting and decided to give it a try. She attended sessions with a friend who helped her through the difficult process.

“What it gave me was absolutely a sense of understanding that other people were going through similar feelings I was going through, and that I wasn’t as alone as it seemed like I was,” Miller said. “It forced me to get out of the house, to be functioning, because I certainly wasn’t. It gave me something that meant something to go through every week, a little bit of strength each week.”

The 13-week GriefShare program offers a video-based curriculum featuring counselors and others who specialize in the grieving process, and provides a safe and welcoming environment for people struggling with loss to openly talk about their challenges.

Kris Miller said she couldn’t make any decisions or do anything after the tragic death of her husband Kenny Dahlberg three years ago. Dahlberg ran the Brass Parrot bar in Avon for 21 years. The GriefShare program at Gracious Savior Lutheran Church helped her through her grieving process, and today she leads programs at the church to help others.
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Pastor Jason Haynes said Gracious Savior Lutheran Church started offering the nationally-available program three years ago after a series of tragic and unexpected deaths among its congregation. The church offers the GriefShare program three times a year. 

“We just saw a need within our congregation and we knew there was a need in the community as well,” Haynes said. “That need is still huge.”

The church has also partnered with the nonprofit SpeakUp ReachOut to offer a six-week GriefShare program specifically for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. And on Nov. 9, the church is offering a single-session GriefShare program aimed at helping grieving people make it through the holidays, when pain associated with loss can be especially hard.

‘It’s a long, long process’

Three years later, Miller still struggles with the loss of her husband. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other triggers can bring painful thoughts right back to the surface.

“It’s not a fast journey, like you can skip to the last chapter of a book and be well. It’s a long, long process. You have forward movement and you move backwards. It’s an ongoing process, but this program definitely gives you some skills,” Miller said. “For me, I am so grateful for the church for starting this program and offering it to the community. It had a big influence on my life at a time that I needed it most.”

Participants in the program have also found healing by helping others navigate challenges with grief. Today, Miller is leading GriefShare groups at the church. So are Terry and Mike Mutter, whose daughter Lauren died unexpectedly in March 2019 after a heart attack at age 31. 

A graduate of Vail Christian High School, Lauren Mutter returned to the valley after college and worked for the school as director of admissions and student life. She also coached soccer and volleyball for the school and helped mentor youth throughout the valley with Young Life.

The Mutter family, Mike, Caitlin (front), Lauren, Terry and dog Baylor. Lauren’s unexpected death at age 31 last year left the family reeling, unsure how to cope and move forward. Terry and Mike Mutter are leading GriefShare programs to help others deal with devastating losses.
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“She was so young and so healthy. It was such a shock,” Terry Mutter said. The loss left the family reeling, unsure how to cope and move forward. Terry and Mike Mutter attended the final session of an ongoing GriefShare program shortly after Lauren’s death, and then attended a full 13-week program, and another one after that.

“I think when you first lose somebody and sit through a session like that, it’s healing on one level, but you can’t absorb it all because you’re hurting so much,” Terry Mutter said.

Today the Mutters are facilitating GriefShare programs at the church, and, like Miller, trying to help others deal with devastating losses that upend their lives.

“We understand that loss of someone you love so much, the questions of how do you move forward, and this program helps you do that,” Terry Mutter said. “That person wants you to be happy again, to find joy again, but it’s a hard thing to do. This group has helped us do that.”

People suffering grief need support, Mike Mutter said. That can be as simple as a hug or someone who can listen and understand. The GriefShare program offers both of those things, as well as tools and resources for people to proceed on their own and reach out for help when it’s needed.

“We are hoping to share Lauren’s legacy of unconditional love, respect and caring with people within the community who are going through the grieving process,” Mike Mutter said.

An ongoing challenge

Local behavioral health officials said programs like GriefShare are a valuable asset for Eagle County. Like many rural areas in the West, the county has long struggled with a shortage of timely, affordable services for people trying to manage grief, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other mental health challenges that have only been compounded by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In 2019, Vail Health pledged to invest $60 million over 10 years to strengthen the Eagle River Valley’s behavioral health system and improve access to services. Chris Lindley, the executive director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, and Dr. Casey Wolfington, its community behavioral health director, said the area is already making progress on those goals.

