While most folks living in Evergreen arrived here by meandering routes, Bill and Peggy Braun definitely took the long road.
Bill’s journey began in the small town of Neenah, Wisconsin, on the green shores of Lake Winnebago. Peggy spent her formative years in the small town of Artesia, surrounded by the stark beauty of southeastern New Mexico. Bill earned a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin. Peggy earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Missouri, and followed it up with a master’s degree in education. Peggy proceeded to a teaching position in Kansas City, and then to new horizons in the East. Bill proceeded into the Army in 1965, landing in the medical services corps and a doing hitch at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania before shipping out for the Far East, and Vietnam.
Bill’s and Peggy’s wandering paths didn’t cross until 1984. Bill was a lieutenant colonel, by then a seasoned Army hospital administrator with an MBA from the University of Colorado, brushing up on his skills at the University of Virginia. When a friend introduced him to Peggy, he immediately launched a campaign to win her hand. “It was a whirlwind courtship,” Peggy smiles. “We were both really smitten with each other.”
Together they enlisted in Holy Matrimony, the second marriage for both, uniting two small families – Peggy brought two sons to the union, Bill a son and two daughters – into one big one. For the next 10 years the happy company accompanied Bill about the country as he moved from post to post, and celebrated with him in San Antonio when he mustered out of the service a full colonel in 1995. Although retired, Bill and Peggy weren’t ready to relax. They moved to Neenah to be near Bill’s family, and both took jobs at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh as training developers for the state’s newly-crafted Welfare to Work program.
But the couple still had one more journey to accomplish. Peggy had a cousin living in Evergreen, and in 2000, they picked up stakes and planted them among the pines at the top of Buffalo Park Road. Although both were already fans of Colorado, the decision had as much to do with family as with scenery. One of Peggy’s sons was serving in the Air Force in Colorado Springs, her sister lived in Littleton, and two of their children lived in Denver. Perhaps most importantly, however, their three grandchildren were here.
“When the grandchildren started coming,” Peggy explains, “Well…it’s a call.”
If Bill and Peggy had come to rest in Evergreen, they weren’t in any hurry to rest. Peggy began volunteering for Mount Evans Home Health and Hospice. Bill pitched in for Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity. And when Peggy started picking up volunteer shifts at Evergreen Christian Outreach (EChO), the Brauns quickly established themselves among that organization’s most energetic champions.
“I started through our church, volunteering as a receptionist,” Peggy says. “I was kind of curious about what they really did. I was really impressed that this little community had this program to help the less fortunate. You can live in Evergreen for a long time without realizing how much need there is here, and there is a lot of need here.”
While Peggy has been a familiar face at EChO’s food bank and thrift store for the last 12 years, Bill has been just as busy behind the scenes, putting his administrative talents to work as president, and now vice-president, of the non-profit’s board of directors, and helping to expand EChO’s humanitarian brief. Recently, in company with EChO’s director of client services, Cathy Baim, and volunteer coordinator, Mary Petrich, Bill paid a long visit to Denver Works, a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and placement to the metropolitan area’s unemployed. What they learned is being implemented as EChO’s new jobs program.
“Our jobs center provides people with job training, financial training, job placement assistance, and help working on any conditions that may be keeping them from finding employment,” Bill says. “We’ll still offer temporary help with food, clothing and bills, but this is a way to facilitate people in becoming independent.”
Of course Bill and Peggy will be on hand and helping on Nov. 7 when EChO holds its first-ever Jobs Fair at Wulf Recreation Center. And it’s a safe bet that some of their neighbors will leave there with substantially improved prospects.
“We want to work ourselves out of business,” Bill says It’s entirely right and fitting that, upon reaching the end of their long and winding road, Bill and Peggy Braun have devoted themselves to easing the way for others. If you ask them, though, they’ll tell you they’re simply following Evergreen’s lead.
“I know it sounds trite,” Peggy says, “but Evergreen is just full of extremely generous, involved, wonderful people.” “
Every community in the country should have an organization like EChO,” says Bill. “The whole community supports us, and our strength is our 200 volunteers.”
And, as is ever the case when good people undertake to do good, the Brauns' contributions come back to them many-fold.
“I always tell people that, if you’re having a bad day, come help out at the EChO re-sale store and you’ll leave with a smile on your face,” Bill says. “We get much more back from EChO than we give.”