Seven Ways to Help out Your Local Community

In 2015, 29.3 percent of Colorado residents volunteered in some way, ranking the state at 18th for resident volunteer participation. Providing a helping hand to the local community is beneficial to both the community and the volunteers because it strengthens the community while bringing people together. By bringing residents together to work on a mutual community goal, volunteers benefit on a social level and experience a sense of wellbeing. The community benefits when volunteers contribute to solving problems while engaging their neighbors. Volunteer work can be a one-time effort, such as serving as a poll worker during a single, local election. Other projects may need assistance for longer periods of time such as Adopt-A-Park or Adopt-A-Highway programs, which require a volunteer commitment of at least one year. Some volunteer programs require background checks and references, including police service-related programs.

Environmental Adoption Projects in Colorado

There are several adoption programs in Colorado and each offers its own benefits to the local community. All of the adoption programs require the submission of application forms for approval before areas are assigned. Residents who are interested in volunteering need to first review the program guidelines and requirements.

1. Adopt-A-Highway is a program in which volunteers help to clean up litter on the sides of highways for two-mile sections. The sponsorship categories include the cleanup of highways, rest areas and chain-up stations. Program applicants can choose to adopt more than one section of highway. The Adopt-A-Highway application form allows applicants to choose the area of Colorado they are interested in adopting and which program(s) they are seeking.

2. Adopt-A-Park/Trail is a program focused on cleaning up regional and neighborhood parks and trails in and around the community. Trash bags and the pickup and disposal of filled bags are provided by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department. A one-year volunteer commitment is requested by the group.

3. Adopt-A-Waterway is a program designed to help clean up local waters including streams, rivers and other waterways. The city sponsoring the program provides any necessary signage to display around the adopted waterway. The city also provides trash bags, safety vests for cleanup where needed, pick up for the trash gathered during cleanup and additional support for the adoptive groups. This program requires a two-year commitment from the volunteer group or organization.

4.Colorado Neighborhood Watch

While police departments work to protect their communities, help from local residents can make these communities even safer. Citizens in Neighborhood Watch (NW) groups make residents more familiar with one another, which can make it easier to spot suspicious activities. Although NW aids in the fight against crime, volunteers are not expected or encouraged to take any risks that put their lives in jeopardy.

If there is not a NW program in the local area, residents can put together their own. By canvasing the residents in the neighborhood, volunteers can find out if there is enough interest to create NW groups. If there is interest, volunteers can start with a meeting of the local community members to learn about becoming part of the Neighborhood Watch program. If volunteers contact the local police department about starting a group, a police officer may attend the first meeting. The officer can relay helpful information about local crime patterns and any activities to be wary about.

Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative

In 2012, Colorado Legislature enacted the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act. The READ Act focuses on reading deficiencies in students in kindergarten through third grade (K-3). It requires that schools assess the reading abilities of K-3 students and implement instructions for those students determined to have reading deficiencies. Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative is coordinated by Serve Colorado, the Governor’s Commission on Community Service. The program is coordinated on a state level but composed of multiple departments and programs throughout Colorado.

5. Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a reading program that distributes books to low-income families. Statistics show that 61 percent of families with low-incomes do not have any books in their homes. The program not only provides books but also trains physicians in educating parents to read aloud to their families. While this program does accept monetary donations, it asks for donations of gently used children’s books.

6. Colorado Reading Corps is a reading program that was started during the school year in 2013. The program administers literacy tutors to K-3 students in need of help. Volunteers are trained by expert coaches to provide literacy aid to struggling students.

7. Police Service Volunteers in Colorado

Many police departments welcome volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. Help can be provided through administrative duties, assistance with events or involvement through the Citizen Police Academy. There are several events held for the community during the year that need to be run by volunteers. To apply for volunteer work with the police, residents can fill out Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) applications with the local police department. An interested resident should fill out the form in its entirety, including contact information, length of commitment (once or continuing) and when he or she is available to help. The form usually requires several non-relative references and a background check before an applicant is selected.