August 12, 2011

Volunteering way of life for Myers

2011 Women of Distinction - Exceptional Volunteer

FORT COLLINS – Yvonne Myers didn’t go to college to work with senior citizens.

Her dad had been a stutterer and after getting some speech therapy, it changed his life. Myers wanted to do the same for others, so she set out to become a speech therapist.

But a conversation with a persuasive Colorado State University counselor led her into a new program at CSU – gerontology.

“She talked me into it,” Myers recalled of the counselor’s pitch. “When you’re 20, you don’t really think much about working with older people. But now I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Myers has been health systems director at Columbine Health Systems since 1998, beginning her association with the older adult health-care organization in 1990.

Hanging out with older people is something Myers said she enjoys immensely.

“They’ve experienced life, and they’re not on the treadmill of achievement anymore,” she said. “They’re really enjoying what life has to offer. They’re real and in the moment and they don’t have to prove anything anymore. It’s refreshing.”

Directing the operations of the sprawling Columbine system takes much of her time and energy, but Myers also somehow manages to volunteer with 14 local boards, committees and other groups, including serving on CSU’s Gerontology Interdisciplinary Studies Program External Advisory Board.

“Part of my mission is to inspire young people to get into gerontology,” she said.

She is an accomplished speaker, having given more than two dozen presentations on caring for older people to associations and elderly care groups throughout the state and nation.

She’s particularly interested in Alzheimer’s disease and has received numerous awards from the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Association.

Myers also has been a strong advocate for creating local jobs and has served as chair of the Larimer County Workforce Investment Board for the last six years.

In her nomination of Myers as a Northern Colorado Woman of Distinction, Joni Friedman, Larimer County Workforce Center director, said Myers has shown herself to be a visionary leader.

“She can set a vision and then is hands-on to achieve it,” Friedman said. “If it’s important, Yvonne is there and ready to move mountains. Yvonne is a person of great commitment and leadership, generous in sharing her talent and time and selfless in her passion for building a better community.”

Nancy Hartley, dean of the College of Applied Human sciences at CSU, said Myers has given back to CSU repeatedly over the years. In addition to serving on the gerontology advisory board, Myers supervises CSU interns who get on-the-job experience at Columbine and often hires them when their internship is completed.

Hartley noted Myers even teaches classes in the department and helped spearhead a scholarship program for students interested in careers in aging.

“She is an incredible asset to our community and an unwavering advocate for some of our most vulnerable – and, as she would remind us, treasured – members of our society: the aging,” Hartley said in her WOD nomination.

Myers said volunteering has simply been a way of life since she was in high school. “It’s just who I am,” she said. “I like to be active and know that I’m making a difference.”

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