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, an outreach of Vail Health, has brought more than 25 new service providers to the area over the last 18 months and is working to bring more. It has placed behavioral health providers within Colorado Mountain Medical clinics, strengthened therapist services at local schools, and is also working to build partnerships with universities and programs to help provide a pipeline for more highly-qualified providers to come to the community, Wolfington said.

“We were so far off what the recommended number of clinicians per population was that every time we add a provider, that person becomes full. When we add another, that person becomes full. Every provider has crisis appointments available, but what we’re seeing is we don’t even really know how to estimate the need because it’s almost a never-ending well,” Wolfington said.

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health created an online navigator service to help people easily determine if their insurance covers behavioral health services. And predicting a growing mental health toll from the coronavirus pandemic, it accelerated a planned launch of Olivia’s Fund to March of this year, creating a scholarship program to help ensure people get needed behavioral health services even if they can’t afford them. 

Every person who has applied so far has been approved, some multiple times because they needed more than six sessions.

“We never want someone’s financial state to be the reason they don’t seek services. We want people to get help first,” Wolfington said.

Now in its eighth month, the pandemic has made the area’s mental health challenges greater than ever, Wolfington and Lindley said. The long, slow-moving daily crisis has upended nearly every aspect of life, from work and school to parenting and the social interactions that many people rely on for their emotional and mental health. Fatigue is setting in, but the pandemic is far from over. 

“We want people to prepare and know this will not all be fixed in a month or two,” Lindley said. “We’re probably six to eight months out from having any viable vaccine in our community, so the entire late fall, winter, and early spring, we’re going to be living in the same scenario we’re living today — wearing masks, washing hands and keeping distance.”

The hope is that more people will take proactive steps to improve their physical and mental health. Another hope is that the pandemic could help reduce any lingering stigmas associated with people getting needed help for emotional and mental health challenges. 

From schoolchildren to parents and grandparents, nearly everyone has struggled in some way to deal with the pandemic and the economic uncertainty, isolation, disruption and anxiety it has caused. More people are talking openly about the toll the pandemic has taken on their mental health and that’s a good thing, Lindley said.

“I truly believe there is not one person in this valley that is not affected by this in some way. We are all stressed more, with increased anxiety and uncertainty, and that is okay and to be expected,” Lindley said. “We need to talk about it and recognize everyone will handle it differently. We want people to seek out resources. If you have a sore tooth, you go to the dentist. If you have anxiety or other concerns, go see a provider. There’s no barrier to getting in. Go talk to a behavioral health provider and get reset and get the help you need and continue to thrive.”

For more information about providers, support groups and other behavioral health resources, visit eaglevalleybh.org.

Breast density and what it means for you, according to the new medical director of Shaw Cancer Center’s Breast Care Program

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in addition to reminding women to do self-breast-exams regularly and schedule a mammogram per their doctor’s recommendations, there is another topic that women should be aware of: breast density.

Dense breast tissue refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram and is a normal and common finding. Dense breast tissue is detected on a mammogram and can be found in all sizes of breasts.

“Half of the women who have a mammogram will have dense breast tissue,” said Dr. Julie Barone, medical director of the Breast Care Program at Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards. According to the Shaw Cancer Center, women with dense breasts have a four to six times higher risk of developing breast cancer and in Eagle County, more than 60% of women have dense breasts.

According to Dr. Barone, dense breast tissue is more common in:

  • Younger women (breast tissue tends to become less dense as women age);
  • Women with lower body mass index (women with less body fat are more likely to have dense breast tissue)
  • Postmenopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy

“Dense breasts can make it more difficult to detect breast cancer on a mammogram since dense breast tissue can hide a potential cancer,” Dr. Barone said.

The phrase “finding a snowball in a snowstorm” is a good way to describe it. Dense breast tissue appears whitish in color on mammograms, which is similar to how cancer appears on mammograms. In addition to an annual mammogram, women with dense breasts may benefit from additional technology.

