When people learn how long we’ve lived in the Vail Valley (whether that’s 5 years or 45 years) they often say, “You must have seen a lot of changes during that time.” One of our favorite responses is, “Hey, we’ve seen a lot of changes since Tuesday!”
That’s never been more true than right now, right here. The changes that we envisioned a year ago are happening, and happening fast! During our last big renovation in 2001, we built a new lobby which seemed like such an enormous improvement over the previous pillbox. Well, that reception area has now been completely demo’d. And the replacement is going to be AWESOME.
Much less visible, but equally important, is the extensive foundation work that has taken place in preparation for the new elevator. That, after all, was the impetus for this whole project. The renovated front desk area, offices and one brand new condominium were all afterthoughts (and good ones) to the main motivation of improving the weakest link in our guests’ experience … the 1972 elevator.
The past two months have seen an awful lot of noise and dust, but most of the worst of that is behind us now. Sure, there will be some more noisy days, but the concrete saw cutting is almost done, as is the jack-hammering of the stone pillars. Throughout it all, our staff and our guests have survived and even often said, “It wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
There have been a lot of parallels between this $5 million project and the Antlers 2000 project twenty years ago. One of them has been the number of owners in residence, and guests as well, who are actually entertained by watching the construction! Although the courtyard is off-limits, and packed with equipment and materials staging, most of the walkways have a birdseye view of the whole operation and it tends to bring out the wide-eyed little kid in all of us.
Another similarity between the two projects has been the participation of an “owner’s rep”. In the construction world, that’s they guy you hire to keep an objective eye on the contractor as well as the architect. Someone who has a lot more construction expertise than the person actually writing the checks. Never has that been more relevant and necessary than here at the Antlers. In 2000 we hired Jack Berga to fill that role. He was beyond wonderful and absolutely instrumental in making the whole project successful. As great as Jack was, Dave Collins is even better. And the best part is that Dave has been on the Antlers staff for five years now, acting as our construction coordinator for the dozens of condominium remodels we’ve completed during that time. He has an extensive background in large-scale construction projects, but also the pleasant demeanor that is often missing from those in the world of hardhats.
Despite Dave’s generally easy-going attitude, don’t let that fool you. He can quickly “get in your face” when he sees something that isn’t right, or that could be done better. And that’s EXACTLY what we need. Our general contractor, Hyder Construction, has been a delight to work with. Nevertheless, not a day goes by that the Antlers board and management don’t thank their lucky stars for the presence of Dave Collins.
Although the construction impacts have been, and will continue to be manageable, we don’t want to risk any of our guests having a bad experience. So as we approach the halfway mark in the construction schedule we’ll continue to limit our occupancy to about 50% – 60% of our normal capacity, and we’ll continue to bend over backwards to inform those guests (and owners) what to expect. In a twist on the old customer service adage, we are trying to over-promise and under-deliver on the negative impacts from the construction. So far, so good.
And we sure look forward to showing off the finished product this coming ski season!
With all of the many improvements that the Antlers has made over the years, we know that our real Achilles’ Heel is the south (original) elevator. Clearly it does not begin to match the Platinum quality that we have worked so hard to achieve in the condominiums, and all around the property. Although we have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to make that elevator acceptable, the handwriting is on the wall that it just needs to be completely replaced.
While it would seem logical to replace the elevator in its current location (and as much as we’d like to), due to current code issues and a myriad of physical constraints, it’s just not feasible. Fortunately, local architect Henry Pratt has helped us to identify a new, alternative location in the southeast corner of the courtyard. It’s next to the area that we currently use as bicycle storage in the summer. We’ll still have to cut through the post tension slabs that comprise the garage and parking deck. That isn’t cheap or easy, but at least it’s viable. With that new location comes the opportunity to make some much needed improvements to the lobby, front desk, reception area and associated office spaces. If we’re going to be considered a Platinum rated property, those spaces also need to be upgraded to that level of quality, just as the condominiums have been.
A much more welcoming entrance will give our guests and owners a far better first impression. For anyone who has visited grand hotels or five-star resorts and observed how much gets invested in the arrival experience, it’s easy to understand the importance of that concept … particularly in the hospitality business. A two story structure with vaulted ceilings will replace the Antlers current one-level front desk “shoe box”, offering much more efficiency in addition to the radically improved aesthetics.
Fortunately, at a recent special meeting of the Antlers owners, there was overwhelming consensus to do what needs to be done, even if it is quite expensive. The total cost of the project is around four million dollars! We’re lucky that our ownership understands and appreciates the need to provide a great product for our guests … throughout the building. Those that have been around for awhile also remember that similar investments they’ve made in the past, have been more than offset by the increased value of their property.
