If life rarely follows a straight line, Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice’s director of volunteers and events, Lori Carpenter, is living proof that change is good.
Growing up in Costa Mesa, California, young Lori’s road was wide and level and pointed directly at a bright horizon. She was a cheerleader at Costa Mesa High School, and a member of the swim team. On her own time, she did exactly what was expected of kids in sunny SoCal.
“I hung out at the beach a lot,” Lori smiles. “I still miss being near the water.”
From an early age, Lori aspired to a career in psychology. She enrolled at the University of Northern Arizona and continued right on course.
“Flagstaff is a lot like Evergreen,” she says. “It’s where I was introduced to mountains, and snow, and seasons.”
Graduating with a psychology degree and a minor in business, Lori was forging ahead toward a master’s diploma when her path took an unexpected turn. Offered a job in the mortgage industry, she found the work both agreeable and well compensated, and she steered straight ahead into finance. That path eventually led to marriage, a comfortable house in San Diego, a fine son and a fine daughter, and a challenging new calling that demanded far more of her than her mortgage career, but offered far sweeter rewards.
“I was a stay-at-home mom, and I loved it.”
Lori’s road led a thousand miles inland in 1990 when her husband was transferred to Colorado. The family initially settled near her brother in Highlands Ranch, but they aspired to something higher.
“Highlands Ranch is basically Southern California with mountains,” she explains. “We wanted something in the woods.”
They found their woods in 1994, coming happily to rest in a lovely home on a green acre near Marshdale. Personally, Lori had reached her destination. Professionally, however, there were still a few twists and turns in store.
She was working as a real estate appraiser in 2005 when Mount Evans hove into view. Appreciating the organization’s critical role in the life of her new hometown, Lori began donating her free time to driving, companion visits, respite care, and many of the other hundred-and-one necessary tasks asked of Mount Evans volunteers.
“Visiting patients in their homes, hearing their stories, and connecting with people and their families at the end of life is an incredible privilege.”
When the position of volunteer director became available, Lori applied for it. With considerable administrative experience and a deep understanding of both Mount Evans’ clients and the volunteers who serve them, she got it. Her job was to oversee the instruction, scheduling and support of the nonprofit’s hard-working crew of roughly 500 dedicated volunteers. It was a tall order, but immensely satisfying.
“We’re so lucky to live in such a tight community,” Lori says. “People here are incredibly gracious with their time and talents.”
In 2007 an opportune door opened at Evergreen National Bank in downtown Evergreen and Lori walked through it. It was a chance to serve her neighbors in a new and important way, and a priceless opportunity to see the Heart of Evergreen at play.
“It was great to be involved in all of those Main Street events, like the Holiday Walk and trick-or-treat. You really get to see a wonderful side of this community.”
Even so, Main Street turned out to be a brief, if enjoyable, detour on Lori’s highway, and in due course she pulled a U-turn and steered back to an executive assistant’s desk at Mount Evans.
“They call us ‘boomerangs,’” she grins. “There are quite a few of us here who have left and come back. There’s something about Mount Evans that always brings people back.”
Even so, Lori’s journey wasn’t quite finished. In 2009 an enticing new avenue appeared in her windshield, and Lori became office manager for Evergreen Vision Clinic. She loved the job, she loved the clients, and she loved being an integral part of a thriving practice that served so many of her mountain neighbors. It was, in many ways, a dream job. In other important ways, however, it couldn’t compete with the powerful emotional attraction of Mount Evans. Lori resumed her post as director of volunteers in 2014.
“That makes me a double-boomerang,” she laughs. “This is a hard place to leave. It’s like a family here.”
These days, when Lori’s not directing Mount Evans’ busy battalion of volunteers she’s serving in parallel capacity as Mount Evans’ director of events, carefully orchestrating the organization’s four principal fundraisers, which also happen to be four of the mountain area’s largest and most complex annual occasions – the Fourth of July Freedom Run 5K, the Mount Evans Benefit Gala, Ellie’s Evening and Under a Summer Moon.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”
Still, all work and no play can make a gal coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. Though Lori has always had a positive passion for water skiing, opportunities to indulge are few and far between in landlocked Colorado, which is why she more often finds rest and reflection during long pine-y hikes with her rescue dog, Stella. And for what it’s worth…
“I jumped out of an airplane with my daughter, Sarah, on her 21st birthday.”
Lori also gets to scratch her itch for the ocean every time she visits her folks.
“They’re amazing,” she smiles. “They’re celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this year, and they still live in the same house I grew up in.”
Lori Carpenter may have gone the long way around, but her road has never taken her any place that wasn’t good. Today she’s doing essential work for a community she adores among people she holds dear.
“One thing I love about Evergreen is that, wherever you go, you’re among friends.”