Marilyn Herrs may not be a goddess, but she has occasionally played one on stage.
In last spring’s Evergreen Players’ production of “Reality Check,” she portrayed Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, who had somehow become the other woman in a relationship between a mortal couple. Her interpretation regularly drew some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
By day, however, she can be found working at The Seniors’ Resource Center (The Yellow House) in Evergreen where she oversees the calendar of programs, as well as welcoming new participants into the organization. The road that led her there began, however, in Lemont, Illinois, a small town outside of Chicago where she was born. “It’s known for its many golf courses, churches, and taverns,” she laughs. “The churches may outnumber the taverns, although I’m not certain about that!”
She attended school in Rock Island, Illinois and then settled in Chicago, where she pursued a professional acting career for several years. In 1988, she heard about a Dance Therapy Summer Workshop being held at The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and she ventured west to attend that. “I fell in love with Boulder and the mountains,” she said. “At the end of the summer, I went back to Chicago, but not for long. My boyfriend at the time and I packed our bags and moved back.”
From Boulder she moved to Niwot and then to Idaho Springs. It was while she was living there that she began working at The Life Care Center in Evergreen, first as an assistant in the activities department which included such things as music and exercise programs. “In that role, I engaged with all of the residents, getting to know them, and making them laugh. It’s important to see the real person there,” she says. “To get to know them as a person, not simply as a patient or by their ailments. It’s only when you gain a person’s trust that you can truly get them to participate in the programs and activities a place like The Life Care Center has to offer.”
She moved into the role of Activity Director and finally the Recreation Director, and became adept at ferrying groups, large and small all over town to events such as the Evergreen Rodeo and The Rodeo Parade, fishing, or even on simple shopping trips to Wal-Mart. “I likened my role to that of being a party hostess, or more properly, a duck,” she confesses. “You look at a duck, and all seems calm on the surface. But beneath the water’s surface, you are paddling like mad to get where you need to go!”
After more than twenty years at The Life Care Center, Marilyn took her current job at The Seniors’ Resource Center. “I was seeking a new challenge,” she says. Her role there is similar in many ways to her previous job, but it comes with additional responsibilities. “It’s a smaller organization, but with a larger reach. We offer a wide array of programs and opportunities, many of which the ordinary Evergreen citizen isn’t aware of, and not all are geared towards seniors.” These include social activities like bridge and crafts classes, and outreach programs. Assistance is given in a wide variety of areas—drivers, Meals on Wheels, in-home care, assistance with bill paying, delivering firewood, doing chores around the home, and more.
Again, Marilyn has a particular interest in providing assurances to people who have a spouse or other family member facing dementia. “We talk to nervous husbands, wives and children. Not only do I try to give them a level of comfort that we can help in a variety of ways, but I remind them that care for the caregiver is just as important. They need time to look after their own needs, and we are here to help them find that, as well.”
Somehow, in all of this, Marilyn still found time to become involved with The Evergreen Players. “I attended a performance of their show, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and as I watched those three guys up onstage, I thought, ‘I want to join a group that does fun things like this!” She’s been onstage a number of times, but also works behind the scenes, occasionally stage managing, finding props, or working concessions in the lobby.
For three years, she was on the board of The Colorado Community Theatre Coalition, has volunteered for the annual Triple ByPass bicycling event, and was on the board of directors for Memories in the Making, an organization dedicated to fundraising efforts for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and senile dementia. “Among the programs they offer,” she explains, “Is one in which the patients paint watercolors that are then professionally framed and auctioned at the annual gala. Some renderings are very simple, and others much more detailed. What’s fascinating is when someone looks at a picture a loved one has painted, and they can identify it as something important from that person’s past. ‘That’s a picture of my dad’s old truck,’ for example. ‘He loved that old thing!’”
Marilyn also loves reading, hiking and “hammocking” in her back yard, giving her the opportunity to view hummingbirds at her feeders and to gaze at the mountains that lured her back to Colorado as a full-time resident.