The plan now is to break ground in April 2019, at the end of ski season. Look for some good lodging deals during the summer! Then we should be 100% complete and ship shape in time for the 2019-2020 ski season. Stay tuned for more information!
In today’s lexicon, the term “Pay It Forward” has come to mean doing something nice for someone in hopes that they’ll do something nice for someone else … a wonderful gesture of blind faith with the intent to perpetuate a series of future generous acts.
Logically then, “Pay It Backward” must refer to that circumstance when someone has already been so nice that they simply deserve a little reward.
With that in mind, several years ago we at the Antlers decided to host a Pay It Backward weekend. In line with our constant desire to be a good corporate citizen, we identified three dozen deserving non-profits and invited each of them to designate a person of their choice to spend two free nights in Vail … no strings attached. It could be their Executive Director or a hard working staff member. It might be their Volunteer of the Year. It could even be a recipient of their services, who they just think deserves a break today. Whoever they wanted … totally their choice. Naturally, “significant others” and family members were welcome also. We simply wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for doing what they do … helping to make this world a little better place.
Needless to say, that first year was a tremendous success. Almost all of the invited nonprofits participated and sent a deserving staff member or volunteer. They were all so appreciative and not only enjoyed a relaxing weekend away, but also the opportunity to connect with others.
Since then, we have held the second and third annual Pay It Backward Weekends. Not surprisingly, those were just as successful as the first one. In addition to the two free nights, the Antlers hosts a reception for everyone on Saturday evening. Similar to our weekly guest receptions in the winter, Chef Barry Robinson wows the crowd with his gourmet offerings. The Antlers provides plenty of wine and refreshments and people have a chance to share their non-profit’s story, if they choose. Again, no strings attached … people can come to mingle and network with all the other humanitarians, or they are totally excused if they’re just too busy enjoying Vail and our surrounding mountains.
In 2015, Fireside Productions attended on behalf of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and donated their time in producing a video that captured the spirit of the event …
The list of invitees has changed a bit, but over the years the following organizations have been invited (somewhat randomly) to participate. We have tried to find a good mix of social, environmental, humanitarian, health, military, children and animal related causes. The Antlers had a previous relationship with some of them and others we had just always admired. Naturally, there are a million others who would be equally deserving, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Advocates for Children – CASA
Alliance for Sustainable Colorado
American Heart Association
American Red Cross Mile High Chapter
Arvada Center for the Arts
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado
Boys & Girls Clubs
Canine Companions for Independence
CAR Housing Opportunity Fund
The Center For Mental Health
Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Colorado Horse Rescue
Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Fourteener Initiative
Colorado Water Trust
Denver Children’s Advocacy Center
Denver Dumb Friends League
Denver Indian Family Resource Center
Denver Rescue Mission
Engineers Without Borders
Food Bank of the Rockies
Habitat for Humanity of Colorado
Hearts and Horses
The Home Front Cares
Hope House of Colorado
Hospice of Northern Colorado
IDE – International Development Enterprises
Mesa County Partners
Mile High United Way
Mi Casa Resource Center
Rocky Mountain Raptor Program
Rocky Mountain Rescue Group
Ronald McDonald House
Salvation Army of Colorado Springs
Sense of Security
Wounded Warrior Project
Women’s Foundation of Colorado
9 Health Fair
Plans are now underway for Pay It Backward IV on May 11 – 13, 2018!
As always, the Antlers takes pride in remembering that life is short and there’s a lot more to a successful business than just making money.
When I became the Antlers General Manager in 1987, the very first senior manager I brought on board was Randi Davis. It’s not very far-fetched to say that my first hire was my best hire. Lucky for us, thirty years later Randi is still with the Antlers today!
In addition to the normal challenges of her role as Controller, Randi had the added pressure of being hired to do a job which I had held along the way. Happily, I can’t think of a single instance when I was tempted to say, “But this is the way I did it.” In virtually every circumstance, she performed her duties as well, and generally better, than I ever did. Frankly, it’s kind of humbling.
Her job includes ALL of the HOA accounting. Many condominium properties of our size have two, and sometimes three people, to execute their accounting functions. Not the Antlers … it’s just Randi. Even more impressive is the fact that she handles the majority of the HR functions as well! Again, other properties often have a dedicated person performing just those tasks. More than once I have explained to the Antlers owners that Randi fulfills the roles of two complete departments … All. By. Herself.
