Her life is full because the work Arlene Hirschfeld does is very personal. It’s part of a value system she learned from her parents, shaped for herself, passed on to her children and generously shares with the Denver community.
Hirschfeld has fond memories of growing up in Denver. She used to trick-or-treat at the house she lives in, which is only about 12 blocks from where she was raised. Nevertheless, this hometown girl has traveled the globe, reached out to people a world away and taken an active role in making Denver what it is today. She is passionate about the city, its people and loves living where Rocky Mountain peaks reach for the sky—an apt metaphor for the scope of her volunteer service. Since the early eighties, Hirschfeld has been recognized annually—often by more than one organization—for her contributions to Denver, to Colorado and beyond. Meetings, phone calls and following-up define her days. “Barry (her husband) jokes that we will go out to dinner and I come home with four things to do—call this one and connect them with that one, do that and do this. I come home with all these assignments that I give myself,” she laughs.
Both Arlene and Barry’s families have been in Denver for generations. The couple has known each other all their lives and while they were buddies in the early years—he was a friend of her brother’s—she admits to having had a crush on him. Hirschfeld says, even at an early age, her husband was “involved, aware of the bigger picture, very sophisticated, fun and a wonderful person with a great heart and the same values.” Married 49 years, they’ve raised two sons, welcomed daughters-in-law and grandchildren, and they value being with family above anything else.
Advancing Denver from both a business and humanitarian perspective, Barry took over the reins of the family enterprise, A. B. Hirschfeld Press, and has been involved in real estate development since his early 20s. Like his wife, he sits on a number of boards. He helped establish the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, SCFD, and has been recognized many times for his dedication to community involvement. Arlene and Barry share an interest in a number of causes, but each has their own projects, too.
The Junior League of Denver, JLD, has had a powerful impact on Hirschfeld. During her provisional year, she was introduced to the inner workings of the city and many of Denver’s institutions in ways she had not experienced before. She served as president in 1986-87 and has been a sustaining member since 1988. “The Junior League taught me so much: running meetings and organizations, dealing with conflict and change. We were always encouraged to take risks in the League. I never thought of myself as a fundraiser, but they wanted me to do that job and supported me. I was able to learn different things in a mentoring environment. In 2014, I was the honorary chair of the Journey Fundraising Event,” she recalls. “To see these committed young women doing good work is thrilling. No question about it. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing without my training in the Junior League.”
Hirschfeld has always been active in the Jewish community and chaired the board of trustees of the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, now known as JEWISHcolorado, like her father before her. The group’s mission is to support and sustain the Jewish community in Denver, Israel and around the globe. She has held a number of positions at the Rose Community Foundation, including chairing the board from 2006-2008 and remains a member of the Philanthropic Services Committee. Hirschfeld sits on the executive board of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation which supports the work of the Barbara Davis Center at Anschutz Campus, University of Colorado School of Medicine. A founding member of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, representing the Junior League of Denver, she supports the advancement of opportunity and self-sufficiency for women and girls in the state by helping to identify positive approaches to the challenging issues so many face. She is an emeritus member of the board of trustees of the Anti-Defamation League and is a member of the board of the Colorado Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.
Continuing to expand her own knowledge base and helping others do the same, Hirschfeld was fascinated by a lecture that examined women’s relationships to their religious traditions. This led to membership on the Dean’s Council at the Harvard University Divinity School and the founding of the Women’s Studies in Religion program, Colorado Steering Committee in 1993.
A member of the Denver Art Museum’s board of trustees since 1995, she calls herself a frustrated artist and “not very good.” That aside, she takes great pride in the museum and its incredible contribution to Denver’s array of cultural venues, as well as the roles she plays in strategic alliances, marketing and development, including co-chairing the capital campaign for the Hamilton Building.
Providing leadership, serving in an advisory capacity, raising funds, overseeing stewardship and contributing financial support to these and a long list of other causes is Hirschfeld’s way of giving back. Connecting people with those who need assistance is one of her greatest joys and strongest skills. “It’s great for the person and for the organization,” she confirms. “Though something might not be my personal passion, if I know of a good fit, I can’t wait to get them together.” She also understands the importance of inspiring and fostering young philanthropists who will have an impact on the community and the world in the coming years.
And when things don’t go as smoothly as she might like, she takes a deep breath and lets things settle, then thoughtfully examines the issue and, often with the help of the group, finds a workable solution. She credits another JLD past president with imparting this “go slow to go fast” strategy. She clearly understands that having respect, listening, contributing ideas and understanding that other people’s opinions are important are essential to moving a project forward. “Everyone has something to contribute. It’s the monitor at school and the volunteer that goes around the neighborhood. This makes our world work,” she explains. Using the Denver Art Museum as an example, Hirschfeld praises the more than 500 volunteers who lend their support, as well as those who volunteer in great numbers at other organizations across the city. “We couldn’t do it without them. The power of one is just so important, yet one person can’t do it all. There is value in numbers.”
One of the highlights of Hirschfeld’s public life was being named to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006. That recognition always reminds her of a meaningful quote by author and clergyman Edward Everett Hale that a friend passed along to her: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Hirschfeld strongly believes in gratitude, putting the most into every day and doing one’s best. Her parents emphasized respect, living up to your potential, the effort is as important as the outcome and family comes first. These lessons are tightly woven into the fabric of Hirschfeld’s life. If you ask her, she will say her parents and great-grandmother, a neighborhood organizer, passed the “get involved” gene to her. “I love people and want to help them be all they can be,” she says. “At the same time, that helps me be all I can be.”
BIO: Marge D. Hansen is a Broomfield, Colorado-based freelance writer/editor and a regular contributor to Colorado Expression. Her articles appear in a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites.
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