Vail Valley volunteers celebrate season of giving, but need knows no season |

Vail Valley volunteers celebrate season of giving, but need knows no season

Vail Valley Salvation Army bell ringers Norman Bowles and Karen Shupe perform Christmas classics in addition to raising money for the local nonprofit. For the Vail Valley Salvation Army, the holidays are the busiest time of the year providing for those in need.
Ross Leonhart |

EAGLE COUNTY — Norman Bowles and Karen Shupe aren’t your average bell ringers for the Vail Valley Salvation Army.

The duo were covering two shifts — four hours — at the Avon City Market on Sunday, their fourth day of bell ringing this holiday season, with Bowles boasting a harmonica and tambourine and Shupe on the melodica.

“This draws in a lot of money, let me tell you,” Bowles said of the classic holiday tunes performed live. “It’s a street performance plus a bell ringing.”

Meanwhile on Saturday, volunteers from across the valley, including a team from Vail Resorts, helped deliver 400 food baskets and care packages provided from a Salvation Army donor.

Each family got a bag featuring one box of hygiene items, one box of generic food, some extra food along with a $15 City Market gift card.

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Throughout the day today, the Vail Valley Salvation Army in Avon will have Christmas trees outside its building up for grabs.

“It’s always the craziest time of the year,” said Tsu Wolin-Brown, longtime coordinator of the Vail Valley Salvation Army, leading a small staff and an army of volunteers. “This is our season — we have bell ringing, adopt a family, holiday cabin, food baskets. It’s kind of a crazy season.”

‘All kinds of things’ at Salvation Army

While December is always a busy time providing for those in need, the Vail Valley Salvation Army has volunteer opportunities throughout the year.

“The need is always great,” Wolin-Brown said. “We’re blessed that we’re able to contribute to others, and I think one of the other things we do is give opportunity for people in the community to contribute.”

During the holidays, close to 900 volunteers are needed for bell ringing with the Vail Valley Salvation Army. But throughout the year, there are opportunities to help in the pantry, the greenhouse and garden out back and more.

“We just have all kinds of things,” Wolin-Brown said.

Valley of Volunteers

In addition to the Vail Valley Salvation Army, there are many other opportunities for volunteers across the valley.

The Vail Valley Foundation, which provides arts, athletics and education opportunities, has a team of about 600 volunteers. The Foundation manages the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek, puts on the GoPro Mountain Games and educates youth through its YouthPower365 program, among other things.

On Sunday, Bowles was wearing his volunteer jacket from the Birds of Prey World Cup races, another event brought to town by the Vail Valley Foundation.

Both Bowles and Shupe also volunteer with the Vail Valley Foundation during Birds of Prey, in the past working on the course and this year working security.

“There’s a lot of need for volunteers in this valley,” Bowles said, “and there’s so many opportunities to volunteer.”

SOS Outreach started on the slopes of Beaver Creek with a mission of making a difference in the lives of kids through snowboarding. In 2018, SOS Outreach celebrated 25 years, an achievement marked by the hard work of 13,000 volunteers and 8,000 mentors helping more than 60,000 kids learn to snowboard and enjoy the outdoors.

At the town of Vail, volunteer community hosts earn a ski pass, parking vouchers and other amenities, and the Vail Police Department also has a volunteer program.

At Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, construction plans have been secured for 48 new homes, which will need all sorts of volunteers. Habitat has also secured land for seven years of home-building.

Libraries, nonprofits and many other organizations across the valley lean on volunteers year-round, and especially during the holidays.

“There’s always room for more volunteers,” Bowles said before putting his lips back to his harmonica.

Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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