In the spring of 2008, Audrey Anna Charchalis was a contractor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, assisting with animal disease surveillance programs in Fort Collins.
As with many governmental organizations at the time, the USDA was looking to cut costs.
“I found myself being the sole contractor in the building,” Charchalis said. “No one ever told me they were going to have to cut my spot, but when you’re the last one left, you get the feeling that it’s going to happen eventually.”
At the time, the Craig native was four years removed from Colorado State University in Fort Collins where she earned a double major in animal science and agricultural business, and a minor in Spanish.
She put her degrees to use, first working for Leachman Cattle — a northern Colorado company that sells bulls and heifers — and later at the USDA compiling disease data sent from scientists in the field.
But, an uncertain job future forced Charchalis to begin exploring other options. She just wasn’t sure which path to take.
“I came home for something and had a heart-to-heart with my dad,” Charchalis saig. “I didn’t want to go back to Fort Collins.”
Through the course of that conversation, Charchalis said she and her father, Nick, talked about a variety of options, the majority of which focused on skills she had acquired in school.
Then, Nick asked her daughter what she knew about banking because his friend Dave Dempster was looking for help at Bank of Colorado.
Charchalis concedes she was hesitant about the idea and worried, even at her young age, about starting over in an industry where she had no experience.
“It was kind of the perfect storm,” Charchalis said. “I told Dave I needed to be trained and he took a chance on me. I am so thankful that he did because I wouldn’t have been given this opportunity anywhere else.”
That was three years ago.
Today, Charchalis serves as a loan officer and the bank’s mortgage specialist. She said the job has exposed her to so many things she was unaware of in the past, including how a person’s credit works and the ins and outs of a variety of loans.
But, Charchalis is humble enough to realize she doesn’t have all of the answers yet and continues to commit herself to absorbing as much about the industry as possible.
“I’m always trying to learn how to do things better, faster and more efficient — to be a pro,” Charchalis said. “I don’t ever want to have to tell someone that I don’t know the answer to their questions, no matter how obscure.”
In addition to her duties at work, Charchalis volunteers with a number of community boards. She is currently transitioning from her position with the Chamber Ambassadors to the Craig Chamber of Commerce; she is the outgoing secretary for St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church; and has dedicated the little free time she has left to getting the Craig/Moffat One-Stop Business Incubator started at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
However, Charchalis said she cherishes the time she spends volunteering on the Moffat County Fair Board the most.
“I was into 4H growing up and I showed lambs and horses primarily,” Charchalis said. “I love volunteering for the fair board because it was such a huge part of my life growing up and I think it really shaped me as a person.
“It’s cool to be apart of that on a different level and watch kids grow and get better at what they do.”
Charchalis said she received the volunteer bug from her family, who all live in Craig, including younger siblings Mike, 27, and Angie, 21; her parents Nick and Ann; and grandparents Howard, Audrey, Demitra and her late grandfather Gus.
“It’s not that anyone ever told me that I had to volunteer, but I can’t imagine not contributing to the things that I believe in,” Charchalis said. “Community service is a big deal.”
Charchalis said Demitra and Gus emigrated to Craig from Greece. They were farmers in the old country and Charchalis used to joke with them about why they settled in Moffat County.
“I used to always ask if they broke down,” Charchalis said. “If you’re looking for fertile soil and places to raise livestock, I always imagined there must have been better places than Craig.
“I didn’t get it until I had a chance to visit. It looked exactly the same. The rocks were the same, the sagebrush was the same. It finally made sense.”
Although Charchalis’ journey home was wildly different from the circumstances that brought her family to Craig, she knows this is where she wants to be.
“I’m lucky to have all of my family right here and I’ve been given a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have received anywhere else,” Charchalis said. “This is clearly where I am supposed to be. Craig is a good spot.”
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