“Mammograms are still the most effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer. Women with dense breasts should get a 3-D mammogram or breast tomosynthesis,” Dr. Barone said. “Tomosynthesis uses X-rays to collect multiple images of the breast from several angles to form a 3-D image of the breast,” Dr. Barone said.

At Sonnenalp Breast Imaging at the Shaw Cancer Center, they offer automated whole breast screening ultrasound. Breast ultrasound may detect some cancers not seen on a mammogram.

“A breast MRI is another imaging modality which is useful in patients with dense breasts who also have a greater than 20% risk of developing breast cancer based on a risk calculation performed at the time of mammogram or performed at the time of the visit with the breast surgeon,” Dr. Barone said.

Despite all the advanced technology available in Eagle County, Dr. Barone says being your own advocate is key.

“In addition to an annual mammogram, women should get an annual breast exam with their doctor. Not all cancers can be seen via breast imaging. If you or your doctor feels a lump, even if the imaging does not show an abnormality, you should see the breast specialist for evaluation,” Dr. Barone said. “If we can detect breast cancer early, we can save lives.”

Pumpkin races, artwalks, mindfulness and live music: Tricia’s weekend picks 10/09/20

ARTwalk in Eagle

It’s the second Friday of the month and that means that Eagle ARTS is hosting another ARTwalk from 5-8 p.m. Parts of Broadway in downtown Eagle will be blocked off so guests can stroll down the street take advantage of specials at participating businesses. Stop by the various booths that line the street and celebrate the arts and celebrate the fact that you have a fun, socially-distanced activity to do on a Friday night.

In addition to the art and business offerings, there will be a special street dance performance by students of More 2 Dance Studio at 6:30 p.m. and live music by The Evolution from 5-7 p.m. Then DJ Kirby will start spinning tunes at Katch of the Day from 7–9 p.m.

Don’t miss this month’s ARTwalk Scavenger Hunt, which has become popular. Download the app and follow the clues to different businesses on Broadway. Finding unique art could earn you a prize.  

The Vail Valley Art Guild’s Eagle Gallery at 108 W. Second Street will be having its Second Friday event in conjunction with the Eagle ARTS event. From 5 to 8 p.m., stop by the gallery and view the work of featured artist Missy Octave. In addition to Octave, other artists include Cindy Kelleher, Soodi Lick, Christine Sena and Barbara Holden. The gallery will also feature works by photographers Raymond Bleeze, Rick Spitzer and Jon Sheppard as well as ceramics by Ann Loper and woodworking by Ken Kolano.

Admittance to the ARTwalk is free and tickets to participate in the scavenger hunt are $5 per person and available for purchase at www.eaglearts.org.

Gypsum Fall Festival

Gypsum is hosting its Fall Festival by spreading people throughout the town hall and library parks, Lundgren Amphitheater, and even Lundgren Street to provide a socially-distanced celebration.

Costumes are encouraged as folks come out to enjoy the various activities for all ages. Zone One (Lundgren Amphitheater) will have a “daylight friendly” movie screen and will be showing “Ghostbusters” at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. followed by a costume parade.

Zone Two (Gypsum Library Pavilion and Lawn) will house the food and live music with bands from 1 to 7 p.m. Food trucks will be available and don’t forget to sign up for the Apple Cider Holding Competition at 2 and 5 p.m. There will be adult and child categories.

Zone Three (Lundgren Blvd.) features a pumpkin decorating contest, pumpkin race and ax throwing. Heats in the pumpkin race will go off at 1:15, 3:15 and 5:15 p.m. Ax throwing will happen between 1 and 7 p.m.

All information on the races, costume contest and decorating contest can be found at townofgypsum.com.

World Mental Health Day

Saturday is World Mental Health Day and local suicide prevention group SpeakUp ReachOut has several ways to get involved.

“World Mental Health Day is a day to remind us to slow down and acknowledge what we need for mental wellness,” said Erin Ivie, executive director of the nonprofit SpeakUp ReachOut. “This year we are offering most of the sessions online so that more people can participate. Intentional mental health care is more important than ever as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ivie said.

