Things to Do in Denver: Volunteer! | Westword

Get Out and Give Back: Ten Volunteer Opportunities in Denver

Think globally, act locally. Here's how.
Get out and do good.
Get out and do good. Lenny DiFranza at Flickr
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Denver International Airport recently put out a call for a new crop of Ambassadors to help direct travelers around the increasingly labyrinthine main terminal. And if you love challenges — and right now, the airport is full of challenges — that might be something to which you’d like to donate your time. But DIA is hardly the only place in Denver that deserves your attention.

Any number of good causes pop to mind: You could help the Denver Zoo or become a docent at any number of the fine museums in the Mile High City. There’s always a need for some extra hands at the Denver Rescue Mission, or Planned Parenthood or Junior Achievement. You could even lend a hand and a strong back to Denver Parks & Recreation and support the beauty of the city and its environment.

And there are plenty of other organizations that deserve some love — local folks who are fighting the good fight, walking the talk, and putting their passion on the line to make the city, the state and the world an incrementally better place. If you want to be one of those people, here are ten groups looking for volunteers like you:

Food Bank of the Rockies
The Food Bank of the Rockies needs what it calls “Hunger Heroes” — volunteers who can help everyone in Colorado thrive, and provide “hope for our neighbors in need.” And it needs volunteers year-round to man the kitchens, provide office or warehouse help, or fill any number of other needs.

Rainbow Alley
As the youth organization for LGBTQ Colorado and the Center on Colfax, Rainbow Alley is a “safe and brave space supporting LGBTQ youth and their allies ages 11-21.” It has planned events and support groups, but perhaps its more important function is as a drop-in center, a constant for kids who have no other place to go where they feel they can be themselves.

Women’s Bean Project
In 1989, founder Jossy Eyre was volunteering at a Denver women’s shelter when she realized that she could do more to make a lasting impact. With only “a holistic approach and $500 of her own money,” Eyre bought some beans and put two women to work. From that humble beginning grew the Women’s Bean Project, which strives to assist women toward “self-sufficiency through social enterprise.”

Denver Dumb Friends League and MaxFund
When people in Denver talk about helping animals in Denver, they generally think of the Denver Dumb Friends League, and with good reason: It’s a great organization that has been helping animals since 1910 (you know, back when “dumb” had a slightly different connotation). While MaxFund doesn’t yet enjoy the same name recognition, it also does important work for animals in dire need of care. Both of these organizations are home-grown and do good work.

Urban Peak
According to its website, Urban Peak is “the only non-profit in Denver that provides a full convergence of services for youth 15 through 24 experiencing homelessness.” It does so in order to make it most possible for those at-risk youth to transition successfully into an adulthood that’s empowered and self-sufficient.

The Blue Bench
In 1983, three friends of a victim of rape realized there were no support systems in Denver. A year later, they’d raised enough money to set up a hotline housed in the basement of St. Barnabus Church. Fast-forward 35 years, and the Blue Bench is an established and positive force in Denver, with a mission of facing, fighting and eliminating sexual assault through comprehensive issue advocacy, prevention and care.

The name is an acronym, which you might not know unless you visit the website (which you totally should). SAME stands for So All May Eat, and the organization started the first nonprofit restaurant in Denver committed to serving healthy food to everyone in the city, regardless of their ability to pay. It’s not just about feeding people; it’s about everyone’s right to eat well.

Groundwork Denver
Groundwork Denver considers its members “doers,” not “talkers.” They plant trees, improve parks, clean up rivers, grow food, insulate houses, and coordinate volunteers to help do all that and more. It connects real work with the real world, and does so by building bridges between Denver residents, businesses and government to effect real change.

The Harm Reduction Action Center has worked since 2002 to provide services that help curb the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and accidental overdoses through direct community outreach and policy advocacy with lawmakers, health-care professionals, law enforcement and Denver residents at large.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is made up of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations, founded to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state. It achieves this mission through “non-partisan civic engagement, public education, and advocating for workable, fair, and humane immigration policies.” It's a big job that’s getting bigger, so CIRC (like every organization on this list and hundreds more in the city) deserves all the help it can get.

Know of other good local organizations that could use volunteers? Email [email protected].
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