How often during the holiday season have you said, “We should give back this year. Let’s go feed the homeless.” So often, however, by the time inspiration hits and the call is placed and an answer is received…all the slots have been filled. You write a check and resolve to do better next year.
Shary Zampert, who co-founded the Kids Compassion Project with fellow Stapleton mom Erin Oltersdorf in 2015 stresses the importance of giving and teaching kids to give at an early age, but also notes, “You don’t have to have money in your pockets to give. You can give your time and skills; regardless of what your resources are, it’s important to instill compassion in our kids.”
Karissa Dahlquist, who serves as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Little Sisters of the Poor Mullen Home for the Elderly, emphasizes the importance of “taking on the heart of service” year-round by “recognizing their need rather than your own” in giving. She suggests that people call the organizations they would like to work with and ask, “Is there something I can help you with?”
The Front Porch has identified some worthy organizations around Metro Denver that will welcome your generosity, elbow grease and know-how. Each of these volunteer opportunities is family-friendly, so children can get involved. Who knows? Maybe this will light the spark of altruism or connect your child with a lifelong calling to build houses or cook family feasts.
School clubs, scout troops, athletic teams, businesses, and others can also pitch in! Be sure to check the links and call to confirm that needs have not shifted since publication.
Casa de Paz in Green Valley Ranch reunites families from around the globe who have been separated by the immigrant detention center in Aurora. Though some of their volunteer opportunities require training, other options include bringing groceries or a prepared meal, cleaning the Casa, or playing volleyball. Yes. That’s not a typo. Volleyball Internacional fees support this entirely volunteer-run organization: https://www.casadepazcolorado.org/volunteer/. Join Casa de Paz on Dec. 7 from 7-10pm to write holiday cards to people in detention.
Denver Dumb Friends League offers Pawsitive Service Day programs for kids ages 8-11 and Volunteer Day and Volunteer Club for youth ages 12-15. Details can be found at www.ddfl.org/youth-volunteering.
Family Promise of Greater Denver partners with families at risk of or experiencing homelessness. If you’d like to sponsor a family for the holidays by purchasing gifts from their wish list, please contact Mel at 303-675-0713 x104 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Habitat for Humanity builds houses with low-income families. No nailgun required.
ReStore: Younger teens (ages 14-15) can work at ReStore with an adult, and older teens can volunteer independently in the shop.
Construction: If you and your crew would rather wear tool belts, youth 14-15 can help in the production shop on Tuesdays and Saturdays and ages 16-17 can help with home repair and new construction Wednesday–Saturday.
Snacks, Tools & Planters: Kids under 14 may bring lunch or snacks to volunteers, conduct a tool drive or a Habitat ReStore drive, or build planters to welcome new homeowners. https://www.habitatmetrodenver.org/volunteer/individual/youth-opportunities/
Impact Locally serves over 5,000 people who are homeless each month. Kids can help make and distribute sack lunches; sign up here: https://www.impactlocally.org/sacklunches
Kids Compassion Project: Oltersdorf and Zampert organize a project that is engaging and kid-friendly (especially for the 8 and under set) every month. On December 1, you can join them to wrap presents for a local charity from 10-noon at the Hangar at Stanley Marketplace. For more details contact: Shary@kidscompassionproject.org
Little Sisters of the Poor Mullen Home for the Aged has a variety of current needs including event help, photographers, meal servers, drivers, companions and translators. See: http://www.littlesistersofthepoordenver.org/volunteer/
Mango House serves our refugee neighbors and is always in need of diapers and personal hygiene items for its Basic Needs Pantry. Consider organizing a drive or taking up a collection. They are moving to a new location on E. Colfax in November or December, so be sure to call before dropping off goodies: 303.900.8639. http://1532galena.com/
Project Helping is your one-stop website, with kid-friendly volunteer opportunities around the Metro area and organized by date, so you can easily plug into an existing need based on your calendar and interests. Their website also includes signup sheets so you will actually be baking bread, packing medical supplies, or serving dinner, not sitting idly because of an overabundance of volunteers. Go to: www.projecthelping.org and click on “Colorado” for a list of opportunities.
Sacred Heart House of Denver shelters women and children who are homeless. They appreciate volunteers who can bring a meal or organize a project and drop it off.
Making–and Sharing—Family Dinner: Families or small groups (of 5-6) can prepare at home and serve at the House a meal for 20 residents. They ask that folks sit and break bread and engage with residents, and help with some after-dinner childcare as the moms in residence are completing their chores.
Special Projects: Let your creativity soar! Sacred Heart House gives new residents welcome boxes with basic hygiene items and birthday boxes for birthdays. If you feel inspired, your scout troop, small business, block, or book club can collect items, put them together and deliver them: https://sacredhearthouse.com/volunteer-homeless-shelter-denver/
Senior Hub, Inc., offers support and referral services for senior citizens in the Metro area. Volunteers help deliver meals to homebound seniors, walk and brush seniors’ pet companions, visit seniors living on their own, organize a holiday drive, or donate to the giving tree. Contact Joanne Glaviano, Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com or see: https://seniorhub.org/our-agencyour-agency/volunteer-opportunities/
If you still haven’t found just the right cause, Stapleton mom Rachna Bocsi maintains a Facebook group that compiles kid-friendly volunteer activities year-round; you can find it via the Facebook search option: “Volunteering with Kids in the Denver Metro Area.”
Whatever your cause, cultivating this spirit of generosity and engagement can be transformative. Sarah Jackson, who established the Casa de Paz in 2012 out of her one-bedroom apartment, began with a simple vision to help. This vision has sustained the Casa and allowed her all-volunteer organization to help over 1,438 individuals. As Sarah says, “one simple act of love at a time” is all that is needed to change the world.