Schedule (some events are in-person and streaming):

8 a.m. – Virtual Meditation with Becky Hesseltine

9 a.m. – Yoga/Meditation with Twyla Gingrich of Samya Yoga Healing

10:30 a.m. – Mindfulness Mandala with Alpine Arts Center

12 p.m. “A Mental Health Toolkit for COVID-19” – Lunch and Learn with Dr. Justin Ross

1 p.m. – Financial Wellness Basics w/ Michelle from Cornerstone Financial

2 p.m. – “Practical Steps to Taking Control of Your Life” – Tess Johnson of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.

If you don’t have enough time to participate in these events online or in person, Ivie said they are suggesting that everyone takes 10 minutes out of their day to just be still.

“Suicide is complicated and is rarely caused by one factor. The pandemic affects everyone in a different way and therefore it is difficult to predict how this will affect suicide rates in our community. With that said, being aware of your own mental health and what is happening for your friends and loved ones is more important than ever, ” Ivie said. To learn more, go to speakupreachout.org.

Pop-Up Music

Scott Rednor, musician and owner of the Shakedown Bar in Vail Village has been busy playing all over the place this summer. Where there’s a stage, there’s a show and Rednor and his talented team of musical friends will host a few more pop-up shows before the month is over.

This Saturday, follow the sounds of the music in Lionshead and sit back and listen to free live music between 2 and 7 p.m. This week’s band is Mark Levy & Friends featuring Scott Rednor, Joey Porter and Garrett Sayers.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Rednor hasn’t been able to host musical performances at Shakedown Bar at the top of Bridge Street. He created Shakedown Presents and approached the town of Vail with a few ideas for music during the pandemic. Rednor has so many connections in the music world that he’s been able to bring plenty of performers to the Vail Valley and play at pop-up locations throughout town and at the main stage in Ford Park.

“It’s been a blast!” Rednor said. “It’s been fun to explore all the new opportunities. The town of Vail has been supportive and we’ve learned a lot about what live music can do for businesses who are near the pop-up stage,” Rednor said.

If you miss this Saturday, Shakedown Presents will host shows from 2 to 7 p.m. for the next four Saturdays with a special Halloween show on Oct. 31. For more information visit shakedownpresents.com.

Cocktails and Canvas

The Alpine Arts Center is hosting its popular Cocktails and Canvas event this Saturday where adults get to show their creativity while also having an adult beverage. Alpine Arts Center provides all the supplies and instruction for a group project.

Advanced registration required and it’s $45 per person to attend the class. Due to COVID-19, classes are available in-person or virtual. You can still participate via Zoom and that cost is $25 per person, but it doesn’t include materials. You can purchase class kits if you don’t have the right supplies at home.

Get those creative juices flowing with wine or beer for $6 a glass. Please note, you can’t bring in your own alcohol, all alcoholic beverages must be purchased through the Alpine Arts bar. There are some non-alcoholic beverages and snacks available, too.

This Saturday’s class is painting on canvas, but Alpine Arts mixes up the mediums and also has classes working with clay, glass etching, encaustic wax and more.

Follow Alpine Arts Center’s social media pages and website for more details on which classes are offered and look for Halloween-themed classes this month. For more information, go to alpineartscenter.org.

Sacred Cycle hosting virtual, in-person event on Wednesday to empower survivors of sexual abuse, assault

Due to this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits have had to come up with new ways to support their missions. The Sacred Cycle, which empowers survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault through therapy and cycling, is hosting a month-long virtual fundraiser with a goal of raising $30,000.

The virtual fundraiser started on Sept. 14 and goes through Oct. 12. Beyond asking for donations, the Sacred Cycle Virtual Heal Campaign also fosters community by hosting group bike rides, picnics, live painting classes on Zoom and virtual happy hours with games and other means of interaction between participants and more.

