Originally from New Jersey, Mary Steinbrecher moved to Colorado in 1978. While in college back East, she and a cousin and a friend decided to take a trip to the western half of the United States and Canada, putting more than 3,000 miles on their van in the process. Their journey took them to Las Vegas, the Bay Area, Seattle, Vancouver Island, Calgary, Mount Rushmore and Rocky Mountain National Park, among other places.
“At one point, we stayed in our van in the driveway of a friend who lived in Littleton,” Mary says. “It planted in my brain the idea that, after graduation, I would go west.”
And she did. After finishing school, she worked for a summer as a waitress at the East Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park and later as the dining room manager at a lodge in Denali National Park in Alaska. In between the two jobs, Mary ended up in southern California. She had decided to go back to school to earn a teaching degree, and she taught math in California for five years.
“My parents had a condo in Keystone,” she says, “And so I spent summers in Colorado before moving here permanently in 1978.” She interviewed for a teaching position at Evergreen Junior High and, when she was hired, found a place to live on Upper Bear Creek. “I felt so fortunate to be able to both live and to work in this area.”
Mary taught math at EJHS for 22 years, retiring in 2000. In 1982 she met her husband, Ed, who was a school administrator in Jefferson and Park Counties; they married in 1988, eventually moving to Evergreen Meadows.
The Steinbrechers became active in an international student exchange program called Youth for Understanding in 1988, hosting a foreign student in their home every year from 1990 to 1997. She also volunteered as the organization’s local representative, overseeing the program for all students and host families in the mountain area. Between 1988 and 2007, she worked with 100 students and their host families.
“YFU had kids coming here from nearly every continent of the globe,” she pointed out. “And when you host a young person for an entire school year, their country becomes bigger to you; you understand their culture in a whole new way. To this day, I run into families who give me updates on their kids. And my husband and I have stayed in touch with five of the students who lived with us. We’ve met and even traveled with their families. One of these young men—now a father with three kids of his own—has visited us six times, and is coming to see us again in April.”
Mary is also involved with Friendship Bridge, an organization dedicated to empowering women and eliminating poverty in places like Guatemala. To that end, it offers educational opportunities and financial loans to young women seeking a means to bettering their lives. Friendship Bridge is a non-profit, receiving its money through fund-raising efforts, including one that is particularly close to Mary’s heart. “There’s a group of about 30 of us who have been creating Swittens—woolen mittens—that we assemble in get-togethers that we call cutting parties. We divide into smaller groups, each of us tackling one part of the task required to make the finished product. We then sell these. We’ve been doing this for the last six years.” To date, the Switten group has raised around $10,000 annually.
Additionally, Mary has served on the board of directors for Forest Heights Lodge, an Evergreen organization founded in 1954 that provides therapeutic residential treatment for youth ages 9 to 14.
And she currently serves on the board for Center for the Arts Evergreen. Through CAE, she has been both chair and co-chair of Summerfest, the fine arts and crafts festival that takes place on the ball fields near the Buchanan Rec Center each July.
Mary is also involved with the Mountain Rendezvous chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), which has as its mission the objective of promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism. Until recently, she served as chair of the Good Citizen Award committee. The award recognizes local high school students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to school, community and home. Competing students must participate in an exercise during which they have two hours to write an essay based on a question they are given—with no advance notice—and which they must complete without access to any reference material. The award recipients are honored at a brunch in February, during which they read their composition for an audience that includes their families.
Mary has also volunteered at Mount Evans Hospice, filling in as a receptionist when needed. Additionally, she calls herself “an auxiliary support person” for her husband in his work with The Conifer Rotary Club (they are also involved with Rotary in Florida, where they have a second home and spend three months of the year).
In her free time, Mary reads and sews, a skill that comes in handy when working with her Swittens group. She hikes and bikes—and has participated in Ride the Rockies—and in wintertime, snowshoes and cross-country skis. When they are in Florida, she and her husband kayak and swim.
“I love being outdoors,” Mary declares. “I feel so fortunate that we live where we do, and that I have the time to volunteer and to be involved with so many local organizations.”