Riding the gondola with Magdalena
The annual audit for the Antlers is always performed by an independent CPA. We’ve had four different companies provide that service for us over the years. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the quality of Randi’s work comes without fail at the end of each fiscal year, when after about a bazillion transactions, the auditing company has so few “adjusting entries” to our books and to all the work that Randi has done throughout the year. There have even been a couple years when they had none. Now that’s just about unheard of in the accounting world!
Our employees have always enjoyed the enormous benefit of having an on-site HR person helping them with everything from insurance claims to their 401K plan. No outsourcing here. The Antlers was even one of the first small companies to provide a cafeteria plan for our employees, and over the years we’ve continued to be on the cutting edge when it comes to employee benefits. All of those programs were implemented and administered initially by Randi Davis.
Ripping it up in the back bowls
Beyond performing her work duties with the utmost poise, Randi is equally graceful outside the office. Whether it’s carving turns through the powder on Forever (or tearing up the bumps on Highline), or pedaling her bike across the finish line of another one-day century ride, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her always make it look easy. Always up for an adventure, when she announced a few years ago that she was going to climb Kilamanjaro, our collective reaction was … of course you are. And of course she did!
Of all those wonderful qualities, both in and outside the workplace, perhaps Randi’s greatest strength of all has been the fact that everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) at the Antlers, loves her. I think I’ve seen close to 200 employees cross the Antlers threshold since 1978, and there hasn’t been a single other person who has had more universal respect and admiration, than Randi Davis. Of course it helps when you’re the one doing payroll, but still … In addition to being great at her job, she’s just so damn pleasant.
The women of Antlers … awards banquet 2011
Riding with Team Antlers, here at the famous ice cream truck on the Colorado River Ride, with friend Lisa Siegert Free.
Long story short, it has been my personal immense joy, and the Antlers incredible good fortune, to have known and worked with my friend Randi for these past 30 years.
Star Shortstop on the Antlers softball team
You wouldn’t know that these ladies just finished a 100 mile bike ride, Randi and our friend Karen Braden-Butz
With Stephanie Willingham … circa 1990, when big sunglasses were all the rage
The Antlers crack bowling team
Riding the chairlift with our best friend, Bert Farin
Randi Davis … elegant, yet grounded. Never one to take herself too seriously. A role model for all of us.
With all of the many improvements that the Antlers has made over the years, we know that our real Achilles’ Heel is the south (original) elevator. Clearly it does not begin to match the Platinum quality that we have worked so hard to achieve in the condominiums. Although we have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to make that elevator acceptable, the handwriting is on the wall that it just needs to be completely replaced.
A little historical perspective …
Only a few guests and owners will remember that the original elevator had just three landings to service our seven story building! It stopped on 2½, 4½ & 6½. That was it. Everywhere you got out of the elevator, you had to go up or down a half flight of stairs to get to any condominium. Hard to believe, I know. People in the first floor units had to hike a half flight up to the lower parking level and three half-flights up to the lobby. It’s hard to comprehend the hassle of moving everything … from luggage to furniture. We didn’t have any luggage carts, instead using an appliance dolly with a big drop down tongue. Oddly, back in the day, our guests and owners didn’t seem to mind when we handed them that thing. I can only imagine what people would think if that happened today. Oh my goodness!
Our housekeepers were practically body builders from having to literally carry their vacuum cleaners and all their cleaning supplies up and down stairs all day long. To go to the swimming pool from the 6th floor, you had to walk up a half flight of stairs to catch the elevator, ride down to the lobby level and then walk down another flight and a half to the first floor. The return trip, dripping wet in the dead of winter, would be beyond intolerable by today’s standards.
I remember working at the front desk in the early 80’s and dreading the late night call from a guest asking for a rollaway. I would have to manhandle it alone, up and down those same stairs. In every respect the inconvenience was unbelievable and looking back, it’s amazing that our owners and guests tolerated it for twenty years.
My first significant capital project as General Manager was in 1994 when we finally figured out that we could build glass-enclosed landings on the west side of the shaft (which was previously outdoor, open airspace). That allowed the elevator to have doors front and back, stopping on every floor. Oh, the convenience!
Unfortunately, the first and second floor openings were constrained by a massive concrete retaining wall, which is why those two doors are much narrower than all the other floors and don’t come close to meeting the building codes of 2017. That retaining wall remains one of our physical constraints today.
