Volunteering for the holidays: Doing your part from the heart

Metro area offers wide range of volunteer opportunities during this season


No matter the skill level, interests or time constraints of Denver metro area residents, there is a way they can make a difference this winter.

Whether it’s donating time, toys, money or labor, many nonprofits in the area have unique and critical volunteer opportunities this time of year.

At Rosie’s Ranch in Parker, horses — used in warmer months to provide equine therapy to people with special needs — need to be walked and cared for.

“We have our horses year-round,” said owner Mary Stathes. “They still need to eat and get exercised.”

Caring for the horses could mean anything from hand-walking them to cleaning out their stalls.

“Typically, what people say is they come here expecting to give, not to get,” Stathes said. “They leave absolutely in awe of how much they received as a human being.”

Other animal lovers with a passion for agriculture can volunteer at CALF — Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation — in Castle Rock, helping care for the ranch animals.

“This time of year, we have donkeys, goats, chickens and pigs,” CEO Brooke Fox said.

CALF’s goal is to connect people to agriculture through education, Fox said. The group hosts field trips, grows crops and teaches people about where their food comes from.

“Even though the work is hard, it’s reconnecting people to the land and just kind of helping have a better understanding of the basics of life,” Fox said.

In the winter, the ranch needs help feeding the animals, cleaning out their pens and keeping the barn organized, she said.

Both organizations welcome people of all ages and skill levels but prefer parental supervision for younger children.

Helping the homeless

Other opportunities fitting all sorts of interests are available at The Action Center in Jefferson County, a more than 50-year-old organization serving homeless people.

The organization, which serves about 20,000 families every year, uses about 70 volunteers per day to keep their work going, said Barbara Penning, the director of volunteer programs and products.

During the holiday season, many of the consistent volunteers are traveling and unable to help, Penning said.

“Having a backup of people when our regular volunteers are taking some time off is huge,” she said.

These helpers assist in sorting food, clothing, bedding and shoes, accepting donations and leading teams for specific events.

“We have a wide variety of experiences,” Penning said.

From Dec. 9 through 14, the organization is hosting a free Holiday Gift Shop for the families they serve. They will need volunteers to help stock the shelves and guide parents as they choose items for their children from about 30,000 donated gifts.

Helping seniors with snow

For those who like to be active, there are also opportunities in many counties and municipalities to help shovel snow for elderly neighbors.

Arapahoe County’s Dig Out Your Neighbor program looks for volunteers who live close to seniors who can’t shovel their own snow, volunteer coordinator Nira Duvan said.

“It can literally be about the safety and security for the seniors,” she said. “There’s more of a risk for a slip and fall injury, which can be extremely dangerous for seniors.”

In some areas, people who don’t shovel snow in front of their property can be fined, so these volunteers can help seniors avoid such costs.

There are also similar programs through the city governments in Arvada and Littleton. Volunteers of America also has a Snow Buddies program serving Denver, Jefferson, Douglas, Adams and Arapahoe counties.

For many of these organizations throughout the Denver metro area, volunteers make their work possible.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” said Stathes of Rosie’s Ranch. “Anyone that wants to come and help is more than welcome.”


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