During its final week of the Virtual Heal Campaign, Sacred Cycle will host an event called Defining Success with keynote speaker Trish Kendall and panelists on the topic of overcoming obstacles on Oct. 7 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Kendall’s story starts at the pit of her despair and how she overcame many obstacles to find the success and happiness she embraces today. Kendall believes that her single most important lesson in life is that love is your choice.

There will also be a panelist discussion after Kendall speaks that will focus on how to support a survivor, watch for signs and build awareness offering the expertise of these local experts:

This will be an in-person event as well as streamed online to accommodate COVID-19 regulations and also allow this message to be heard by more people. The Highline Hotel in West Vail will host the event in the ballroom and is limited to 50 people. The Sacred Cycle asks that you RSVP for free or donation-based tickets at EventBrite.

The goal of the Virtual Healing Campaign is to raise $30,000 and was chosen because that amount covers the price of a five-month program for 15 women. Sacred Cycle helps women in Eagle County, Denver County and the Roaring Fork Valley, so it is looking to serve five women per region.

Sacred Cycle was founded in 2016 by Heather Russell during a long mountain bike training ride. Russell was a victim of sexual abuse and found that being out in nature and biking helped her heal. Through her graduate studies and working with sexual trauma survivors, she believed that biking, therapy and a sense of community could heal others. Sacred Cycle helps clients discover barriers and break through them to become more confident in their personal recovery journey. For more information, visit sacredcycle.org.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was everywhere this year

Pandemic or not, Alzheimer’s is not waiting to afflict loved ones with a disease that wipes out memories, alters personalities and adds strife to families who love and care for those who have it. This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser looked a little different than in years past, but the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop those fighting for the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission: a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Vail Valley has hosted the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the past two years at Brush Creek Park in Eagle. The event usually brings out hundreds of people wearing purple and walking together in honor of loved ones. Due to COVID-19, participants this year were asked to walk with family and friends in smaller groups around neighborhoods and on trails.

“This year, the ‘Walk is Everywhere’ motto worked so well for the Vail Valley because many of our participants have a favorite hike or walking path or picked a special route on that day,” said Melinda Gladitsch, chairperson for the Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “I think we are lucky that we have so many beautiful neighborhood streets and trails to choose from, it really worked out well for our valley,” Gladitsch said.

Teams were spread out all over Eagle County taking treks up the Minturn Mile, West Lake Creek, Allie’s Trail on Beaver Creek Mountain and Berry Picker on Vail Mountain.

“One of the benefits of having the walk everywhere is that we had team members walking all over the country. I had team members walking in Seattle, Vermont and Iowa,” Gladitsch said.

Ellen Miller of Edwards took the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to new heights. She logged 4,000 vertical feet and 15 miles to show her support on Mount Massive, which is 14,429 feet above sea level.

“As an Alzheimer’s disease caregiver, I wanted to make damn sure it was meaningful,” Miller said in her Facebook post. Miller is a former Himalayan mountain climber who has summited Mount Everest two times.

Locally, 39 teams and over 200 people participated in this year’s event. At press time, over $83,000 had been raised and the goal is to get $130,000 by the end of the year.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is self-funded, so the money we raise through our 13 Walks to End Alzheimer’s around Colorado is critical, as it enables us to continue to provide education, programs and services to all Colorado families at no charge,” said Catie Davis, development manager at the Greater Boulder and Mountain Region of the Alzheimer’s Association. In addition, these funds support the Alzheimer’s Association’s aggressive research program to find a cure for the sixth-leading cause of death. Currently, the Alzheimer’s Association has $208 million invested in 590 scientific investigations.  

“There currently are nearly 6 million people across the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 76,000 Coloradans. We owe it to them and the many millions of family members who care for them around the clock, to continue raising money to end the scourge of dementia. Alzheimer’s is relentless, but so are we,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information or to donate, go to act.alz.org.

YouthPower365’s new Magic Bus is rolling into Vail Valley neighborhoods

Imagine the looks on the faces of youngsters as a brightly colored Winnebago turns down their street, opens its doors and gives kids a chance to learn and have some fun. That happens weekly with YouthPower365’s Magic Bus, a roaming classroom for preschoolers.

