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It seems unbelievable to say — Ark Valley Voice (AVV) turns four years old today. Happy Birthday Us — and Happy Birthday loyal readers, who have read us, shared us with their friends and family, cheered us on, and supported us. You mean the world to us.

We began with a simple premise to offer unbiased, fact-based news, available to everyone, in support of our mission — that truth should have a voice. Our first published stories on our digital platform dropped on March 18, 2018.

Some 6,119 news stories later, publishing six-days-a-week, 312 days-a-year, we continue that mission. Our readership goes far beyond this valley, surpassing 300,000 this past year. Some 64 percent of our readers read us on their mobile phones.

We have collected 12 Colorado Press Association awards for our work, and been invited into the Colorado News Collaborative. We are members of both the Buena Vista and Salida Chambers and the Salida Business Alliance.

We have received foundation grants from the Gates Family Foundation, The Colorado Media Project, a Colorado Water Fellowship, and a grant from the Chaffee County Community Foundation.

During that time we have funded and trained six journalism internships – five of them from colleges and universities across the U.S., and one from a local high school. We expect to train at least one more intern this summer. We do this to support our goal to prepare the next generation of journalists, to ensure that freedom of the press remains a bulwark of democracy.

As we all know, the past four years have been a rollercoaster of events, with even global news having impacts on our valley. A global pandemic,  unprecedented development growth and a housing crisis, controversial elections, the rise of right-wing politics, a changing climate, wildfire danger, and water woes, overuse of our recreational resources, and now a war in Ukraine — all of these and more mean that AVV has blended our local news with developments from outside our beautiful valley; sharing with you not just what is happening, but why it might matter to you.

We are always open to reader comments and suggestions. We publish letters to the editor and guest commentaries, and we try hard to shine an unbiased light on what and why things are happening.

We decided from the beginning to make AVV free-of-charge to readers so that economic circumstances and firewalls did not prevent your right to information that can help you make informed decisions about your lives and futures.

That decision has not made us rich; in fact, it has meant that sometimes for weeks or months on end, we journalists have served this community taking no wages. To be honest, donations, grants, and advertising have not covered the actual costs of producing investigative stories and ensuring the transparency of local government.

So here is where we ask for reader’s help. In honor of our fourth birthday, we ask that you might consider a donation this month to help fund our next quarter. All 100 percent of donations — every penny — goes to pay AVV journalists.

If you value fact-based news, if you have valued our service to this community, we hope that you will consider a gift to ensure that “truth has a voice.”