YouthZone column: Understanding the value of a living wage

YouthZone is a family-oriented, non-profit organization dedicated to fostering positive youth development for teens and their families. For 46 years, we’ve supported youth ages 6 to 18 in Colorado’s West Slope, specializing in intervention, prevention, and volunteerism. With the dedicated support of our staff, sponsors, volunteers, donors and board members, YouthZone helps strengthen communities from Aspen to Parachute.

Our leadership, alongside our Board of Directors, continues to work diligently to fundraise, invest wisely, and grow our endowment. As a nonprofit in financial health, we operate within our approved budget and prioritize unanticipated additional funding toward long-term sustainability through investment and endowment growth.

We are also prioritizing investment in our current staff by increasing salaries and benefits to a living wage and maintaining a competitive workplace in the Valley. It takes both the professional skills of our internal team, as well as the generous financial and external volunteer contributions of our community to propel YouthZone in our ability to unite and serve over 1,000 young people each year.

An ongoing challenge is to provide ever-increasing income and benefits to our team members, which, in turn, attracts highly skilled professionals with competitive salaries. YouthZone, like many other nonprofits, diligently explores all opportunities to increase funding and utilize resources so that our professional staff can continue to thrive in our organization, supporting youth and families in our community and receive a living wage for their essential work.

Accordingly, our Board of Directors voted to approve a significant raise across the organization in April 2022. This would raise current salaries towards living wages in the Roaring Fork Valley and begin to attract new, highly skilled employees at a competitive salary.

Two of our board members, David Portman and Paula Busk Cross, would like to express their thoughts on this pay raise, share how YouthZone is truly making a difference, and encourage you to become more active in your community, so that we can build a healthier life. tomorrow for everyone.

“A living wage relieves the stress of finding a second source of income or finding other ways to support your family financially. This gives our staff time to contribute to their community in ways that go beyond their careers at YouthZone. This allows our staff to live and serve in our community for the longer term,” says Cross. She continues to point out that “competitive salaries and benefits attract and retain highly skilled professionals to job openings because these things are highly desirable as the cost of living rises.

“With a nationwide shortage of staff and an influx of available positions, workers have bargaining power to raise pay. Organizations that cannot keep up with this change will lose qualified staff and fail to attract new ones. Those who can keep up will find their teams more productive, engaged, and happier, overall. This is the goal of the YouthZone endowment. We know that when our team feels financially stable, they have the greatest positive impacts on our community. »

Portman explains why he voted to raise salaries: “YouthZone is a service-based organization, with our employees being our most valuable resource. The impact of the work our team does every day is monumental. In some cases, their commitment to precious human beings makes the difference between life and death.

“Hiring and retaining the right people is essential to carrying out our mission and having a positive impact on our community. It helps to know that YouthZone has a loyal and supportive donor base after 46 years that continues to support our mission. Voting for the wage increase seemed like the right thing to do.

Portman goes on to explain how this helps youth and families in our community: “Mental health issues among youth in our community are not going away. In fact, YouthZone’s services are in greater demand than ever. Jami and his team do a great job managing an effective budget and ensuring that we maximize the percentage of every dollar to positively impact our clients. Donor dollars largely fund the talented team that interacts with customers daily. Our goal is never to refuse anyone and to communicate with young people earlier. To do this, we envision an increase in staffing requirements over time.

At YouthZone, we’ve built a non-profit organization that supports parent figures, families, and teens. We offer parent counseling and education, family resources, and comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, families, and communities. To learn more about how YouthZone can help you, please call us at 970-945-9300. Support your community by volunteering or contributing financially to

Jami Hayes is the Executive Director of YouthZone and has worked with youth and families throughout her career. Jami has spent the past 14 years working with the Roaring Fork School District, leading and working to improve the educational experience for local families.

Michael A. Bynum