Thanksgiving

Here's How to Volunteer in Denver This Holiday Season

Do your part.

This has been a year like no other. But our shared struggles have made it even clearer that we need to do what we can to lift others up. Through lockdowns and social distancing, we’ve helped each other by going on grocery runs for those with higher health risks, making masks for our neighbors, and getting on more “how are you holding up” video calls than ever before. The holiday season is always tough for those facing challenges. This year, finding ways to give back is more important than ever.

If you’re up for traditional in-person volunteer opportunities, there are plenty to choose from, and, as we practice social distancing, many nonprofits are also getting creative and offering virtual ways to volunteer your time and skills. Some organizations, though, have put a hold on volunteering due to COVID-19, so remember that donations are always a welcome way to pitch in. However you choose to give back, let’s come together (safely… and distantly... ) this holiday season to make a positive impact in the Mile High and beyond.

For those who want to help in the healthcare field

With COVID-19 cases surging, healthcare professionals are on the frontline. Almost all the hospitals in the Denver area are accepting volunteers for a variety of positions, so check your nearest hospital for opportunities. Beyond getting involved with hospitals directly, there are plenty of other options for those who want to lend their time in this field. Planned Parenthood continues to be a leader in providing family planning services, cancer screenings, and more—sign up to help remotely by making phone calls or in person at their health centers. Denver Hospice also has a variety of volunteer roles, from visiting with patients and providing emotional support to administrative duties like filing and answering phone calls. Project Cure works to deliver donated medical supplies to struggling countries around the world and is looking for help with sorting, driving, and more. Project Angel Heart supports those battling illness by providing medically tailored meals and has a lot of socially distant ways to help, including decorating meal bags to help brighten patients’ days.

For those who want to fight for justice in Denver’s legal system

The legal system can be overwhelming (and expensive) to navigate, especially for low-income families and individuals. The Legal Aid Foundation makes sure that free civil legal services are available, no matter a person’s income. If you have legal experience or are on track to becoming an attorney, reach out to see how you can help with their campaigns. Another non-profit that gives legal support to low-income Coloradans is Colorado Legal Services. Anyone with an interest in the law, from students to retirees, can reach out for information on how to help, from acting as a legal assistant to helping with virtual clinics.

For bookworms

Helping to make sure all Coloradans have access to literature is one of the best ways to spread your own love of reading. Reach Out & Read partners with pediatric clinics across the state spread a love of books by encouraging parents to read out loud with their children. From donating books to helping in their office, there are plenty of ways to get involved with this statewide charity. Children’s Literacy Center was founded in Colorado Springs in 1991 and now has 15 sites statewide, including Denver, where they offer one-on-one tutoring to elementary school children reading below grade level. Volunteer with them and you’ll be paired with a child for one hour, two times a week, helping them read, play word games, and do other activities that’ll set them up for long term success in school and beyond. 

For those passionate about helping people with disabilities

Based in Littleton, The Right Step Inc. works to better the lives of people living with disabilities through the healing power of horses by offering opportunities for therapeutic riding and equine assisted activities. Volunteers are trained to help with lessons and can assist as Side Walkers and Horse Leaders or you can get involved in other ways including helping grant writing, marketing, admin support, and more. The world renowned Colorado Center for the Blind, also in Littleton, has a range of volunteer opportunities, from teaching braille to driving students to medical appointments and recreational activities. T.A.C.T. (Teaching the Autism Community Trades) was founded in Denver in 2016 by parents of an austistic child who created the organization to help those diagnosed with autism skills that will help them find employment. The autism community has a 90% unemployment rate, the highest sector in the country. Volunteer opportunities include classroom assistance, facility maintenance, guest speaking, and more. 

For those who want to help victims of abuse

The Rose Andom Center helps victims of domestic abuse connect with community services in a safe space. During COVID-19, they have both in person and fully remote opportunities to help. After a 20 hour mandatory training session, you can become a Volunteer Navigator and be the first point of contact for survivors reaching out for help. Violence Free Colorado is a statewide coalition that brings together organizations and individuals working to end relationship abuse. Opportunities to get involved directly include internships and their survivors caucus, and they can also connect you directly with organizations within your county

For those who are artsy 

If music is your thing, check out the volunteer opportunities with Swallow Hill Music. Founded in 1979, this organization has been providing music lessons and performance opportunities to the community for decades. From welcoming new students to administrative work, their organization depends on volunteers. ReCreative Denver is focused on promoting creativity through reuse & arts education. Along with taking donations of items that can be repurposed into art, they’re currently looking for volunteers to help with community events, acquiring and organizing material donations, and teaching.

