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
“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