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Garfield County Humanitarians Honored by Return of Live Awards Ceremony

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Iliana Renteria receives the Wonder Woman Award from Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky during the County Human Service Awards Dinner Monday, April 4, 2022 at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud/post independent

There was a lot to celebrate Monday night at the Garfield County Human Service Awards dinner, not the least of which was the privilege of honoring community members in person.

For the first time since before the pandemic, the annual Garfield County Social Service Volunteer and Professional Awards were held in person, this time at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs.

The 2020 event was held virtually via Zoom, and the 2021 awards were postponed to this spring due to ongoing concerns about large public gatherings in the fall.



Four recipients were honored for their work on various fronts helping those in need, from Carbondale to Parachute.

Lifetime Impact Award

Sally Brands of Rifle, center, is announced as the recipient of the Lifetime Impact Award at Monday night’s Garfield County Human Service Awards dinner at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud/post independent

Longtime community volunteer Sally Brands received the Lifetime Impact Award for her more than 30 years of community service.



Over the years, his job has included driving for the Grand River Meals on Wheels delivering hot meals to people locked up for over 15 years; work with an organization that supports and educates women; assist in the renovation of Rifle’s Ute Theatre; serving on the Rifle Downtown Authority; and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, LIFT-UP and Catholic Charities.

“His years of volunteerism extend beyond most of our careers,” reads Brands’ nominating biography. “She has given countless hours to the community in hundreds of ways and in her spare time has served on several boards over the years.

Brands thanked her husband, John Savage, for bringing her to Rifle during the oil shale boom and giving her the opportunity to give back to the community.

“Sometimes you just have to show up and say, I’d like to help,” she said.

Community Strength Award

Rifle police sergeant. Carlos Cornejo accepts the Community Force Award during the Garfield County Human Service Awards dinner Monday night at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud/post independent

Rifle police sergeant. Carlos Cornejo is “an example of a leader sitting at the table of brotherhood…who knows the importance and power of information and does everything he can to spread information, especially within the Latino community American,” Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. said when announcing Cornejo as the recipient of the Community Force Award.

From improving relationships between the police department, local government and Garfield County residents to delivering happy birthday surprises to children during lockdown, Cornejo’s efforts are remarkable.

His reach also extends beyond Garfield County with over half a million followers through his Facebook page.

“During his time with the Rifle Police Department, he excelled in community outreach with his updates on community services, projects and events,” reads Cornejo’s nomination biography. In addition to working with the police department, Carlos has

volunteered to become a board member of Mindsprings and helped organize food distribution within the Latin American community and helped with the 2020 census.

Cornejo, in his remarks, referred attention to all the others in the room who are giving back in different ways through various human service efforts.

“You all make a big difference in your communities every day, and you do it for fun, not for attention…service just makes you feel good,” he said.

Warrior of Hope Award

Discovery Cafe founder Gabe Cohen, right, receives the Warrior of Hope award from County Commissioner Mike Samson during the Garfield County Human Service Awards dinner Monday night at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud/post independent

Discovery Cafe founder Gabe Cohen overcame his own challenges with substance abuse and addiction and decided he wanted to help others do the same.

“He started small, reaching out to nonprofits, churches, support groups and more to share his vision of helping addicts recover,” reads his bio. of appointment.

This included volunteering with probation and recovery groups before being hired as a treatment provider for the Department of Corrections.

Cohen started the Discovery Café at Rifle to provide refuge for anyone dealing with personal afflictions, and the program has since expanded to include a twice-weekly program at Basalt.

Cohen thanked representatives in the room from Mind Springs Health and Mountain Family Health Centers for helping him with his early recovery.

“You provided the services and helped me get to where I am today,” he said.

“I also just want to say this is in honor of the memory of my mother and all that I put her through,” Cohen said.

Wonder Woman Award

Iliana Renteria accepts the Wonder Woman award Monday night during the Garfield County Human Service Awards dinner at the Colorado Hotel.
John Stroud/post independent

Shortly after Iliana Renteria immigrated to the United States and settled in the Roaring Fork Valley, she began volunteering with the Raising A Reader program, introducing children to the world of reading.

“Iliana helped develop new programs to provide books and school readiness advice to isolated families,” reads her nomination bio. “She led weekly sessions with parents and children to build confidence and empower parents to reinforce learning at home.”

Renteria also works with Mind Springs Health as a facilitator for Mental Health First Aid classes and is the “go-to Spanish translation expert” at Ross Montessori School in Carbondale, where her two children attend.

She is also a board member of the Women’s Voices Project, which she helped create as a theater production to empower women in the community.

“In response to the wildfires and the pandemic, she set up interactive social media pages to provide information on evacuations, food banks, vaccinations and legal aid,” according to her biography.

One of its authors wrote: “She is a fine example of generosity, devotion, compassion and hope.

Renteria added “love” to the equation.

“I was just thinking about love and the amazing things love does for us, and how it inspires us,” she said as she accepted the award.

“When I came here…I fell in love with the amazing work you all do.

“When you love a community, you want to entertain the power and help you be better and help each other, and lend your hand to those who need it most.”

Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]