Aspen Mine Center
celebrates 5 years
By Mary Barron

Ask Mary Bielz how the Aspen Mine Center came into being, and she’ll tell you it grew out of a cry for help, answered by a miracle. “It was a journey, and it was basically born out of — ‘Help!’ Raising that flag or screaming that word out,” she said.

“We were having a lot of people come into the schools to access services,” she recalled. Bielz, the schools’ art teacher, had dreamt in her youth of becoming a nun and had always been inclined to help people in need. But at the Cripple Creek-Victor Schools there wasn’t the time, the money, or a sufficient pool of volunteers to assist all the families needing services as the population grew and changed in the last years of the 20th century.

As pressure mounted and Bielz started waving her “Help!” flags, the miracle took shape. The Aspen Mine Center, a one-stop resource shop for people in need, opened its doors on June 1, 2002. A year ago, Bielz retired from teaching to devote herself to her unpaid work, leading the foundation that runs the center.

The roots of the project reach back to the 1980s, when Bielz joined the Salvation Army chapter serving the region. “They  said  to me, ‘You’re referring so many people to us, you should join our board.’” She joined the charity’s board of directors and began to learn to access grants.

In addition to the Salvation Army, she was also referring people to the food pantry at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Cripple Creek.  “St. Andrew’s  was saying that food

Thanks go out to all our volunteers

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
—William Shakespeare

They may not really have the time, but volunteers have the heart to get out in the community, become aware of other people’s needs, and take action to help. The monthly food distributions at the Aspen Mine Center are run by neighborhood volunteers, as are the Food Pantry and Dressing Room. Many people donate clothing, furniture and housewares. Faith communities in the area are key, providing food money, diapers and mentoring to families through the center. A Christian group based in Woodland Park, In the Lord’s Service, provides volunteers to drive people to medical appointments. Casinos and local businesses are major contributors to the center’s food drives. Members of the Aspen Mine Senior Club volunteer time to many community activities. And the Community Christmas Planning Committee brings in volunteers from all over the area to put together the holiday parade and celebrations. Heartfelt thanks go out to all. To join us, please call or stop by.

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