The Magic Bus started out as a mobile library that delivered books to kids in elementary and middle school back in 2000. It soon evolved into a mobile preschool program. This new electric bus will replace an older bus that was on its last legs — er, wheels — and could hardly make it into the neighborhoods.

“This new electric bus will be serving upvalley neighborhoods in Avon and Edwards,” said Kendra Cowles, senior manager of PwrUp Early Childhood programs at YouthPower365, the educational arm of the Vail Valley Foundation. “Our other Magic Bus, which was put into service in January of 2018, serves Eagle, Gypsum and Dotsero,” Cowles said. 

The mission of the Magic Bus is to prepare 3 to 5-year-old children for success in kindergarten. It also serves families and children where they’re at. “By going into the neighborhoods, it eliminates barriers such as transportation and work schedule. We bring the classroom to them,” Cowles said.

According to YouthPower365, 50% of children under the age of five are not in any early childhood education program. The nonprofit also states that 80% of a child’s intellect, personality and social skills are developed in the first five years of a child’s life. This mobile, licensed preschool gives kids what they need for kindergarten success and mimics a classroom setting.

“The kids say goodbye to mom, come on the bus and do routines like taking their shoes off, hanging up the backpacks and then we provide routines that prepare them for kindergarten. It’s everything from the social and emotional side of things to early literacy, emergent math and more so they can thrive in kindergarten,” Cowles said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Magic Bus has adapted to ensure students can continue to attend class on the bus safely. Children will attend classes in groups of four. The kids meet for a two-hour class twice a week for a total of four hours per week. “It really allows them to mimic what a school-centered base program looks like.” Cowles said.

The electric bus allows YouthPower365 to be part of a cleaner, greener environment and be a good steward in the community. “It also really opened up some new partnerships and sponsorships as well with everyone from Holy Cross Energy to Vail Resorts helping with where we park and charge the bus,” Cowles said.

The only requirement to sign up for the program with the Magic Bus is that children aren’t already enrolled in any other preschool program. The two Magic Buses serve eight different communities throughout Eagle County. YouthPower365 has an online registration program that will get your child either in a class or on a waitlist. Classes run from October 2020 through August 2021. For more information, visit youthpower365.org.

Fill and Refill moves into bigger space, adds pop-up Sprinter van to help the Vail Valley live greener

Deciding to expand your business is always nerve-wracking, but deciding to expand during a pandemic can be even more so. Allison Burgund decided to grow her relatively new business, Fill & Refill, this summer and isn’t looking back.

“I was very scared to make the move and wanted to grow gradually because I didn’t know how this year was going to go,” Burgund said. “But, I also knew that there was a need for this in our valley and I’ve had a great response from customers.”

The need Burgund is talking about is for a refill store, which allows you to bring in your own containers and refill them with household items like soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, lotion and more.

Fill & Refill is dedicated to reducing single-use plastic by selling lots of items that are unpackaged. Allison vets products for bath, body and home that can be sold in bulk, are eco-conscious and sustainable. “I’ve spent a lot of time testing these products out on my family,” Burgund said.

Burgund was a graphic designer in her previous career, but a trip to the recycling center with her daughter’s class prompted her to start her own business. “I saw all the recycling and it was just sad. I thought to myself that there’s got to be a better way,” Burgund said. Directly after that, she collected all of her household’s plastic trash for a month. “I wanted to see how my family was contributing to this and it turns out we were a pretty big contributor,” Burgund said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Burgund has been educating the public since she started setting up a booth at last summer’s Vail Market and Art Show and opened up shop a few doors down from the current location in the Edwards Commercial Park last fall. Burgund soon found that others wanted to ditch the disposables and the business grew. Fill & Refill just moved into bigger digs on August 17.  

In addition to the new location in Edwards, Fill & Refill has a satellite location inside the new Knapp Harvest store in Eagle Ranch. Outside the shop, there is a new Sprinter van that will be used for deliveries up and down the valley.

