On July 31, 2011, Erin Opsahl leapt into action. Tired of the difficulty of meeting people, making connections and learning about events happening in the county, the Breckenridge mother of two created a Summit County Moms group on Facebook. Her goals were to connect local women and foster a free flow of information and support.
“Really it started out of my own frustration and isolation,” she said. “Here, it’s hard sometimes to meet other people and other parents and friends and get out of the house.”
She started with a single member, herself, with no idea where the experiment might take her.
Two and a half years later, the Summit County Moms group has exceeded 1,200 members. Opsahl started adding her friends, who added theirs and word kept spreading.
“The growth just happened, and it’s definitely made me very excited. I love to see new members added,” Opsahl said.
The Facebook page has grown to include a website (www.breckmoms.com) and a multitude of social media sites, including Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, all monitored and managed by Opsahl.
Graduating from Facebook into a full-fledged website required help, which came in the form of Stacy Sanchez, of Petal and Bean in Breckenridge. Sanchez is the “website guru” and gave Opsahl the suggestion of branching out from Facebook.
“By putting something onto a website, I’m able to share it even further,” she said. “(Sanchez) is amazing. I’m very thankful to him.”
One of the things Opsahl is proud of is the variety of people who have joined the group — from the newly pregnant mother-to-be to the grandmother with multiple grandchildren.
“With that many moms, we have so many different backgrounds and places that we’ve come from and life experiences, but we really do have more in common than we do that separates us, so that’s something that pulls us together,” she said. “We’re all living here in this community together, (so) let’s get along and let’s help each other.”
Though the group bears the title “moms,” it’s more about connecting women than creating parameters.
“I know a lot of people, when I tell them about Summit County Moms, they think it’s just for the new moms, and no it’s not,” she said. “It’s for all the moms, and even the mom supporters, the women supporters in our community.”
Opsahl, who also works full time for the county, spends hours each day on the website, moderating questions and discussions in the forums and posting updates about events going on around the county.
“I’ve called it my hobby-job,” she said, “because I put time and effort into it every day.”
Opsahl said she works to maintain a positive atmosphere — that means no debates and no negative comments about people or businesses.
“I’ve tried to maintain and create a positive online community within that group,” she said.
A native Californian, Opsahl completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at the University of Colorado Denver in 2006.
The subject of psychology has interested her ever since high school.
“It was one of those revelation moments,” she said, of her first psychology class as a high school senior, “where it was like, ‘Finally, things make sense!’”
While living in Aurora, Opsahl worked for three years at Excelsior Youth Center — a treatment facility for delinquent youth. She was a campus counselor, interacting with middle school and high school girls who lived together in buildings on campus.
“There was a lot of personal growth, working there,” she said. Although she often dealt with difficult situations, as can be expected in a place where many of the residents were court-ordered to be there, the experience was a positive one overall.
“It was a good time in my life,” she said. “I met a lot of great people working there and I’m still in contact with a lot of them.”
Now, she’s enjoying her life in Summit County, her job, the website and, above all, her family, which includes 5-year-old Braeden and 3-year-old Ayla.
“They are wonderful, they are so fun, they are the light of my life, because their smiles and their happiness and their joy brings me joy,” she said, smiling as she spoke. Whenever she can, she takes time to spend with the kids and her husband, going on outings and enjoying each other’s company.
“The most important thing is family,” she said.
“I know a lot of people, when I tell them about Summit County Moms, they think it’s just for the new moms, and no it’s not. It’s for all the moms, and even the mom supporters, the women supporters in our community.”