Volunteerism

Volunteer options abound in Lakewood and beyond

First Just Serve Volunteer fair connects organizations with volunteers

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There are many organizations and individuals in need of assistance, but for many who are interested in volunteering, it can be tricky finding those with immediate needs.

The Community Just Serve Volunteer Fair held on Feb. 25 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aimed to make the process easier by connecting community and volunteers.

"I sit on a board, which is great, but I miss the hands-on side," said Lakewood resident Renee Spicer, who visited the fair. "I've been looking for opportunities that are more active."

This was the first time the fair had been held, and 16 organizations were on hand to share information about volunteer opportunities. Volunteers from the church were available to help visitors sign up to www.JustServe.org, a website where groups can post volunteer openings and other needs, and people can sign up to help.

"All these organizations are passionate about their projects, and are looking for people of all ages to help," said Jennifer Anderson, with the church. "Just today we've seen postings on the site from local organizations nearly double."

Attendees who wanted to do something that day were able to participate in on-site projects like making blankets and hats to benefit the International Rescue Committee and Jefferson County Human Services.

"I'm here to help others," Spicer said. "It's a way to give back for the opportunities we've all be given in life."

The hope for next year is a different faith organization will host the fair, with the help of Latter-day Saints volunteers, Anderson added.

We spoke with representatives from three different categories of organizations to get a sense of their needs, and what kind of help they're looking for.

Faith organizations — Organization: Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver

Services provided: "We have 25 ministries that cover everything from conception to natural death," said Mike Sinett, director of parish and community services. "The needs of the community continue to evolve, but lately we've been focusing on children, women, the homeless and immigrants."

Volunteers needed: "We try to cater our offerings to whatever the volunteer wants to do," he explained. "We can do once a week events, group events, or whatever arrangement works. We're always looking for people to help us with running the Samaritan House."

County organizations — Organization: Jefferson County Human Services
Services provided: "We're more than just child welfare," said Jessica Hansen, special projects and system navigator with the department. "We also provide assistance on senior issues, and one of our big projects is the Jeffco Prosperity Project, which aims to end generational poverty in the county."

Volunteers needed: "There are all kinds of service opportunities, and they can be as simple as hosting a diaper drive, to having a community meeting informing your neighbors about us an what we do," Hansen said. "We always have a need for foster families, and we're also looking for tutors for our child care."

National organizations — Organization: Veterans of Foreign Wars
Services Provided: "We're here to help veterans as best we can," said Garry Williamson, VFW District 1 commander said. "That includes helping them with benefits and claims, as well as transition and employment services."

Volunteers needed: "We can always use people to help at the VA Hospital, and we take volunteers who want to assist people at our nursing homes," said Duane Johnson, membership director with Colorado's VFW department. "Anything we can do to help our vets."

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