Unsung Heroes
Gary Hazen
by Laura Haley≤br≥≤i≥Contributing Writer≤/i≥
Mar 21, 2013 | 2410 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you ask Gary Hazen what his plans are for this weekend, he’ll tell you that they’re the same as they have been every weekend for the past several years. On Saturday, he will head to the Canyonlands Care Center, where he will spend most of the day visiting with the residents. Then, on Sunday, he’ll spend a good part of the day at WabiSabi, repairing vacuum cleaners that have been donated to the Moab nonprofit.

Hazen said he first started visiting the residents at the long-term care facility nearly 17 years ago, after a good friend had a stroke and was admitted to the facility, which was then a part of Allen Memorial Hospital. Every Saturday, Hazen visited his friend and they played cribbage. He continued making those weekly visits until his friend passed away seven years later.

Over the course of those years, Hazen grew to know many of the long-term residents at the facility.

“After seven years visiting with my friend ... I naturally made friends with most of the other residents,” Hazen said. So he continued making his weekly visits, now to spend time with new friends.

Hazen said spending a day each week visiting the people at Canyonlands Care Center may not be for everyone.

“But you never know until you try,” he said.

Hazen said he would not feel right doing anything else on a Saturday after so many years have passed. It has become a habit he enjoys.

“He goes out of his way to make sure that the people in the extended care get the things they need,” said Holly Dinsmore, the warehouse manager for WabiSabi. She explained that Hazen often purchases items for the residents if they need something.

Six years ago Hazen added to his weekend schedule by beginning to volunteer at WabiSabi.

“I first started out repairing donated lamps, clocks, checking coffee makers,” Hazen said. Now, he spends most of his time repairing and reconditioning vacuum cleaners that are donated to the thrift store. Hazen said that before he started fixing the vacuums, most of them ended up being thrown away because they couldn’t be sold.

“It’s not the most glamorous job,” Hazen said. “The first thing I do when I get home is take a shower.”

Dinsmore said Hazen has also volunteered to run the cash register during staff meetings, as well as working at the Hands Up kid’s art tent.

“He goes over and above,” Dinsmore said. “I have nothing but extreme gratitude for everything that he’s done for WabiSabi over the years.”

Hazen said he believes one of his biggest contributions to the community has been through writing letters that have been published in The Times-Independent newspaper in Moab. He started sending letters to the newspaper in 1986.

“I had a very strong passion to move the Atlas [uranium mill] tailings pile,” he said, adding that over the next 20 years he has written more than 1,000 letters regarding the removal of the Cold War-era tailings that were left near the banks of the Colorado River. Cleanup at the site has now been under way for several years under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Hazen also sent his letters to elected officials and environmental groups, among others.

“I believe anyone with a strong conviction to change something ... should take it upon themselves to inform their community about their ideas and wishes,” Hazen said.

His letters did not stop with the removal of the uranium mill tailings. He also wrote numerous letters about the proposed sale of the old middle school building to a private party. That building was eventually acquired by the city of Moab and now houses city offices.

“Letters to the editor changed the city and county council minds about this important piece of Moab history and property,” Hazen said.

Hazen said he feels his letters to the editor are his “claim to fame.”

“People should really make their voices heard,” he said.

Know an “Unsung Hero” who deserves recognition? Submit their name, contact information and a short description of their volunteer efforts to editor@moabtimes.com.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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