Editor’s Note: I write a monthly guest column for two local newspapers in Chaffee County, Colo., the Chaffee County Times (Buena Vista, Colo.) and The Mountain Mail (Salida, Colo.). This is the column I published in Oct. 2023 to kickoff the ongoing series with an introduction to the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, for which I am host, producer and photographer.

“Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of humanness, community and well-being based in Chaffee County, Colo. I’m Adam Williams, and today I’m talking with [insert name].”

That’s how I introduce each episode of the Looking Upstream podcast that I’ve been hosting for more than a year. 

“… and today I’m talking with Rick Bieterman and Katy Welter.”

“… today I’m talking with Rob and Sarah Gartzman.”

“… I’m talking with Laurie Benson.”

“… talking with Wendell Pryor.”

“… with Les Messamer.”

“… Eddie Sandoval.”

Keith Baker, U.S. Naval Commander (Retired)

Portrait by Adam Williams

There are many more podcast episodes that start like these, with a diverse range of guests from up and down Chaffee County. Have you listened to it yet? Is this the first time you’re hearing of We Are Chaffee and the Looking Upstream podcast?

We Are Chaffee (WAC) is a storytelling initiative supported by Chaffee County Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority. Since 2019, its intention has been to bring our Chaffee County community together through sharing personal stories. In video, written stories, photography, community events, audio podcast and a forthcoming documentary film. 

If you have missed out on watching the videos, they each are a bingeable few minutes in length and are available at wearechaffee.org. 

If you have missed out on listening to the life stories and perspectives shared on the Looking Upstream podcast by your neighbors, and civic and business leaders who shape this community, like those named above, there are more than 30 episodes already in the podcast archive. 

WAC highlights stories and topics that have big impacts on our community. The podcast’s name, Looking Upstream, highlights “upstream health factors” that go into making a community feel safe, healthy, vibrant and connected.

Topics have included housing affordability, physical health (e.g. outdoor activities, tick-borne disease, public health programs, Alzheimer’s), mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety), identity (e.g. race, gender), substance abuse and recovery, spirituality and faith, social and political challenges, local history, nature and environment, business and entrepreneurship, community and change.

These topics, and others, drift as undercurrents within each of our personal stories. What’s personal often is universal. So, we share stories, we relate to each other. We relate to each other, we treat each other with more respect, understanding and care when making decisions that impact our community.

This article is the introduction to an ongoing monthly column that will feature excerpts and insights from my conversations with local guests on the Looking Upstream podcast. It’s the beginning of a collaboration between WAC, the Chaffee County Times and The Mountain Mail. Each of these entities know the value of sharing stories, and educating and connecting the community. 

Portrait by Adam Williams

The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is available on podcast players (e.g. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google) and at wearechaffee.org. New episodes of Looking Upstream come out every other Tuesday. The show also airs at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 FM community radio, in Salida.

I encourage you to explore the overall WAC story-sharing initiative, in any and all its forms. Watch short videos, and go to the story and podcast episodes pages at wearechaffee.org. You’ll probably recognize some familiar faces, and be introduced to new ones, too.

You can subscribe to the WAC email newsletter via the website, and follow along on Instagram, @wearechaffeepod.

Until the next episode, like we say at We Are Chaffee, “Share stories, make change.”

Adam Williams hosts the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast every other Tuesday. All episodes of the Looking Upstream podcast, and more We Are Chaffee storytelling initiatives, are available at wearechaffee.org and on all podcast players.