Josh Freed, 31, with his wife Christine and kids. Courtesy photo.

Josh Freed, 31, with his wife Christine and kids.
Courtesy photo.

By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(December 3, 2013)  A decade ago, young Montrose leaders seemed to be in short supply—the phenomenon known as “brain drain” lured many of the region’s most gifted youth to greater opportunities elsewhere. When two-term city councilor Erica Lewis Kennedy stepped up to serve as Montrose mayor in 2005-2006, she became the youngest mayor in Colorado history at age 26—and harbinger of a new generation that is not only choosing to build lives and raise families here, but to engage and give back to the place they call home.
They are parents, community members, business owners and non-profit board members, an emerging generation of young movers and shakers that is not waiting for “the future” to arrive, but that is focused instead on bringing about change here and now.  We chose to highlight just a few of these outstanding young people—but a glance around Montrose on any given day reveals that there are many, many more.
Anyone who knows Josh Freed knows how hard it can be to keep up with him. At 31, Freed is already the founder of a successful ad agency—he recently left his longtime day job as an investment advisor to work full time for Abrams Advertising, the rapidly growing marketing firm he founded five years ago. Freed, who has volunteered on behalf of numerous causes and community boards, currently serves as President of the board of directors for the non-profit Sharing Ministries and operates the My Telluride Vacation web site. He and his wife also recently celebrated the birth of their third child.
“Nothing I do is done for the recognition,” he said, “Though I am proud of the attention the food bank is getting. The prospects for serving our entire region are exciting. This is not just a handout; we decided as a board to start playing more “offense” as we saw our numbers increasing and food decreasing.”
A former manager of Ridgway’s Chipeta Sun Lodge and past board member of the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, Freed currently serves on the City of Montrose Planning Commission and has been instrumental in expansion efforts at the Montrose Botanical Gardens.
“I am excited to be able to see the efforts of the past five years pay off in a small, local business that has gone nationwide,” he said. “It has been a challenging year of growth, with the birth of our son, and of loss—I am still mourning the loss of my closest friend, Nick Cappanno.
“In the end, it is all about growth,” he said. “Growing my business, and growing my family—because there is really nothing in the whole world I would rather do than spend time with the kids.”
For Danio Farnese, 27, the need for better broadband service in his own home inspired this young entrepreneur to start his own company, Elite Broadband five years ago.
“We needed better service, and so did our neighbors,” said Farnese, whose recent accomplishments include bringing improved Internet service to rural areas with few other options. Today, Elite Broadband serves a territory ranging from Ridgway to Montrose, Olathe and Delta, and employs five.
“We are now 20 times faster, and we have quadrupled our coverage area,” Farnese said.
And for the future?
“We plan to continue doing what we do best,” he said.
For Abbie Brewer, whose career began when she started a successful paint business with her father as a fresh high school graduate, creating a better world for other young people has always been a core value. Today, Brewer, 35, is a seasoned non-profit director who currently heads the Montrose Farmers Market.
Though she has many accomplishments to reflect on, including parenting four children, Brewer is very pleased with the progress that the community market has achieved over the past year.
“I am proud that I was a part of the Montrose Farmers Market this year,” she said. “I am honored that the MFM Board of Directors and the community allowed me to manage more than 24 events and help more than 32 vendors bring local goods to market in the heart of Downtown Montrose.
“Together, our community helped to strengthen our agricultural roots this year.”
By focusing on locally grown foods and products, the market has become a source of strength for local growers as well as those who prefer wholesome, healthful meals. In addition to shopping opportunities, the market draws families seeking some fun on Saturday mornings with events that included hula hooping demonstrations, local musicians, children’s activities and celebrations of local crops in season. Brewer has even been known to dress up as a bee to celebrate the role of pollinators in agriculture.
“Our ‘little’ market has great potential to benefit our community health,” she said.
Kendra Gallegos Morrow has local roots that stretch back for generations—both of her grandfathers were hard rock miners, extracting a living from the heart of the San Juan Mountains. When it was time for college in 1994, Kendra left Western Colorado, eventually landing on Martha’s Vineyard Island, where she stayed from 1998 to 2005. When she returned to Montrose, she opened the Canyon Creek Bed and Breakfast (820 East Main Street), which has since become a center of music, comedy, special events and community life.
In addition to welcoming visitors to the area and hosting parties, however, Kendra continues to honor the traditional values with which she was raised. Since returning home she has become a wife and mother, and served for years on the board of directors for Main in Motion. In keeping with the spirit of the rural community in which she was raised, she quietly lends aid and comfort wherever it is needed. Krista recently joined forces with friends Krista Montalvo and Juliet Carr to found Three Graces, a series of monthly events for women.
“I decided to start weeding out the things that no longer served or made me happy,” she said. “I realized something was missing—a sisterhood, a women’s community. So we started a community for women of all ages to come together to create magic!”