Businesses have also sought out this sustainable concept. Goat Training, Alpine Arts Center, The Slifer House and Drunken Goat restaurant sport Fill & Refill-logoed bottles filled with soap, lotion and hand sanitizer.

“I think I have the happiest customers of any store and people come in and say thanks for what we are doing here, it’s the best!” Burgund said.

Although Burgund loved her job as a graphic designer, she was led to do something else. “It just came time for me to take that leap and connect more with the community,” Burgund said. “I’ve made a couple of leaps in my lifetime and they are terrifying every time, but they are also greatly fulfilling.”

To learn more, visit fillandrefill.com or follow along on social media at @fillandrefillvail.

Had COVID-19? Your plasma is in demand

The Vail Valley was known as a hot spot for COVID-19 early on during the pandemic and now it’s a hot spot for convalescent plasma donations. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you can play a vital role in helping patients recover.

Over half a dozen mobile convalescent plasma drives have taken place in Vail since April. Dr. Nadine Lober, a local veterinarian who had COVID-19 back in March, had been driving to Denver to donate a few times when she started thinking about how she could bring the plasma drives to Vail.

With the help of Lober’s sister, Dr. Alma Juels, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the pair was able to coordinate with Vitalant to organize a mobile convalescent plasma drive twice a week for a month this spring. Vitalant is the country’s second-largest independent blood provider with nearly 1,000 centers across 40 states.  

“The participation from our Vail Valley community has been tremendous. All 16 slots were filled each day so we were able to collect as much plasma as we could during each drive. Each convalescent plasma donation can help up to three people in critical condition in an ICU ward battling the disease,” Lober said.

Saving lives, saving beds

Although giving plasma to COVID-19 patients is still experimental, it’s been shown to benefit those fighting the virus.

“In some states where COVID-19 is spiking, they are actually giving plasma to COVID-19 patients and they can recover at home instead of taking up a bed,” Lober said.

The latest study entitled “Effect of Convalescent Plasma on Mortality of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19: Initial Three Month Experience” is showing promising results of using convalescent plasma to help those afflicted with COVID-19 recover faster. The Mayo Clinic served as the academic research organization conducting the study.

The idea of using transfusions of plasma isn’t new. The report states that passive antibody transfer, including convalescent plasma or serum, has previously been used to treat infectious diseases that involve the respiratory system.

“This therapeutic approach was established early in the last century and included widespread use of convalescent plasma for treatment of the 1918 influenza. In this context, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revived interest in the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Although there is substantial interest in the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma, the efficacy signals are preliminary” the report said.

Dr. Lober personally knows a few people who were severely affected with COVID-19 symptoms and were given the convalescent plasma and it helped them.

It saved my life,” said Dr. Christoper Ciarallo with Denver Health, who was given convalescent plasma from a plasma collection drive in Vail when he was stricken with COVID-19. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Lober and Dr. Alma Juels for starting this plasma drive with the wonderful Vail Valley residents who have donated, and those who will.”

“The reward is getting a text from Vitalant saying that your plasma helped save a life,” Lober said.

During these difficult times when everybody is under stress and feeling helpless, Lober said it feels good to be able to give back.

“It has been very rewarding, I can’t even put it into words, but to participate in the success of treating sick patients and now that they are finding that giving convalescent plasma to patients early in the disease can prevent them from becoming even more ill is amazing,” Lober said. “I want to thank the Valley Valley for helping so many patients with the disease.”

Vitalant will be hosting a blood and convalescent plasma drive on Aug. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. For more information and to find out if you qualify to give convalescent plasma or blood and to make an appointment, contact Vitalant at 303-363-2300 or go to https://donors.vitalant.org/dwp/portal/dwa and reference code 10252.

Who can donate plasma

Not just anyone can donate convalescent plasma. The FDA is guiding blood centers on how to qualify these donors. According to Dr. Samantha Mack, Vitalant’s Medical Director for this region, you must meet four criteria:

  • You need to have a laboratory copy of a confirmed COVID-19 nasal swab test.
  • After being symptom-free for 14 days, you can repeat the nasal swab test showing a negative result. Or you can wait to be symptom-free for 28 days and you won’t need a second nasal swab test.
  • If you have not had a positive nasal swab test but had the COVID-19 symptoms and were sick and got a positive antibody test.
  • You have to qualify as a regular blood donor. Visit Vitalant.org for more information on general blood donation eligibility.