The original elevator was a hydraulic piston elevator, more typically suited for a two, or at most, three story building. The original four story run (from the lobby level at floor 2½ up to 6½) was too much for a single piston, so it had a two-stage “jack”. Even that was pushing the limits and maintenance on it was a major hassle from day one.
When we added the extra landings in 1994, the distance from the first floor to the seventh was far too great for any two stage piston, and the accompanying underground silo was nowhere near deep enough, so we had to import a three stage jack from Germany. I was told that it was the only one in America at the time. There’s a reason for that … the third stage had to be of such small diameter (to fit inside stages one and two), that when it was fully extended it had all the stability of a spaghetti noodle. Maintenance challenges continued, to say the least.
Our other intrinsic problem is that the elevator and associated equipment room are basically outdoor, untempered spaces. That meant the hydraulic fluid would get way too cold in the winter and because of the added stress of the long rise, it would get way too hot in the summer. As a result, sometimes the elevator just wouldn’t run at all. We added hydraulic fluid heaters early on, and only recently added a loop to run the fluid out into the garage to help cool it in the summer. Both solutions helped, but were compromises at best.
Since day one, both before and after the 1994 redesign, our elevator has been our weakest link and the source of innumerable guest complaints. The maintenance on it has continued to get more and more challenging and expensive. We are now in a situation where people have actually been stuck in the elevator. It has happened several times in the past few years and in the hospitality business, that is simply the textbook definition of “UNACCEPTABLE”. Although we’ve taken measures to make sure THAT doesn’t happen again, the elevator is still way too slow, and we just can’t continue to tolerate the inconvenience of those narrow door openings on the first two floors. After repeated efforts to improve or at least “band-aid” that thing, we just have to replace it!
With all that as background, the question today is, “Why can’t we just rebuild it in the current location with a modern, tension (cable) elevator, like every other tall building in the world?” The answer lies in a variety of physical constraints, combined with today’s building codes. The existing shaft is simply too small to accommodate both the elevator cab and the cables that have to run between the cab and the shaft wall. Enlarging that shaft is truly the only answer. You would think that could be done for less than the $1.7 million dollar cost that it will take to relocate a new elevator elsewhere. Sadly, you’d be wrong.
For starters, the main electrical service for a good part of the building runs adjacent to that shaft. Relocating it would be extremely difficult and expensive, although perhaps doable. The aforementioned retaining wall, will significantly hamper any redesign of the shaft until the building is completely torn down (let’s not do that). Even if we could get past those two hurdles, a major redesign would trigger building code access issues that include the space between the garage and the elevator, as well as the main stairway. Because of the structural nature of their concrete construction, redesigning and rebuilding those two areas quickly adds up to several million dollars alone … forget about the elevator itself. Lastly, any excavation necessary for the expansion of the current shaft would likely disturb the foundation of the original building. The risk factor on that is so high, that any cost estimate would have to include an enormous contingency to cover that worst case scenario. It might be $4 million on the low end (just for the elevator) … but several times that amount on the high end, due to that risk exposure.
Bottom line, while it would seem logical to keep the elevator in the current location, and as much as we’d like to, it’s just not feasible. Fortunately, local architect Henry Pratt has helped us to identify a new, alternative location in the southeast corner of the courtyard. It’s next to the area that we currently use as bicycle storage in the summer. We’ll still have to cut through the post tension slabs that comprise the garage and parking deck. That isn’t cheap or easy, but at least it’s viable, and with a lot less risk. With that new location comes the opportunity to make some much needed improvements to the lobby, front desk, reception area and associated office spaces. If we’re going to be considered a Platinum rated property, those spaces need to be upgraded to that level of quality, just as the condominiums have been.
Fortunately, at our recent annual owners meeting, there was good consensus to do what needs to be done, even if it is quite expensive. We’re lucky that our ownership understands and appreciates the need to provide a great product for our guests … throughout the building. As we work through this process with the Antlers ownership, our hope is to break ground in the spring of 2019 and be operational by that ski season. Stay tuned!
I remember going to a Vail Town Council meeting sometime in early 2004 and thinking, “This new woman on the Council is way too young to have that much poise”. It later occurred to me that she was the same age as me, when I was elected to the Town Council in 1989, but I can tell you that she was a lot more prepared for the task than I was. I hadn’t met Kim Rediker prior to that, which is a little surprising given that we both worked in the hospitality business. I thought I knew everyone in the Vail hotel scene. Apparently not.