Each month, Three Graces host an event at Canyon Creek Bed & Breakfast, with a central theme, as well as guest speakers and teachers.
“We will also be doing spontaneous hikes, snowshoeing, and a book club,” she said. “If you would like more information about staying at the Bed and Breakfast or one of the Woman’s events, just check out http://www.canyoncreekbedandbreakfast.com/ or call at 970-249-2886.”
Krista Montalvo is just 36, but she is known throughout the region for her business endeavors—including Ginger Magnolia Catering and the customized line of hand-sewn “Marmie Bags.” A past Main in Motion volunteer, Krista  now spends her days home schooling her three young daughters and enjoying the companionship of her husband and high-school sweetheart Andy.
Her involvement with Three Graces is a natural outgrowth of these experiences, she notes.
“I think that I do the things that I do because I have learned to listen,” Montalvo said. “I have always been a doer and I have been involved in lots of things my whole life.”
As she reached her mid-thirties, Montalvo learned to listen to her own heart.
“I’ve really culled out a lot of wasted energy in my life, which leaves a lot of room for intention and mindfulness,” she said. “When you start filling up your own cup, then there begins to be plenty of love to go around to others. My goal is to share and be a better listener for others. I want to bridge the gap of generations in our community of women.”
During life’s inevitable rough patches, Montalvo—a native Southerner– has sought and found comfort from her grandmother’s generation.
“Since I live 2000 miles from home, I really needed mother and grandmother figures for support even if they weren’t blood-related. It’s a powerful thing having an older generation to just sit with you and just BE,” she said. “I hope that I can create a space for women to connect in that way.”
The recent decision to take on the challenge of educating her own daughters was not easy, but it has already proven to be profoundly rewarding, she noted.
“I have a goal to create a simpler family life within my own immediate family,” Montalvo said. “I have started homeschooling, which has been a decision that I have finally listened to and accepted. I am looking forward to the wonderful changes that it will create in my family. After only three weeks I can already see the difference in the relationship with my three little girls. They are even more affectionate and so much more engaging with me and my husband. I look forward to all the blessings of the upcoming 2014 year.”
A lifelong local, Jamie Berndt is an accomplished creative–a talented musician, writer, poster designer and history buff. He is also a business owner, having started the popular Riddled Raven Coffee & Espresso (8 Grand Avenue in Sampler Square) with his wife Sarah. The welcoming space, which opened earlier this year beside the space formerly occupied by the couple’s Riddled Raven Gift Shop, has quickly become known for outstanding food, great coffee drinks and a literary atmosphere. You are as likely to find the latest copy of the Writers’ Digest on the coffee table here as you are the most recent Rolling Stone.
For Jamie, a longtime food professional who also works at Andy Goldman’s Rocky Mountain Fish & Oyster, the new business is a perfect fit.
“I will always look back on this year as the beginning of the mid-point in the novel of my life,” Berndt said. “With already establishing the characters around me and their stories, I’m obligated to choose my own way. The beginning has all led to where I am now and I would say that my main accomplishment this year has been understanding that I have most of the control over the ending.”
Other young Montrose professionals to watch include a growing number of gifted entrepreneurs, artists and volunteers drawn to the unique climate, cultural opportunities and lifestyle of the Uncompahgre Valley. Some other notable members of this community include: Emily Smith, Director of the Warrior Resource Center created by Melanie Kline’s nationally recognized non-profit, Welcome Home Montrose. As a military spouse, Emily has given more than a year of her life to her volunteer position, helping to create a welcoming and empowering resource center for wounded warriors and veterans of all wars; and Sarah Curtis, Mobility Manager for All Points Transit. When the regional transit non-profit lost its longtime executive director earlier this year, Curtis stepped up to the plate and capably managed the organization with senior accountant and board member Darcy Arnold for months until a new director could be found.
Originally from Massachusetts, Sarah moved to Colorado in 2001 to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, where she studied sociology, political science and history. After she graduated in 2005, Sarah found that she had fallen in love with Southwestern Colorado and did not want to leave. Eventually she found work in Denver with the Mile High Business Alliance, one of the state’s first “Local First” non-profit organizations. “I built the organization from the ground up, focusing on media campaigns, neighborhood programs and events that supported and promoted locally-owned businesses in Denver,” Curtis said. “In doing so, I found a love for promotions planning, event coordination, outreach, community and relationship building…but I still missed the mountains, and Southwest Colorado.”
In 2011, Sarah moved to Montrose with her husband, who had taken a job here. began her work as Mobility Manager for All Points Transit, a position that combines outreach work with strategic planning and the opportunity to help those in need.  “I love going to work every day because I know it makes a difference!” Sarah said, noting that her future goals are to continue to work on projects that positively impact the community, while building her already significant leadership skills.
“Never stop learning!” she said.