In what’s become a spring tradition of service, the CU Denver | CU Anschutz Medical Campus Human Resources Office team once again spent a half day volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies. This year’s group of 25 team members marked the seventh consecutive year the HR Department has sorted, loaded and prepped food for distribution to Coloradans in need.
The department, along with scores of other CU teams, feels honored to donate time to such a worthy cause. The CU in the Community program encourages faculty and staff to spend a half-day of their work week volunteering in the activity of their choice in the community.
Faculty, staff and students in the University of Colorado College of Nursing dedicated 770 volunteer hours to humanitarian work at Aurora’s only 24/7 homeless shelter last year, including data-collection efforts and employment support and résumé advice for people experiencing homelessness.
For those efforts, the College of Nursing (CU Nursing) received the 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award from Mile High Behavioral Healthcare (MHBHC). MHBHC operates both the Aurora Day Resource Center and the Comitis Crisis Center in Aurora.
In a surprise ceremony on April 30 in the Fitzsimons Building, the award was presented to CU Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez, Associate Professor Scott Harpin; Shane Hoon, assistant dean of Student Affairs and Diversity; Dana Brandorff, CU Nursing director of marketing and communications; CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman; and Provost Rod Nairn.
“We have incredible collaborations with this campus,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for MHBHC. “The students come over to the Aurora Day Resource Center and volunteer with us and get refreshed and refocused on why they want to do the work in their field, and then get back into the books. It’s a wonderful relationship.”
Cohorts offer much-needed help
One cohort from the college helped the nonprofit agency complete VI-SPDATs (Vulnerable Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool), an important first step in the rehousing process. The VI-SPDATs elicit a score that is used to place people experiencing homelessness on housing lists across the Denver metro area.
“Naturally, more vulnerable populations need to get housed faster, and that tool is a fair and balanced way to assess their needs,” Gillespie said.
Another cohort provided needed support in completing Homeless Management Information System in-take packets for guests at Comitis Crisis Center. CU Nursing volunteers helped create a curriculum that MHBHC used to inform guests about frostbite and cold weather care.
Harpin said the Nursing students enjoy doing all they can to support MHBHC and the Aurora Day Resource Center, which is adjacent to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “The students universally value and enjoy their experience there, and they’re really moved by seeing social determinants of health in action while completing their nursing education here at CU,” he said.
Valued community partner
Provencio-Vasquez applauded the dedicated community outreach performed by CU Nursing’s faculty, staff and students and thanked the MHBHC for offering the college the opportunity to help with its important mission to be a valued community partner.
Also joining the award presentation were Stephanie Kok, deputy director of homeless services, and Laura McGarry, director of programs and operations. McGarry said the college’s “extra human power” enabled the organization to implement programming that resulted in faster connections to housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The CU in the Community program encourages faculty and staff to spend a half-day of their work week volunteering in the activity of their choice in the community. In years past faculty and staff from CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus have rolled up their sleeves to pitch in for important community resources including Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and Brent’s Place.
For the past three years, the university’s Staff Council has organized groups to volunteer at Food Bank of the Rockies. The food bank’s mission is to “help families thrive by efficiently procuring and distributing food and essentials to the hungry through our programs and partner agencies.”
Michelle Larson-Krieg, member of the council’s Networking and Communications Subcommittee, spearheaded this year’s effort, reserving a full week at the Food Bank of the Rockies for our university’s volunteers. A total of 150 faculty and staff from both CU Denver and CU Anschutz participated – more than doubling last year’s numbers.
Volunteer activities at the food bank warehouse included building pallets, assembling food orders, working the docks and making sure incoming donations were in good order. The 600 hours of volunteer service saved the food bank over $7,000 in wages.
Staff Council would like to increase participation even more next year, so please be on the lookout for the announcement of next year’s campaign. CU in the Community usually begins in early December and continues through the end of March. Additionally, it is important to log your volunteer hours. One of Staff Council’s future goals is to have the volunteer opportunity extended to a full eight-hour day, which can be used all year long. The best way to accomplish this is to show increasing participation.