By Jami Hayes

YouthZone Understands the Value of a Living Wage

YouthZone is a family first nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering positive youth development for teens and their families. We have been supporting 6- to 18-year-olds in the Western Slope of Colorado for over 46 years, specializing in intervention, prevention, and volunteerism. Through the dedicated support of our staff, sponsors, volunteers, donors, and Board Members, YouthZone helps strengthen our local communities from Aspen to Parachute.

Our leadership, alongside our Board of Directors, continue to work diligently in efforts to fundraise, invest wisely, and grow our endowment. As a financially healthy nonprofit, we operate within our approved budget and prioritize additional unanticipated funding towards long-term sustainability through investment and endowment growth. We also prioritize investing in our current staff by increasing salaries and benefits to a livable wage and maintaining a competitive Roaring Fork Valley workplace. It takes both the professional skills of our internal team, as well as the generous external financial and volunteering contributions of our communities, to power YouthZone in our capability to unite and serve over 1,000 youth annually.

A continued challenge is providing an ever-increasing adequate income and benefits for our team members, which, in turn, attracts highly qualified professionals with competitive wages. YouthZone, like many other nonprofits, assiduously explores all opportunities to increase funding and utilize resources so that our professional staff can continue to flourish in our organization, support our community’s youth and families, and receive a fair livable wage for the critical work they do. Therefore, our Board Members voted to approve a significant raise across the organization in April 2022. This raise would increase current salaries toward livable wages in the Roaring Fork Valley and to begin to attract new and highly qualified staff at a competitive wage.

Two of our Board Members, David Portman and Paula Busk Cross, and Director, Jami Hayes, would like to express their thoughtful consideration on this wage increase, share how YouthZone truly makes a difference, and encourage you to become more active in your community so that we can build a healthier tomorrow for everyone.

David Portman, YouthZone Board of Director’s Vice President

How does a living wage and benefits positively affect a family and a community?

David Portman – “The fabric of community is so positively impacted by families having the ability to put down roots and grow over time. Living wages help minimize the challenges of providing the basics needs for your family, allowing community members to focus on the impact of their work and paying it forward.”

Paula Busk Cross –A living wage relieves the stress of looking for a second income source or finding other ways to support one’s family financially. It gives our staff time to contribute to their community in ways beyond their career at YouthZone through engagement in events, places, and relationships that benefit their communities. This keeps our staff both living and serving in our community for a longer term.”

Jami Hayes – “For our employees, a living wage significantly reduces complex layers of daily and chronic stress, which improves the chances of families being able to remain in our valley. Communities are stronger when local Human Service organizations, like YouthZone, are able to attract and retain highly skilled and motivated professionals, who care deeply about our struggling youth and families.”

How would a competitive wage and attracting highly qualified professional effect our communities and matters to our youth and families?

Paula Busk Cross, YouthZone Board of Director’s Treasurer

David Portman – “Highly qualified professionals are drawn to the Roaring Fork Valley for the outdoors and quality of life, but we hear too often about cost of living being the barrier to growing within the valley. As a whole, our community elevates when we can retain the best talent across the many industries that make our community tick. One of those industries is Health and Human Services and the organizations that support the mental health of our youth and families. The needs of our clients at YouthZone can be so delicate, that we want to deliver nothing less than the most highly qualified and professional staff.”

Paula Busk Cross – “Competitive wages and benefits attract and retain highly skilled professionals to job openings because these two things are highly desirable as the cost-of-living increases. Pair this with a national staffing shortage and the influx of available positions has allowed for workers to negotiation an increased compensation package. The organizations that cannot keep up with this change will lose their skilled staff and not attract new ones. Those that can keep up with competitive wages find their team more productive, engaged, and happier overall. This is truly to goal of YouthZone’s staffing. We know that when our team feels financially stable, they are making the largest positive impacts on our community.”

