Former public health director, Outbreak of Kindness recognized for excellence in health service

Sky-Hi News staff report
Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue gives Grand County’s first vaccine to Public Health Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke in Decemeber. Belew-LaDue has been named one of the recipients of this year’s Award for Excellence in Health Service from the Grand County Rural Health Network.
McKenna Harford /

The Grand County Rural Health network has named Brene Belew-LaDue and the Outbreak of Kindness as their year’s recipients of the 2021 Award for Excellence in Health Service.

Each year, the Grand County Rural Health Network honors healthcare pioneers who truly impact the health and lives of individuals and the community. The network’s board of directors chose to award one individual and a group of volunteers this year that both showed dedication to putting the health of the community first.

Brene Belew-LaDue served as Grand County’s Public Health Director for more than 17 years and worked with the health department for 26 years. In that time, she and her team managed pertussis and flu outbreaks, oversaw response to one of the largest tuberculosis exposures in the state, and responded to and vaccinated over 900 people over a single weekend in response to an outbreak of Hepatitis A.

“Brene tirelessly advocates for people experiencing barriers to health and always puts the health of the community at the forefront of decision-making,” the network said in a release. “As public health director, her commitment to limiting the spread and impact of COVID-19 in Grand County often required extremely difficult and often unpopular decisions.”

Belew-LaDue currently serves on the Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce to ensure that all groups — regardless of race, ethnicity, ability and other factors — have the facts to make informed decisions about the safety of vaccines for their families while ensuring access to vaccines.

Volunteers with the Outbreak of Kindness organize donations following the rapid growth of the East Troublesome Fire in October. The grassroots volunteer effort has been recognized by the Grand County Rural Health Network for its commitment to health service through the pandemic and wildfire.
Amy Golden /

In March 2020, Grand County community members conceived of and implemented a grassroots volunteer force, the Outbreak of Kindness, to respond to COVID-19 and its economic impact. The group expanded the Church of Eternal Hills’ food pantry to provide mobile food support in every Grand County community, serving over 1,500 individuals March 2020-May 2021.

Outbreak of Kindness leaders collaborated with local professionals to train and launch a coordinator system to support people in quarantine and isolation with food and medication needs, serving nearly 200 individuals.

In October, the group pivoted in response to the East Troublesome Fire, staffing the donation and disaster assistance centers, delivering and restocking supplies at emergency lodging locations, providing transportation to evacuees, while helping secure donated items for those displaced by the fire.

This winter, Outbreak of Kindness volunteers supported vaccine clinics, providing registration support and rides. In total, at least 332 Outbreak of Kindness volunteers contributed approximately 5,000 volunteer hours to support the health and well-being of the community this past year.

The Rural Health Network’s Board of Directors said they believe the recipients’ leadership, collaborative efforts, and focus on public health best practices and evolving science illustrates the innovation and community impact this award was designated to celebrate.

Past award recipients include the Grand County COVID-19 Incident Management Team Command Staff in 2020; Sue Johnson and Katie Hornbaker in 2019; Heather Bentler and Dr. John Nichols in 2018; Wade Walker in 2017; Val Lind in 2016; Hannah Foley and Ray Jennings in 2015; Mary Jo Hargadine in 2014; and Therese McElroy in 2013.

These recipients will be recognized during the virtual fundraiser “Gratitude for Grand – Give a High Five for Health.” For more information on this event or to give a High Five during the week of September 22-29, visit

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