Open for Business: Wax It Skin Studio

Name of business: Wax It Skin Studio

Physical address: 70 Benchmark Road #101A Avon, CO 81620

Phone number: 970-343-4728

Email: booking@waxitskinstudio.com

Website: http://waxitskinstudio.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time?

We are a full-service skincare and aesthetics studio that offers various types of skin treatments such as microneedling, dermaplaning, and organic custom facials as well as waxing services. Eyebrows are our specialty! We have a variety of specialty brow treatments such as brow henna, brow lamination, and microblading, a semi-permanent technique used to create full, symmetrical, perfectly-shaped eyebrows. 

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times?

In our line of work, cleanliness, sanitation, and disinfection are imperative! Everyone is required to wear a facemask at all times during all services. Guests are kindly asked to wash their hands upon entering the spa. We’ve added Dyson HEPA air filters to improve air quality and circulation. Additionally, we’ve added extra time in between each guest to ensure plenty of time for proper sanitation practices. 

The hardest change has been our no-touch greeting policy; all we want to do right now is to give everyone a big hug! Eventually, we hope this will change, but for now, air hugs and elbow bumps will have to do.

How can the community support you?

Come in and see us; we want to get to know you and be your go-to for all things brows, skin and beauty! We want to give back to our community and say thank you to all those who’ve supported us during this crazy, difficult time. During the month of July, get 20% facial treatments. Mention this deal while booking your appointment or during your appointment to receive the discount. 

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Check out our website at waxitskinstudio.com for current availability. Follow our Facebook page or Instagram (@waxitskinstudio) for news, deals, last-minute openings, fun spa content and local specials. 

What’s the response been? What comments have you heard from the public or from your employees? 

Everyone is so excited to be back in the studio, clients and staff included! We all feel giddy getting back into our self-care routines, especially after an emotionally taxing time. We’ve had nothing but positive responses from our guests and we are so thankful for that! We’ve really missed taking care of people. It feels very comforting getting back to some sort of “normal” routine again, even if it’s a little different!

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves?

Operating safely and responsibly is most important. We are following strict cleaning and disinfection practices while staying aware and informed of current regulations and prioritizing our own health. We’re fortunate to live in such a beautiful place with the mountains as our playground! The future may bring some more ups and downs, but for now, we are optimistic and hopeful that things are on the upward swing. 

Open for Business: Eye Pieces of Vail

Name of Business: Eye Pieces of Vail

Locations: Stores in Vail, Lionshead, Beaver Creek, Edwards and Snowmass

Email: CustomerService@EyePiecesofVail.com

Website: eyepiecesofvail.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

At Eye Pieces, we provide a world-class selection of sunglasses, glasses, and goggles all available in prescription. We also provide eye exams, telehealth eye exams, contact lenses, cleanings and repairs for eyewear.

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times? 

The team at Eye Pieces can now bring the shopping experience to you! From the comfort of your home, our opticians can come to you with the latest styles in eyewear for the ultimate private shopping experience. In our stores, our staff is working diligently to sanitize our showrooms, medical equipment and all product. We are asking customers to also wear facemasks while in the store and practice social distancing.

How can the community support you?

Gift cards are a great option for customers that can’t visit us right now. We also love Google reviews.

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Customers and the community can keep up to date with our offerings through Instagram (@eyepieces1984), Facebook (Eye Pieces of Vail and Snowmass) and our Website (EyePiecesofVail.com)

What’s the response been?

We have gotten a great response from the public and customers who are eager to get essential services and products for all their vision needs. We are so grateful for the support from all of our amazing customers, neighbors and community during this time.

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves? 

We are so excited to have all six of our stores back open and to have our wonderful team of opticians back. Moving forward, we want our customers to know that we are here for them in-store seven days a week and able to accommodate them through private appointments if needed.