In the past dozen years I’ve enjoyed watching Kim work in a myriad of community roles, both public and private. It didn’t take long to appreciate how smart and dedicated she was, in addition to all that grace. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with her on the Vail Economic Advisory Council for a good part of the last decade. In that role (and others), she’s always demonstrated one of her great strengths … pragmatism. I have long valued that skill as highly as any other. Kim truly understands that you can be right about something all day long, but if you’re not effective it doesn’t do anybody any good. There are SO many circumstances that come up every day in the hospitality business where understanding, compromise and pragmatic decisions are the key to success.
I love the fact that Kim has that “big picture” view. That’s just one of the reasons I was so stoked when Magda convinced her to come be the Assistant GM. Combined with Magda’s similar talents, the Antlers is in REALLY good hands going forward.
Every once in a while one of our owners or board members will suggest that we start charging a resort fee as a way to help cure our perennial budget challenges.
They’ll say, “Why not? Everyone else does it. I pay them wherever I go.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
“I hate it.”
“Okay, I think you’ve just answered your own question.”
There may be a million reasons why I’m glad to be working for an independent property, and especially one with a conscience. High among them is being able to tell prospective guests, to boast even, that we have NO RESORT FEES. Beyond that, we think those hidden charges are unfair and deceptive. Inevitably, whoever I’m talking to could not agree more.
When that owner or board member says, “What about the extra money that we could be getting?” I tell them that we’re already getting it. The “resort fee” – if that’s what they want to call it – is already included in our published room rate. If we thought our rooms were worth more and that our guests would pay more … we’d charge more, not tack on a fee that they won’t see until check-out. As it is, we work hard to price our rooms fairly, so guests feel they’re receiving good value.
Lately resort fees have been much in the news, with Christopher Elliott recently reporting in the Washington Post a rise in the first six months of 2016 to an average of nearly $20/night for the fees – with even the FTC reevaluating the practice. But in a business based on service and goodwill, to us it’s always been kind of a no-brainer. It really comes down to a matter of short term versus long term strategy. Yes, people may pay that extra charge once, because they’ve had to pay it elsewhere. But they still hate it. In the long run, we’ll have more business if we’re transparent and above-board. We try to make all our decisions that way.
After all, in a business based on the guest experience, why would you want to have that final experience on checking out be one of feeling cheated?
June, 1978 – Freshly graduated from Colorado College with a degree in Business Administration, I had moved to Vail, 100% clueless about my future. Mike O’Dell, a golfing buddy from previous summers working at the Eagle Vail golf course told me his wife was having a baby and would be leaving her job as controller of a little hotel called the Antlers. I should apply. “After all”, he said, “you’ve been to college, you must be a smart guy … you could probably do that job.” I went and interviewed with Bud Benedict, the Antlers General Manager. I remember his exact words … “You’ve been to college … you must be a smart guy, you can probably do this job.”
Fast forward 38 years. As we near my last days as the Antlers GM, one of my very few regrets is that I didn’t start keeping a journal on that day in 1978. There have been some hilarious stories and I wish I could remember one out of fifty. Sadly, I can’t even do that. Oh well …
One big regret that I could have, and don’t … is leaving the Antlers in hands any less capable than mine. When Magdalena Isabel Cedeño Cabrera King told me in 2007 that she’d give me five years if I hired her, little did I know that she would turn out to have the unique combination of people skills, financial acumen and overall business sense that you find once in a blue moon. Head and Heart, as Bob Vanourek would say … in this case, to the max. I did know that nobody had ever committed to five years of employment in a job interview with me before, and I was duly impressed. Turns out she had a great sense of destiny, along with all those other considerable talents.
When I told the Board of Directors last December that the 2016 annual meeting would be my last, there was no doubt in my mind who the correct successor was. As boards do, they felt an obligation to “explore all their options”. I simultaneously respected and ridiculed that decision. After all, the perfect candidate was right here … already in the fold. In the end, after a series of interviews and thoughtful consideration, our board came to the absolute right decision. On October 1, Magda will become the third General Manager in the Antlers’ 44-year history.
Some people tell me that my shoes will be hard to fill, (others tell me to not let the door … ). I’m confident it won’t be a problem. Beyond speaking five languages and having the heart and grace of a saint, Magdalena has an innate understanding that “hospitality” isn’t just a word or a business sector. It’s a guiding principle and Magda lives and breathes it. Besides, she’s been to college, she’s a smart gal … she can do this job.
Leaving the only career I’ve ever known comes with a predictable amount of angst, but as far as the future of the Antlers is concerned, there’s no way I could be more optimistic.