For those who are passionate about ending gun violence

While Colorado has strong gun laws compared to some other states in the country, gun violence remains an issue in our community. In July of 2020, the Denver Police Department launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and promote safe storage of firearms. One organization that’s been working to promote gun safety reforms since 2000 is Colorado Ceasefire. They’re taking applications for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks including research, envelope stuffing, fundraising, making phone calls, and more.

For those interested in mentorship and education

Minds Matter Colorado has some seriously impressive stats from their mentorship program: 100% of their graduates complete high school on time and are accepted to four-year colleges and universities with scholarships. As a mentor, you’ll have the chance to build a long term relationship over the course of their three year program where you’ll be paired with another adult and two students. Every Monday during the school year, you’ll help guide the students as they develop the skills they need to succeed in college. Another organization that pairs kids with a volunteer mentor is Denver Kids. In this program, you’ll be paired with a student that you’ll meet with twice a month, providing both personal and professional guidelines along with their professional Educational Counselor. 

For those who want to help people struggling with mental illness or contemplating self-harm or suicide

The Mental Health Center of Denver offers a variety of services for those struggling with mental health, from youth programs to adult recovery. As they work to pivot with the challenges of COVID-19, they are currently offering opportunities to volunteer with their virtual services which include career guidance for youth and assisting with tutoring. You can also help out by making homemade masks for their staff and those they serve. Project Helping is a unique organization that connects individuals with volunteer opportunities as a way to help improve mental wellness. Those struggling with mental health issues find chances to create purpose in their lives through their opportunities, and you can also help their cause by volunteering to build Kynd Kits, their volunteer opportunities in-a-box which can be mailed anywhere.

For animal lovers

When you think of helping animals, cuddling with furry creatures probably comes to mind. And yes, becoming a foster at your local shelter is a great way to help out. Check out the Denver Dumb Friends League and Animal Rescue of the Rockies for opportunities to actually get some cute and furry quality time. But there are other ways to support animals, including volunteering with the Colorado Pet Pantry with partners with human food pantries to make sure the pets of low income households also have access to healthy foods. Volunteers assist with everything from staffing pet food banks and helping in the warehouse to fundraising. 

For those who want to help the LGBTQIA+ community

The Center on Colfax has been supporting Colorado’s LGBTQ community since 1976 and is now the largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain region. Because of COVID-19, they are not currently accepting any new in-person volunteers, but you can support their mission by signing up to be a Phone-a-Friend Caller, a fully remote position where you’ll connect with individuals age 60 over and help keep them connected with the larger community through friendly conversation once a week. One Colorado is focused on advocacy for the LGBTQ community and is looking for volunteers to help with everything from making phone calls and data entry to sharing your own stories. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth nationwide and has digital crisis counselor positions available that can be done from anywhere in the country. 

For those who want to fight back against climate change

Based in Boulder, Protect Our Winters was founded by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007. The organization works to enact policies that will help their ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Volunteer opportunities include remote work like making phone calls, contacting public officials, and sharing campaigns. Boulder-based grassroots site Boulder.Earth works with over 100 environmental organizations in the Boulder area to collectively impact climate change. The site can connect you with volunteer opportunities with a variety of organizations. 

For those who want to support Denver’s low income and homeless populations 

For over 128 years, the Denver Rescue Mission has been supporting our community’s homeless population through a variety of programs. Right now, they’re in need of volunteers to help serve meals and also have longer term volunteer opportunities. Based in Lakewood, The Action Center provides resources, including access to food, to those experiencing poverty and homelessness. They’re looking for volunteers to help distribute food and clothing through their drive-in distribution events. Serving low-income families in the northeast Denver area, Focus Points Family Resource Center provides all kinds of support, from adult and early childhood education to workforce development. They’re currently looking for volunteers to tutor English Language Acquisition students and help individuals become job ready in their Workforce Development Program. 

For those who want to support indigenous communities

Since 1983, The Denver Indian Center has been an urban cultural gathering center for the American Indian and Alaska Native community in the Mile High. They focus on providing programs that aim to empower families and celebrate Native culture. Volunteers can help with everything from assisting with their food bank to volunteering with elders. The Denver Indian Family Resource Center is focused on supporting American Indian and Alaska Native children and families by providing culturally responsive services. While they are not currently offering volunteer opportunities, you can support them through donations and by staying informed via their email list. 

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Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on life in the Mile High.