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Meet Lisa Austin

Written by Marilyn Saltzman on .

Many people who travel extensively for work might want to just relax at home on the weekends. Not Lisa Austin. She uses her “down time” to volunteer in the community. A nurse for 36 years, Lisa’s demanding job with Pinnacle III involves helping surgeons and hospitals who are opening outpatient surgery centers. She oversees every phase of the project, from design through purchasing equipment. Currently she’s working on a center in Port Jefferson on Long Island, New York.

When Lisa first moved to the mountain area 23 years ago, she helped Bob Wallace with the opening of the Bergen Park Urgent Care Center, and he got her involved in Leadership Evergreen. “I got hooked on the many opportunities to get involved up here,” Lisa says. She has stayed involved in Leadership Evergreen on the advisory board and says she is “passionate about recruiting new members.”

Lisa served on the Evergreen Chamber Board for four years and has volunteered for Mountain Resource Center, EChO, and Habitat for Humanity. She has also worked with the Conifer Rotary Backpack program. Lisa likes hands-on physical labor, and her goal is to help build a Habitat house.

Volunteering runs in the family. When her husband, Henry, who traveled for work as an environmental inspector, retired three years ago, he upped his volunteer commitments from delivering meals for Seniors’ Resource Center to currently working at the EChO resale furniture store.

Together, Lisa and Henry volunteer for the Evergreen Shelter Program, staying overnight at local churches and Beth Evergreen to serve the homeless when the weather is cold. “The people who come to the shelter have amazing stories,” she says. Her goal is to grow the program in Conifer and Bailey.

“We have the haves and have not’s up here,” Lisa says. “People who work here in the service industry can’t afford to live here.” Her hope is that more community members learn about all the nonprofits and the good work they are doing so people can find their passion and make a difference with one, some or all. For example, “I have such admiration for Mountain Resource Center because its reach is so broad, and it’s life changing for the people it supports,” Lisa says.

“Whenever someone says they’re looking for volunteers, I like to help. It’s selfish of me because I get to meet like-minded people in the community,” Lisa says.

Lisa even found an opportunity to volunteer when she went to run the NY Marathon the first time. Because of Hurricane Sandy, the marathon was cancelled, but she stayed, made goodie bags and went door-to-door delivering them to hurricane victims. She went back the next year to run the NY Marathon, “my favorite because so many people from so many countries participate, and the participants include the blind and disabled.” She has run 17 full marathons and countless shorter races, from the Freedom Run to the Evergreen Town Race to holiday runs in Denver’s City Park. To practice, Lisa runs in her Evergreen Highlands neighborhood and in the Jeffco Open Space parks.

Although she has lived in the foothills for over two decades, Lisa still looks out the window every morning she’s home and thinks, “I’m so lucky. So many people don’t get to see what I get to see.” She and Henry raised her son, Austin, in Conifer since third grade and he graduated from Conifer High in 2003. “The school district was our number one priority when we decided to move here,” Lisa says. Henry purchased the house without Lisa even seeing it when the family moved here from the Albuquerque area. Lisa had worked in a children’s hospital, and the schools were getting dangerous in their neighborhood.

When Lisa and Henry first met, the coincidences in their lives drew them together. His last name was Austin. She had a son named Austin. (Her son went by Austin squared in high school.) As they talked, Lisa and Henry discovered an even more unusual coincidence – they had both been at the St. Louis Fair on July 4 that year.  And when Lisa took out her photos, unbeknownst to both of them, Henry and his date were in the background.

Lisa grew up in Vandalia, Illinois, a small town northeast of St. Louis, and was the middle child of five – four girls and one boy, all of whom grew up to be nurses. Her grandmother owned a nursing home, and one of her financial partners delivered the weekly farm report on KOMX Radio in St. Louis. Sometimes he took little Lisa along, and when she was just four years old, she got to sing “Lonely Little Petunia in the Onion Patch” on the air with Burl Ives, who was being interviewed that day. She also appeared on Romper Room on the local St. Louis station. “I was the middle child, and these experiences gave me attention and got me out of my shell,” Lisa reminisces.

Today, never too shy to volunteer for a good cause, Lisa is a role model of volunteerism in our community.

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