by Rick Langenberg
It what has become the annual “Volunteers of the Year” ceremony, nearly 20 highly revered individuals and local organizations were recognized recently for their contributions and hours of dedicated work before a packed audience at the Ute Pass Cultural Center.
The 10th annual Teller County Cares Service Awards, sponsored by Build A Generation, has turned into a local version of a former state program that honors worthy volunteers. Over the last decade, Gold Camp Communities Build A Generation Director Lisa Noble estimates that this annual process has recognized more than 150 individuals and groups. “It is 10 years of proud inspiration,” said Noble in describing the annual ceremony that now attracts a crowd of nearly 100 people.
The 2012 honorees included a former judge and two civic leaders who passed away in recent months; along with a bevy of individuals and organizations who have played key roles in fostering the arts, spearheading charitable drives, helping those in need, assisting seniors and youth, keeping the area clean, and devoting many hours towards community projects.
In fact, prior to the ceremony, Jim Ignatius, chairman of the Teller County commissioners and a member of the Teller Cares Committee, credited the region’s strong level of volunteerism for making the county operational. He cited a bevy of groups and nonprofits for maintaining a high quality of life for area residents.
Ignatius classified the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital as an example of a project orchestrated by hard-working volunteers, who had a vision, and overcame much skepticism. “Ten years before that (the construction of the hospital) it was a dream,” related Ignatius. “Many people thought it wouldn’t happen. Now, we have a first-class medical center.”
The top awards were handed out for 16 categories, covering a wide gamut of volunteer work in the local area. But the biggest emotional highlight of last week’s ceremony included special Les Mellott Jr. awards (recognizing long-term government service to the community) for Larry Ullo and John Schenk, who both died during 2011.
They both had longstanding legacies with the planning commission and many local groups, and had distinguished military careers. Ullo gained much notoriety for manning the Woodland Park Planning Commission hearings during the Wal-Mart controversy of 2005. Schenk, meanwhile, was known for his strong involvement with the Woodland Park city government and his many notable speaking presentations before the city council.
Instead of touting their accomplishments, Mayor Steve Randolph went off-script a little from typical ceremonial comments and told a few personal, humorous stories regarding his dealings with both Ullo and Schenk that commanded much applause. He described Ullo as a remarkable individual, who had a classic corvette, a flashy power boat and was quite proficient in using guns and in taking care of the “bad guys” due to his work with the Colorado Department of Corrections. “He was kind of like (a character from the show) Miami Vice,” quipped the mayor, in describing his personal impressions of Ullo. “Larry was the ultimate cool-guy.” On a more serious note, he described Ullo as a dedicated planner and volunteer who believed “his work was not done.”
As for Schenk, Randolph touted the former mayor pro tem’s well-know reputation and enthusiasm for personally delivering specially-crafted letters to many people in the community, even if he had to walk large distances up their driveway and street and engage in lengthy conversations with them, regarding issues of concern. He described Schenk as a unique leader with somewhat eccentric qualities, but who inspired much critical thinking among city staffers and council members. “He was someone the likes of whom we will never see again,” admitted Randolph.
Receiving the special awards in behalf of these two former planning commission veterans were Karla Collins, the wife of Ullo; and Mary Schenk, the wife of John Schenk.
As for other special award moments, former Teller County Judge Jackson Peters got the Special Service designation. Peters, who stepped down in 2011, after holding the judge reins in Teller for more than 20 years, was especially recognized for establishing a community-wide task force to combat the methamphetamine crisis that invaded the county about six years ago and in forming DUI and drug court programs. “He rallied a lot of troops,” said Ted Borden, director of the Aspen Mine Center in Cripple Creek. He lauded Peters’ work in attempting to protect Teller from “this (meth) drug that ravages so many communities.” Peters actually got involved in the anti-meth campaign after noticing a bombardment of Teller court cases dealing with local families that found their lives shattered from meth addiction. Peters also was recognized for his work in helping many people, a number of whom appeared before his court for DUI cases, recover from drug and alcohol-related problems. “Those numbers are staggering,” said Borden in describing some of his court’s DUI and drug-recovery statistics.
In accepting this honor, Peters credited many people in the county who jumped on-board his attempt to grapple with the county’s drug problems. “None of us are lone rangers,” said Peters, who lauded the many groups and leaders who answered his call for help.
In another notable award, Donna Brazill, a familiar leader of the Two Mile High Club, the Victor Elks and other groups, got the nod for the highly-touted Centennial title for a resident who has made a significant and lifelong contribution. Brazill has played the main role in providing a community-wide Christmas basket program that now serves more than 1,260 households during the holidays. “It is the miracle of humanity,” boasted Mary Bielz of the Community of Caring in describing Brazill’s years of contributions. “Tenacity has won out here.”
The complete list of Teller County Cares Service Winners included the following: Colorado Springs Chorale for Civic/Service Organization; Prospect Home Care and Hospice for Business; Kirk and Betty Crawford for Children/Youth; Vivian Wallace for Seniors; Maureen O’Heren for Health; Geri Brown for Community Pride, South Teller; Stephanie Schnoes for Community Pride, North Teller; Teresa Mauter for Education; John Schwabe for Environment; Steve Jeroslow for Good Samaritan; Ralph Hollaway for Arts and Culture; Sydni Riley for Rising Star; Larry Ullo and John Schenk for the Les Mellot, Jr. designation; Judge Jackson Peters for Special Service; and Donna Brazill for Centennial.