2021 Women of Distinction – Exceptional Volunteer
Debby Baker – Community Grief Center
GREELEY — Following the death of her mother in 2013, clinical psychologist Dr. Deborah Baker began working with Adamson’s Life Celebration Home to support families who experienced loss. It was her dream and the dream of several Greeley business leaders to support the community by developing a Community Grief Center to serve all ages. Over the next few years the team worked to gain financial support for the center, with Baker as the driving force, and it held its grand opening in August 2016.
“While she deservingly gives credit to the board, she is the one who volunteered to be the executive director (near the end of 2019) and build programs” for the center, said DeeAnne Zuhlke, who took over that role on March 15. “We have a wide variety of programs that we can offer our clients, and we have now served several hundreds of people without cost thanks to Dr. Baker. She works with countless clients, both one-to-one and in groups, to help them find a place for their grief and move forward in life.
“Debby’s commitment and work this past COVID year has been stellar,” she said. “Since we opened the doors back in 2016, all of her endless hours of services have been as a volunteer without pay, ensuring that all funds went to grief-support services for the community.”
Baker received a bachelor’s degree in social work and a U.S. Air Force commission as a second lieutenant in 1975 from Colorado State University, then served in the United States and Germany and was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel and then colonel. In Hawaii, as director of manpower and personnel for Pacific Command, she oversaw an area that stretched from Alaska and Hawaii to South Korea and Japan. During this assignment, she pulled the money given to Guam for a failing school system and in one summer built a new one to better meet the needs of the children of military families living on Guam.
Baker then commanded more than 1,500 people at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Her last assignment was in Colorado Springs as director of personnel for Air Force Space Command, overseeing the personnel needs of almost 29,000 military and civilian personnel. She served there for three years, then retired with 27½ years of service.
Returning to school on the GI Bill to get her doctorate of psychology, she graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and began running Community Grief Center programs in Greeley. Baker developed a comprehensive training program and trained more than 50 volunteer grief facilitators and educators, running eight different grief programs. Her grief groups serve people from age 5 to senior adults. She also supervises an active Practicum/Intern Program for students in the counseling master’s program at the University of Northern Colorado, as well as other graduate programs.
At the Grief Center, Zuhlke said, Baker “is a key reason why we are successful”
Zuhlke described Baker as “a Leading Lady not only to me and to our board, but to our community.”