Inaugural Community Hero Award finalists announced

A rancher, a musician, and a behind-the-scenes advocate selected for their work helping the community.
Susan Jones, Chase Lockhart, and Isabel Zumel are the three finalists for KHOL’s inaugural Community Hero Award (Courtesy photos and Natalie Shilati/KHOL)

by | Jun 12, 2023 | People

What makes a community hero? That’s the question we recently asked Jackson Hole residents, who nominated 21 locals who make a difference in our community day in, day out.

Susan Jones, Chase Lockhart and Isabel Zumel are the three finalists for KHOL’s inaugural Community Hero Award. The winner will be chosen by KHOL’s advisory board and announced on June 20 at KHOL’s 15-year anniversary celebration at The Center for the Arts. 

Below are their stories: 

Susan Jones — bringing musical joy to Jackson Hole

Music teacher Susan Jones has inspired numerous residents young and old to pick up an instrument, stick with it and discover new passions. Those that know her style of teaching say she strikes a chord that changes many students’ worlds.

With a ukulele in hand, Susan Jones stands in front of her Jam 55 students, a music class specifically for people over the age of 55. 

“As much as I just love every instrument, I love all genres of music,” Jones said. “I love everything about it. It’s just, it’s in me.” 

Susan Jones stands at the front of her Jam55 class, leading the 55 and over group of musicians through songs. (Natalie Shilati/KHOL)

For nearly two decades, Jones has helped foster the music community in Jackson and helped people discover their musical side, especially those who didn’t know they had it in them.

“There’s millions of people in this world who kind of hang up the hat, ‘Oh, my child will play. I won’t ever play again,’” Jones said. “It’s like, ‘no, that’s not how it works!’” 

“If you want to play music, it’s accessible to everyone. You just have to have that right person, who says, ‘You can do it. You can do it!’ And I’ll show you how you can do it.” – Susan Jones

Amanda Flosbach was one of 15 people who nominated Jones for the Community Hero Award. As the executive director at Teton Music School, Flosbach works closely with Jones and said she’s witnessed the impact Jones has on thousands of students.

“To see people really come to life in a way and see in themselves a possibility,” said Flosbach, “she’s opening that door through music and also just through the incredibly generous and respectful way that she interacts with all humans.”

Jones said her philosophy on teaching music is that everyone is different and the key to learning is to keep it fun.

“You don’t want to feel like you’re being judged. You want to feel like, ‘I can play music, and I don’t care about anything else but enjoying myself,’” Jones said. “And when you do that, you’re going to make some great music.” 

Jones says it’s her mission to spread hope, joy and healing through music. She encourages anyone interested to reach out to the Teton Music School or attend her Jam55 class, saying that anyone in Jackson Hole can find musical joy.

Chase Lockhart — the rancher working to give back

Chase Lockhart is a member of one of Jackson’s last remaining cattle ranching families. He runs the Lockhart Cattle Company and volunteers with Teton County Search and Rescue, helping those who need help in the backcountry and says his mission is to keep Jackson’s ranching and community culture intact. 

Locals are probably familiar with the Lockhart ranch, with its cattle and horses grazing three miles south of town. 

Lockhart said he’s lived through Jackson’s evolution. Walking through a field on a sunny spring day, he said his mission is to make sure the ranches here don’t disappear.

“There’s no secret there, ranches have been getting sold for the last 40 years, and people are getting out of the cow business and not into it,” Lockhart said. “I’m going the exact opposite direction. We’re trying to grow and hold on to the ranch for another hundred years. That’s kind of my goal. Success to me is dying with some cows.” 

While Jackson’s ranches may not be a direct reason skiers and tourists from all over the world come to town, Lockhart said they help create our town’s environment. Some of the benefits he noted are open spaces, community character and local beef.

Andrew Munz, left, nominated Chase Lockhart, right for KHOL’s inaugural Community Hero Award. (Natalie Shilati/KHOL)

We value that, right?” Lockhart said. “We value things that ranching brings to the community. And I’m in a position to carry the torch on another generation.” 

Because Lockhart also shares his time volunteering with Teton County Search and Rescue, this means at a moment’s notice taking off to find someone who’s lost or hurt in the mountains. 

Local writer and comedian Andrew Munz grew up with Lockhart and nominated him for the community hero award. On a hike through the ranch, he said it’s inspiring that his friend is willing to take time out of his personal life.

“To strap up and get in a helicopter, go look for people who are lost and help them out — to me that is incredibly inspiring,” Munz said, “because I think all of us can get so wrapped up in what it is that we do and what is our job, what is our 9 to 5?” 

Lockhart said he’s just an everyday guy trying to give back to his community.

“You can see when there’s a need and you act,” Lockhart said. “I see a lot of people that moved to Jackson [be] like ‘What can Jackson give me?’ and ‘How many days in the mountains can I have?’ and ‘How many days of powder skiing can I have?’ And the only way that this community stays this cool place is if people are there to prop it up.”

Lockhard said being a local shouldn’t be determined by the amount of time you’ve lived in Jackson, the property you own or the life milestones you’ve had here, but rather how you participate in the community and how you look out for your friends and people around you.

“I think that being a local means that you have some responsibility to ensure that the community is as good or better than you left it.” – Chase Lockhart

Isabel Zumel — the behind-the-scenes advocate

Those who know Isabel Zumel say she makes a big impact in our community through her work to ensure families and kids in Jackson have opportunities to thrive. She supports Jackson residents who face financial and cultural challenges, and she’s often behind the scenes helping people get credit, a bank account and educational opportunities. 

Zumel’s work began at the Teton County Library where she noticed there was a gap in kids participating in extracurricular activities. So, she started programs to help them get involved.

“My mission is to make sure that these opportunities are within reach,” Zumel said. 

Zumel wears many hats in Jackson. She also helps families with interpretation and immigration assistance. And she’s the director of education and outreach at the local non-profit One22, where she runs the Youth and Activity Scholarship Program to help kids get into summer camps, outdoor activities and internships. 

It feels really good when somebody feels connected to a program that their kid is so excited about, or it’s like the one camp that they really want to go to,” Zumel said. “And then just the joy from the parents and the child that they’re able to do that.” 

Jordan Rich works closely with Zumel at One22 and nominated her for KHOL’s Community Hero Award.  

“A drive for justice is really at her core. The impact of her work and her dedication over her entire career here in Jackson has really moved the needle for those marginalized populations.” – Jordan Rich

Isabel Zumel, center, with her daughter, Malaya Maligalig, left, and husband, Joey Maligalig, right (Natalie Shilati/KHOL)

And Zumel said she’s seen a change.

I feel like there’s a cultural shift that has happened in the last 10 years that I feel really proud of helping contribute to,” she said.

Zumel said success stories help keep her energized to work on these different programs. 

“Sometimes I’m flipping through the paper or listening to the radio and I hear about a kid who is now doing something and I remember the name of that child,” Zumel said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re doing that now. They’re going where?’”  

Zumel said she wants to break barriers and create spaces where families who need help are welcomed and supported to make Jackson a better community for all. 

KHOL staff contributed to this story. 

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