The first time I saw Pete Huttlinger in person was at a concert in Breckenridge with Jim Salestrom. It wasn’t a full-on John Denver tribute, but given Jim’s inclination and Pete’s history with JD, there was no shortage of Sunshine On My Shoulders and Thank God I’m A Country Boy.
Far more impressive than those covers, was Pete’s unbelievable solo talent on his acoustic guitar. I’ve always found that regardless of one’s sophistication in any artistic discipline (or in my case, lack thereof) … when exposed to a talent that is truly one of the world’s best, it makes an appropriate and unforgettable impression.
Not only had Pete played backup for John in the early 90’s, but he also did some of the arranging for the famous Wildlife Concert, as well as others.
Later, after John Denver’s death, Pete played with LeeAnn Rimes, Vince Gill and more than a few other “household names”. His talent couldn’t be summed up any more completely or simply than LeeAnn’s reference to him as a “complete genius”.
Evelyn had met Pete once or twice in Aspen at a couple of the early “official” John Denver tribute concerts. In each case their meetings were brief and included a number of other people. Nevertheless, when we saw him in Breckenridge that day he greeted Evelyn like a long lost friend, not someone he had barely met. I quickly came to treasure that humility and warmth, which was as much a part of Pete as his incredible skill on the guitar.
Wonderful testimony of that kindness came when I had the nerve to ask Pete if I could use his music as background for some marketing videos we were producing for Antlers 2000. I expected him to tell me all about ASCAP and licensing issues and costs, etc. Instead, despite the fact that he didn’t know me from Adam, he said, “Absolutely … use whatever you want. No problem.” Just like that … that was it. When I asked him if I could pay him he said, “No, that’s okay … just send me a copy of whatever you do. I’d love to see it.” I’m still blown away by his generosity.
Not only did I use a couple cuts off his Catch & Release CD (arguably the best solo acoustic guitar CD ever recorded), but we stayed in contact over the next few years. When we had the Grand Opening celebration for the Antlers redevelopment in 2002, Pete came and played a private concert for our friends and owners. I sincerely doubt if the Antlers conference room will ever be host to more talent than it was on that day.
Over the years, Evelyn continued to stay in touch with Pete and his lovely wife, Erin. We had the pleasure of fishing with Pete on the Roaring Fork (his favorite pastime other than playing music) and later had them over for dinner. Pete enjoyed playing Evelyn’s John Denver signature guitar that evening and it will never, ever sound better.
After many years of heart and health problems, Pete passed away last week at the ripe old age of 54. It’s a sad day. A tragedy. Thousands of people will miss him, but few more than us. Here’s to you, Pete.
Under the heading of “People” in the “People, Planet, Profit” scenario, we couldn’t possibly be more proud of our Assistant GM, Magdalena King, and our Executive Housekeeper, Cristina Roberts (who happen to be Ecuadorian sisters). However, they’re not the people we’re talking about. Rather, Magda and Cristina are the ones caring for and investing in, the people … our people. Among the bountiful evidence of that, is their initiative to implement English classes for our Spanish speaking housekeepers and housemen. Thanks to the help of Colleen Gray from the Literacy Project, with Magda and Cristina filling in as substitute teachers from time to time, all of our housekeeping crew are able to attend ESL classes right here, every week … on the clock.
As if that wasn’t enough, Magdalena has a stated goal of having every Antlers housekeeper obtain their GED. As a highly educated individual, Magda believes strongly in the value of learning for an enhanced quality of life, as well as for improved job performance. That’s true even when the specific instruction isn’t directly related to the job. She rightly claims that anyone who has a GED will simply be more thoughtful and make better decisions than someone without. Who could argue? Happily, Myrna, Gabriela, Elsa, Olaya, Ramona and Cristina are now enrolling in a local GED program. They have our full moral and financial support.
As an adjunct to the ESL classes, Magda and Cristina started a book club for our housekeepers (and anyone else). Their most recent book was The Little Prince, which of course was read as El Principito (the ESL program is still young). I had the good fortune to accompany all of them for a book discussion at the Vail Library, where Lori Barnes has been a fabulous friend to the Antlers. Lori’s Spanish is comparable to mine, so she and I muddled through as the rest of them enthusiastically explored the world of little planets, sunsets, baobabs and the frequent lack of adult understanding, all in a Latino context. It was totally inspiring.
The Antlers housekeeping book club at the Vail Public Library
Gabriella and Elsa
Lorena, Myrna, Isela and Ramona
Angel and Cristina
Lori Barnes and Magdalena, who had just come from a school event with Derrick and Matius. Nice cape, Matty