Who We Are: Volunteer of the year happiest when she’s helping feed folks | SummitDaily.com

Who We Are: Volunteer of the year happiest when she’s helping feed folks

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY – After years of international aid work, long-time local Deb Hage focused her attention on helping Summit County by creating a free community dinner. Hosted at the Elks Lodge in Silverthorne, her vision – to feed struggling locals with an abundance of food – has turned into a free meal put on every Tuesday.

Through efforts by Hage, local businesses, residents, the Summit County Rotary Club and Lord of the Mountain Church, Summit County residents in need may attend the meal whenever they wish. Hage was recently honored for her work as “volunteer of the year” by The Summit Foundation.

“I have a strong desire to help children,” Hage said. “If we can improve economic conditions and services for families, more children can remain with their biological parents. … By finding ways to serve families via the community dinner, we’re lessening the stress in families and contributing to the overall health and well-being of (local) children.”

According to Hage, her idea for a community dinner started at Lord of the Mountains Church, but the building couldn’t sustain such a meal. So she explored the option of hosting it at the Elks Lodge, though “issues of budget loomed large.”

As a Summit County Rotarian, Hage then brought the dinner idea to the club and asked for start-up funds.

“They were very excited to pursue something that would have a high impact locally,” she said. Since March 3 (the dinner’s starting date), residents and local businesses have volunteered time, money and food to further the community effort’s success.

“Since then, funding has come from all over the county,” Hage said. “We plan to do it until there isn’t a need.”

Hage, who has a master’s degree in social work, is semi-retired from her child and family therapy practice, but she still sees clients through home visits.

“My area of emphasis is childhood trauma,” she said. “Due to what I gained from raising our children, I work primarily with children who have been abused or neglected, who have endured orphanage settings and are now safely in adoptive homes but still are living our their trauma emotionally and/or behaviorally. … I also work with adults still working through trauma they suffered as a child.”

Hage and her husband, Paul, have nine children – two biological siblings, and seven adopted kids. Two of the children were adopted from Peru, and “the other five came from a Third-World culture of poverty within the United States,” Hage said. The Hages also have temporary guardianship over a 10th child. Hage said she and her husband always planned to adopt, and when she realized that “an abundance of blessings” enabled her to have a large family, she also adopted special-needs children.

After Hage’s children were grown, she turned her attention to helping other children – she worked as the director of MAPS Colorado, an international adoption agency, from 1996-2006. Through her work, she spent a lot of time in orphanages, medical clinics and women’s resource centers throughout Asia and South America. Her global emphasis on aid work required a lot of travel, she said. She could be gone for weeks to a month at a time.

Though putting on the community dinners keeps her closer to home, she said her local work is just as important. The vast majority of people coming to the meal are under- and unemployed.

“We operate the dinner on the philosophy of abundance,” Hage said. “There’s enough resources, energy and time to feed each other.”

And the dinner has created an avenue for people all over the county to serve in meaningful ways, she added.

“This has been a wonderful nine months as I am, by nature, a food pusher,” Hage said in an e-mail. “Being able to feed 300 people and encourage them to come back for seconds and thirds allows me to give free reign to my need to encourage people to eat while taking the pressure off my family.”

Hage learned about global poverty at an early age – her father was in the military, and she lived in Japan for three years after World War II. While living in post-WWII Japan, Hage saw the wide-spread poverty inflicted on the Japanese by war due to loss of life and resource diversion.

“It had a profound impact on me,” she said, noting that she lived there from third to sixth grade. Hage’s family returned to the United States, and she lived first in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving to Colorado in the 1960s.

While living in Alamosa, she met Paul at age 16 in a church youth group, and they’ve been married for 44 years..

Hage moved to Summit County in 1984, when her husband transferred to the area with Xcel Energy (then Public Service).

For more information about Hage’s work, visit


Caitlin Row can be reached

at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

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