When Joan and Steve Tarasar talk about the importance of volunteerism, they are in complete harmony … finishing each other’s sentences in their enthusiasm to promote community service.
“As I grow older, I realize that the world’s problems are daunting, and I wonder what we can impact,” Steve asks hypothetically.
And Joan answers, “Maybe I can help save just one life. In this instance, Joan is talking about her work with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. An ovarian cancer survivor, Joan volunteers with third-year medical students to raise awareness of the disease, whose vague symptoms often result in late diagnosis and high mortality rates. The couple also volunteered at the “Teal to Do” ovarian cancer fund raiser in October.
Last October, Joan brought medical professionals from the University of Colorado to Congregation Beth Evergreen to educate congregants about Jewish genetics and disease. The well received event attracted a large audience of women who wanted to learn more about their health risks and proactive steps they could take. Trained as a nurse and currently conducting vaccine research for a large pharmaceutical company, Joan’s work with the medical profession is a perfect volunteer fit.
Yet this is only one of the many volunteer activities that she and Steve actively pursue. Evergreen residents since 1985, the Tarasars believe that being a part of the community means volunteering. While most comfortable behind-the-scenes, they have also taken leadership roles.
Joan is on the steering committee for the annual Alternative Gift Fair as a representative of Congregation Beth Evergreen and served a two-year term on the Beth Evergreen Board of Directors.
For 32 years Steve has co-chaired Craig Hospital Hobie Day, where over 250 patients, their families and staff participate in a sailing adventure on Cherry Creek Reservoir.
An environmental consultant, Steve has a strong avocation for cooking. Although he is not Jewish, Steve is well-known for his contributions to Congregation Beth Evergreen. Steve was the proud winner of the congregation’s Chicken Soup Cookoff and for years ran the High Holidays community luncheon. “If we are there, we’ll jump in and do the work. We’re usually the ones to shut the lights out at Beth Evergreen,” Steve says.
This year, as part of the Christmas Mitzvah project (where Jews volunteers at local charities so Christians can have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families), the Tarasars cooked and served dinner for women at a Family Tree shelter. Steve also runs the hospitality room at the Alternative Gift Fair. At Beth Evergreen, the Tarasars serve on the Mitzvah Committee, bringing food to families coping with illness or other life events. And they make soup on regular basis for the EChO lunch clients.
As parents, Joan and Steve have shared their valued tradition of community involvement and often the family volunteers together.
Natalie, now 22 and a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., went to Kenya with Rotary as a cultural ambassador while at Evergreen High School and a member of Interact. She returned to Africa to study in Tanzania, and it has impacted her direction in life as an international studies major.
Madeline, 24, graduated from the Colorado School of Mines as a geological engineer and works at a gold mine in Cripple Creek. She joins her parents for such volunteer activities as the Mitzvah Project and the Evergreen Turkey Trot.
The Tarasars also participate in the Freedom Run on July 4 and the Evergreen Town Race. Joan volunteered in the girls’ classrooms at Bergen and Evergreen Middle when they were growing up. With her daughters, Joan volunteered at the Evergreen Animal Protective League and the family has fostered numerous cats over the years. They also remain active in the Evergreen Audubon Society. The couple has also participated in and helped out at such local events as the Chili Cook-off, Earth Day and Summerfest. And they’ve hosted a foreign exchange student from the Philippines.
Luckily for Beth Evergreen and other local charities where the Tarasars give their time, they plan to retire some day in our community. A native of White Plains, New York, Joan went to college in Boston and decided she had had enough of city life. “I wanted somewhere with chickens and cows, not a big metropolitan area,” she says. Her sister lived in Fort Collins, so the Denver area was a perfect fit.
Steve grew up in Minnesota and attended Northland College in Wisconsin. After a ski trip to Arapahoe Basin in 1980, he was hooked on Colorado and moved to Denver. The couple met in 1984 and shortly thereafter moved to Evergreen.
“Evergreen has grown and changed, but not in a detrimental way. It’s our home and we’ll continue to live and volunteer here,” Steve says.