A dark night in 1996 helps bring light to difficult situation.

Posted on January 01, 2019

Giving Back Every Day

Paula Palmateer is a tireless volunteer. She’s a rock in the community and seems to have boundless energy and goodwill. One of her main focuses is leading the board of Red Ribbon Project, a powerful nonprofit that provides hope and positive prevention.

Red Ribbon Project celebrated its 20th anniversary a few years back. In that time, it has stayed true to its mission while adding programs and working to benefit valley residents.

It was April 1996 when 20 locals met at the Avon Public Library to discuss forming an AIDS/HIV group; four months later RRP was born. This is around the time when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV+. His public announcement spurred the conversation about HIV and AIDS, and as a result HIV and AIDS organizations were sprouting up to help deal with the epidemic.

RRP’s mission is to provide awareness, education and support around HIV/AIDS (this was our old mission). Perhaps use this sentence: RRP’s vision is a community that values sexual health. “I’ve been honored to be part of this life-enhancing organization since its inception. Prior, there wasn’t any conversation, prevention, education or community support in regards to sexual health,” Paula has said.

“Ultimately, the organization set out to educate and create awareness about AIDS and HIV. Over time, we evolved to taken on many different aspects of youth risk behavior education and prevention. We help fill a unique niche in the community providing free HIV Testing and free education programs in the schools. Early on, we were able positively impact a family who had a child who was born HIV+. It really affected all of us and we recommitted to the need for an organization like ours,” she added.

Sure, talking about tough topics is, well, tough. But discussion is prevention. RRP stayed true to its mission while being flexible enough to provide the support for the community: offering free HIV testing as part of the National Free Testing Day. Because of Paula’s passion and persistence, several free testing days now take place throughout the year, testing approximately 150 uninsured and underinsured people from all walks of life.

Education is the best prevention. For RRP prevention includes distributing condoms and providing classes to middle and high school students on HIV, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention. Paula walks the walk, distributing condoms throughout the valley, visiting bars and restaurants and being a willing listener and always an advocate

Thanks to her tenacity, RRP has a paid executive director, hosts a fabulous fundraiser annually and has grown enough to increase educational offerings to hundreds of students.

Classes are age appropriate and build from year to year, giving children a safe place to ask those awkward-seeming questions, learn and develop.


The Red Ribbon Project focuses on empowering students through education and prevention. Age- and content-appropriate classes are offered to children in grades 5 through 12.

What else has RRP in recent years… all from the start in 1996?

RRP offers programs as early as fifth grade because there is compelling evidence that early intervention with young children is a promising approach to preventing drug use and other problem behaviors.

The Youth Skills Building program focuses on the prevention and intervention of youth participating in risk behaviors. RRP's focus on sexual health has contributed to a significant decline of almost 60% in teen births in Eagle County.

As part of a comprehensive substance-use prevention plan, and in partnership with ERYC, RRP supports and helps coordinate the facilitation of evidence-based programs including a Botvin LifeSkills program appropriate for students K-12th grade and a teenage-pregnancy prevention program delivered to ninth grade students. Evidence-based curricula, coordinated since 2012 at various local schools, are designed to help students develop self-control and communication skills, acquire resources that help them resist drug use, improve decision-making strategies, and develop the motivation to not use drugs.

In 2017-2018, RRP served over 824 youth through in-school prevention curricula at area middle and high schools, approximately 1,545 youth through puberty and maturation programs at area middle schools and an evening for parents on “How to Talk to Your Teens about Sex.”

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Eagle River Youth Coalition - Making Youth a Community Priority
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Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4613 | Edwards, CO 81632
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