One of Vail's pioneers, local women now an "indispensable volunteer"
By Kat Jahnigen
Marka Moser said it was “a shocker” when she received a letter from the bank saying that her loan was paid off.
The reason was mostly because Moser had completely forgotten about the loan, which she had signed, as a board member of the ABC School, to found the school 25 years before. But perhaps it really shouldn’t have been so shocking, since Moser has spent the last 42 years in the valley contributing her energy to just about every organization or cause imaginable.
“I think it’s important to give back,” Moser says. “The community has been very good to me – I raised four children here and my grandchildren until they were in their teens. The second generation (of my family) is now raising their children here.”
In fact, Moser’s children were an important motivator for her desire to improve the community.
“Through the years, I sort of followed my children along with what they were doing,” Moser says. When her children were little, she helped found the ABC School, a Vail preschool that is still in operation 25 years later as the Children’s Garden of Learning. She served on organizations at every school her children attended, including Red Sandstone, Minturn Middle and Battle Mountain High School.
An advocate for the valley
But Moser’s work in the community hasn’t been limited to education. She’s been involved with Vail Junior Hockey and Buddy Werner League, as well as environmental groups like Eagle Piney Water Protection and Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund. She also organized and ran a drug-prevention program in the Eagle Valley.
Currently, Moser is on the board of Vail Valley Charitable Fund, Gore Range Group of Colorado Mountain Club, Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale, and for most of these, she’s also an active volunteer. She also volunteers for Home Health and Hospice of the Valley, Senior Services, Unity of the Mountains and the Salvation Army.
On the Vail Valley Charitable Fund’s letterhead, board member Marka Moser is identified as “Indispensible Volunteer” and that is the truth according to Executive Director Karen Simon.
“I truly could not do my job without Marka,” Simon says. “She is a tireless volunteer and pours her heart into her work. I feel blessed that the Vail Valley Charitable Fund is one of the many organizations to which Marka has chosen to dedicate so much of her time, energy, and commitment. Whether I need help stuffing envelopes, hanging posters, working a fundraiser, drumming up sponsorships, or simply representing the VVCF out in the community, Marka is there. She is always there.”
With 19 years working as a journalist – for the Vail Daily, Daily Trail and Vail Trail – Moser has put her professional experience to good use doing volunteer publicity and outreach for groups like the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, which provides financial support to people in the area experiencing medical crises, and Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale, which through its annual sale raises money to disperse among 67 local nonprofit groups.
One of the things Moser excels at is longevity, as evidenced by her longtime residence in the area, being among the “pioneers” who moved here during the early stages of Vail’s growth. Another example is her ability to stick with a cause and outlast the opposition.
“I was very involved early on with the Eagle Piney Water Protection,” Moser says. “They were trying to divert every stream in the Vail area, from Dowd Junction through Vail – they would have dammed up Piney Lake – and all that would have been diverted to Aurora and Colorado Springs. We were able to postpone it long enough that it never happened.”
Another group Moser was involved with, Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund, took a similar tack, also with success.
“I worked very hard on the Eagle River Preserve,” says Moser, “and now I take my dogs there every day, and I’m just thrilled that that open space is preserved forever.”
Putting out the welcome mat
Many of the contributions Moser has made have been informal and unrelated to any specific group. “There’s a lot of kids in the valley who don’t have a grandparent here, so I’ve sort of taken on adopted grandchildren,” Moser explains. “It’s wonderful, it enriches my life. This valley is full of people who moved here and most don’t have any family close by at all.”
Moser has also opened her home many times to seasonal workers and people who couldn’t find lodging back in the times in Vail’s history when housing was extremely scarce.
“My older son wrote his college essay on what it was like growing up in ‘an international youth hostel’ because oftentimes we’d have four or five other people living with us,” Moser laughs.
Over the years, Moser hosted people from all over the world, and one of her hopes for the future is to travel through Europe and visit some of these old friends.
“One of the things I love about living in the valley is that it’s ageless,” Moser says, describing how many intergenerational friendships she’s been a part of and seen. “For some of the pioneers, we were here when it was nothing. There were no grocery stores – we’d have to drive to Leadville or Denver or Glenwood. You made your own entertainment, and a lot of it was stuff with the whole family. That still goes on today.”
Another thing Moser loves about the area is all the cultural opportunities available these days.“It was a cultural desert when I first moved here,” she says. “We had one or two bars that maybe brought in live music once a month. It really was a magical time, the pioneer days. But would I trade it for what we have now 30 years later with all the cultural opportunities?”