Jami Hayes – “We are a Human Service organization, salary and benefits are our major expenses. We highly prioritize professional development in our budget and train our staff annually in Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care, Substance, Group Facilitation Techniques, and Youth Coaching. We prioritize evidence-based practices so that when we are intervening with youth and families, we know that positive outcomes will follow. YouthZone invests in our professionals through workforce development grants and a personalized professional development plan so each team member continues to increase their levels of expertise. The dollars that we put to work are very intentionally assigned to salaries, benefits, and training so that our professionals are equipped to address the most intensive situations and elevate the voices of our most marginalized populations. As our community needs grow, YouthZone’s need to directly address recruitment and retention strategies also grows.”

Jami Hayes, YouthZone’s Executive Director

Why did you vote to increase the wage of the YouthZone Team?

David Portman – “YouthZone is a service-based organization with our people truly being our most valuable resource. The impact of the work that our YouthZone team does on a daily basis is monumental. In some instances, their commitment to other precious humans has been the difference between life and death. Hiring and retaining the right individuals is essential to carrying out our mission and positively impacting our community. It is helpful knowing that YouthZone has a loyal and supportive donor base after 46 years in the community that will continue to support our mission. Voting in favor of the wage increase just felt like the right thing to do.”

Paula Busk Cross – “The YouthZone staff are devoted to their careers. They are whole-heartedly engaged with clients from the moment they start their workday, and well after their official workday is done. I value every team member at YouthZone and voted to increase wages because it was the right thing to do. I voted as an action supporting and honoring their contribution to our community through their career choice to serve YouthZone clients.”

Jami Hayes – “Our nonprofits are the beating heart of the health of our communities and our professionals often live and work in the very same communities. Providing a livable wage allows them to support and care for their own families. Everyone, no matter the career, deserves the security of a living wage. As an Executive Director, my role is to prioritize the needs of our professionals so that we can be there for our communities. Through our finance committee and our board, we assess options that address benefits, living wages, and a high level of attention to staff support. YouthZone is fortunate to have a board of directors who are dedicated to our mission and willing to take significant steps toward increasing living wages and benefits to attract and retain the best talent for our communities.”

How your support helps our communities’ youth and families? How are donor dollars are put to work and what would increase dollars provide?

David Portman –Mental health challenges amongst youth in our community are not going away. In fact, YouthZone’s services are in higher demand now than ever before. Jami and her team do an excellent job managing an efficient budget and ensuring that we maximize the percentage of every dollar so that it goes directly to positively impacting our clients. Donor dollars largely fund our talented team that interact with our clients on a daily basis. Our goal is to never turn anyone away and connect with youth earlier. To do this, we envision increased staffing needs over time.”

Paula Busk Cross – “There is more demand for YouthZone services than we can provide with our current staff, who are already working above their capacity levels. Through the expertise and passion of our staff, additional opportunities for families to restore and heal are continuously being made known. As a parent, I needed YouthZones’ assistance. Their staff was there for my family, and I am forever grateful. I do not want any family in need to go without assistance, during one of the hardest times in their lives, due to staffing shortages.”

Jami Hayes – “The financial demand on an individual and a family has become increasingly more difficult. As a result, we are charged to create budgets and benefit plans that support a professional environment where we are able to keep and attract some of the most highly skilled professionals in the field. YouthZone is a unique organization that provides services such as Substance Education and Intervention, Youth Coaching, Restorative Justice, Teen Groups that focus on life skills, Substance Use, LGBTQIA+ support and more. In 2021, YouthZone impacted more than 1,780 lives. Youth in our programs have a 97% success rate of not reoffending and our diversion clients have a 100% success rate. The results are astounding! We rely on increased revenue from our donors, grants and foundations, and municipalities and counties to provide living wages and benefits for current and future staff. When our professionals are supported, more youth and families are served, and our communities become stronger and healthier.”

At YouthZone, we have built a non-profit to support parenting figures, their families, and their adolescences. We offer parent counseling and education services, as well as family resources. YouthZone provides comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, families, and communities. If you would like to learn more about how YouthZone can help you and your family, please give YouthZone a call at 970-945-9300. If you would like to support your community through volunteerism or financial contribution, please visit

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