Melissa VanArsdale: Volunteers, clients are the heart of STARS organization |

Melissa VanArsdale: Volunteers, clients are the heart of STARS organization

Kudos to the volunteers and previous board members for writing a letter of concern to the STARS board. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that it was misconstrued as a threat when in actuality the purpose was to address problems within the organization thus help to revive it. 

I first began working with STARS in 2008 as an employee for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. I booked reservations, scheduled instructors and volunteers, created promotional material and greeted clients and their families every day as they arrived. Greeting STARS’ clients was by far the most rewarding part of my job.

The following year, STARS began its transition to become independent from Ski Corp. This was met with a lot of heartbreak when Ski Corp. instructors had to choose whether to remain with Ski Corp. or become STARS instructors. This was especially hard for clients and families that returned year after year dependent on consistent instruction from instructors they formed relationships with.

I served as a liaison by ensuring clients and families that I would do everything possible to get them paired with instructors/volunteers that would serve their needs. Parents especially trusted me since I would share with them that I too am a parent of a child with a disability. Yet my job would not have been easy without the phenomenal STARS instructors and volunteers.

I, as well as most everyone who worked for STARS, believe in its mission. And I as well as many others remained with STARS first and foremost for the clients and its mission. When I resigned in the fall of 2015, it wasn’t because of low wages as STARS Board President Gail Jensen states. I left because I could no longer work in a toxic environment.

Behind the scenes, there was a lot of discord at STARS. As a professional, I nor did other employees share or expose this to clients. We always put serving our clients first.

The relationships I made having worked at STARS remain today with many of the instructors, volunteers and clients. After my resignation, I saw a spiral of turnovers within the first six months, and that domino effect continued over the years since with new and old staff, instructors and volunteers leaving. It was a sign that the toxic environment wasn’t remedied.

I hope with the resignation of the executive director and hopefully a restructuring of the board, STARS will develop into a healthy organization from the foundation up to better serve its mission and thus STARS clients.


Melissa VanArsdale
Steamboat Springs 

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