By Todd Chamberlin
Two years ago this week I joined The Sopris Sun staff as a part-time ad salesman. When I started, I was in the midst of the darkest days of my life. In the months leading up to my hiring, I was having seizures among other issues. The mental anguish I was experiencing would force me to leave my former job and, most importantly, my 21-year relationship would come to a screeching halt. My life was literally imploding. A month after starting the job, I was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor. The diagnosis, as scary as it was, at least gave me the comfort of knowing what was going on.
Having had a grandmother who succumbed to a brain tumor when I was in my early 20s, I panicked and projected the worst outcome. So, I left the valley, my friends and loved ones behind to pursue my last great adventure, not knowing if the treatment I chose to pursue would work or not.
Luckily for me, The Sopris Sun board allowed me to continue to work remotely. They, along with the staff, rallied to my side and, over the next year and a half, offered amazing patience, support, empathy and understanding as I faced this ominous threat. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without such amazing people in my life, especially once Covid shut everything down and I returned to the Valley.
It is this kindness, compassion, empathy and sense of community that I have tried to bring to my role as Executive Director for The Sopris Sun. The COVID isolation gave me plenty of time to reflect, grow and heal. Through this process came a true desire to share my experience and help make a difference in our community and other people’s lives. My role has since been a good testing ground for my personal mission and the wisdom that arose from this trauma.
When I accepted the Executive Director position, I had great aspirations but these aspirations could only be accomplished with an amazing team of people with similar visions. Unfortunately, Editor Will Grandbois was transitioning out and we had a huge hole to fill. We were graced with Raleigh Burleigh joining as editor and doing an extraordinary job. Ylice Golden, our extremely talented graphic designer, became the pillar that would help make this transition seamless for our readers.
In the past six months, these two – along with our board and an amazing cadre of freelancers, MANUS and other partners – helped launch el Sol del Valle, our Spanish-language insert. Providing the Spanish-speaking population in the valley with a new platform to build community and stay informed. The insert was also designed to build bridges between communities, giving you, our reader, an opportunity to read some of the same articles in both English and Spanish.
Alongside this effort, we increased our English editorial coverage to include more news from Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and in-depth coverage of subjects that matter, like our recent series on the affordable housing crisis and mental health. We also expanded our distribution network and upgraded our website to allow for free downloads of our weekly paper. All the while, we increased the amount of complementary ad space provided to other nonprofits and struggling and/or new small businesses.
Finally, last week we hired James Steindler as a contributing editor. James’ reporting as a freelancer has been terrific and we are so excited to have him onboard as a staff member.
Later this summer, we are launching an after school journalism incubation program for local high school students. The goal is to teach students the art, ethics and business of journalism. From writing to photography, you’ll start to see some of their work in The Sopris Sun and el Sol de Valle later in the fall. You’ll get fresh insight from their work, using their own voices to show us a new perspective as we train the next generation of journalists.
None of these initiatives would be possible without the help of our advertisers, donors, partners, board members and you – our readers. As I look toward the second half of the year and years to come, I truly get excited. The foundation we are building today will continue to make a positive difference in our community.
As executive director of a nonprofit, I can’t tell you how much your financial support means right now. Whether it is through advertising, making a one-time donation, a recurring donation, or legacy giving, your financial support will ensure our mission – to inform, inspire, incubate the craft of journalism and build community – will continue for years and generations to come.
For those who have supported us financially in the past, I extend a heartfelt thanks. The Sun would not be rising today without you and your support!
To find out more about advertising or to donate, please visit our website. For more information about legacy giving, or making a donation through a mandatory distribution of your IRA, please contact me at Todd@soprissun.com