Good Neighbor Debra Parmenter: Passion for Giving

American Cancer Society, Alzheimer's Association, the Women's Resource Center, and more

The nights in Durango, Colo., can be dramatic. When the moon is high, the western

slope of the La Plata Mountains is silhouetted against an inky blue sky.

Two years ago, some 500 of the town’s residents took shifts walking in an all-night vigil to raise hope, awareness, and money for their friends and neighbors battling cancer. A handful of the participants began walking at 8 p.m., when the vigil started, and didn’t stop until eight the next morning. Few people were surprised that Debra Parmenter, GRI, associate broker of Coldwell Banker Heritage House, REALTORS, was one of them.

For many, the 24-year real estate vet is the conscience of this alpine town of 20,000, and it’s not because she walks through the night on others’ behalf—it’s because she inspires others to walk with her.

“Debra has a look,” says Sandy Cooper, 2001 president of the Durango Association of REALTORS, “that says, ‘We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to our community; we receive sevenfold what we give.’ People respond to that.”

People have been responding to Parmenter since she settled in Durango more than 25 years ago, and now community activists rely on her to drive participation in a dozen causes, from homelessness to abused spouses to a concert hall for her alma mater, Fort Lewis College.

She’s been recruited to head or sit on the board of a half dozen local organizations, including an Adopt-a-Family chapter, which she helped launch in the late 1980s; the Durango Women’s Resource Center; and the Fort Lewis College Foundation.

She’s also played a major role in other local and national organizations, including the Four Corners Health Care Center, the Durango Foundation for Educational Excellence, the Alzheimers Association, the American Cancer Society, and the local school district.

“Literally thousands of people have benefited from Debra’s efforts,” says John Gamble, director of the Durango Community Shelter.

In just the past 16 months, Parmenter contributed some 400 hours and almost $20,000 to a dozen causes and was the driving force behind 3,000 volunteer hours and $50,000 in contributions from others, says Cooper.

The figures are impressive, but they don’t do justice to the empathy that drives her activism, say her colleagues. As much as anyone can, she says, she feels what it’s like to be homeless, helpless, or aging.

As she watched her own mother age, for example, Parmenter was saddened that her mom could no longer play the piano. So Parmenter had a woman make a tape playing songs her mother used to play. “Listening to those songs made such a difference to my mother,” Parmenter says.

“We as a community have to share time with our seniors,” she says. “They have so much wisdom and warmth to give. We can figure out a way to engage them, even if it’s as simple as sharing music that’s special to them.”

For Parmenter, the value of sharing was instilled at an early age. “We didn’t have much money,” she says, “but if my mother met someone at Christmas in worse circumstances than we were in, she’d always invite that person to our house.”

Parmenter has followed the same road. What makes her journey so easy, she says, is the generosity of the REALTORS in Durango, who can be counted on to lead the community in giving time and donations to causes. And no one’s better than Parmenter at employing the look that turns that giving spirit into action.

How to contact Debra Parmenter

Debra Parmenter, GRI
Coldwell Banker Heritage House
785 Main Ave.
Durango, Colo. 81301
tel: 970/259-3333
fax: 970/259-2919

Durango Area Association of REALTORS®
125 East 32nd Street
Durango, Colo. 81301
tel: 970/247-9604
fax: 970/385-5205

Grant money to be divided amongst:

American Cancer Society
3801 Main Av.
Durango, Colo. 81301

Durango Arts Center
802 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, Colo. 81301

Fort Lewis College Foundation
1000 Rim Drive
Durango, Colo. 81301

Four Corners Health Care Center
2911 Junction St.
Durango, Colo. 81301

Music in the Mountains Goes to School
P.O. Box 3751
Durango, Colo. 81301

Volunteers of America
P.O. Box 2107
Durango, Colo. 81301
970/259-1021 (office and fax)

Women's Resource Center
723 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, Colo. 81301