A Year-Long Project: Project Homeless Connect

“Project Homeless Connect was the most inspiring event of humanity that I have been part of in a while. We need more compassion and acceptance in our world today, and being at the event reminded me of all I have and all I can give to others. Thanks to everyone who organized and was a huge to small part of this tremendously valuable event!”

This quote from one of our 35 ACC volunteers at Project Homeless Connect says it all.

Sponsored on November 15, 2018 by Mile High United Way, Denver’s Road Home, and the City and County of Denver, over 750 volunteers helped connect those in need to an array of offerings, ranging from ID services, housing information, resume workshops, haircuts, legal assistance, and various healthcare service—like massage and diabetes testing—to specific help for veterans, children, and pets. Plus, 157 people were offered jobs on the spot. ACC is proud to have been a provider and sponsor for this remarkable event, each of us becoming more educated about homelessness, as well as better understanding issues of diversity since culture, race, age, learning and physical challenges, gender, sexual orientation, and religion were all represented in one day.

On that sunny, unseasonably warm, 60-degree day, ACC helped our most vulnerable population access much-needed resources to become self-sufficient for themselves and their families. But this annual, one-day event—open to people of all ages who are experiencing homelessness or facing housing instability—did not begin and end on November 15.

Beginning back in Fall 2017, ACC’s Service Learning Center began collaborating with Phi Theta Kappa, Student Life, our Library, and various other departments to collect 1,000 coats for the Fall 2018 event. We fell short of our coat count, but our community did step up, and generous students, staff, and faculty donated 450 coats right up to the night before the event took place.

Phi Theta Kappa students Savannah Lewis-Sweed, Carli Rodriguez, Josephine Thibodeau, and Ryan Holmes.

Phi Theta Kappa students Savannah Lewis-Sweed, Carli Rodriguez, Josephine Thibodeau, and Ryan Holmes.

It was quite daunting to collect and store hundreds of coats for two and a half semesters, but it was worth it to know some of our teachers were planning worthwhile Service Learning assignments for their students. Dina Hornreich’s Interpersonal Communication student, Rachel Anderson, and Karen Rojenko’s Nursing student, Josh Mickelson, spent time volunteering at our ACC Coat Table at the event by showing up at 7:30 a.m. to help set up and staying through the morning to hand out coats while learning about the many families looking to stay warm this winter. Chris McKellip’s AAA assignment focused on Service Learning, helping Jonathan Rumley and Carol Capuano learn first-hand about the homeless situation by guiding guests through the many services offered, while Tamara Haynes, being a licensed cosmetologist, adorned 15 guests by cutting their hair.

ACC students Rachel Anderson and Josh Mickelson

ACC students Rachel Anderson and Josh Mickelson

If collecting and storing hundreds of coats was a task, how did we plan to get them to the Denver Convention Center 10 miles north of ACC? That was easier than realized, knowing how helpful and collaborative our departments are across campus. Brendan Bieker and Adrian Medina from our Facilities Department drove us and our dozens of trash bags filled with coats of all sizes in two enormous pick-up trucks to the event center in the middle of afternoon traffic—and back—with no complaints at all.

Loading up the ACC coat donations the day before the event. Pictured are Brandon Bieker, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, and Adrian Medina

Dropping off the ACC coat donations the day before the event. Pictured are Brandon Bieker, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, and Adrian Medina

But at 10 a.m. on November 15, it was show time, so we had to have our coat area set up and ready for the more than 1,400 guests who would soon be arriving at our table, planning for another Colorado winter. Good thing a small group of our volunteers entered the event center nearly three hours earlier that morning energized because we needed a lot of time to tear apart those bags and organize the coats neatly in sections on our 24 tables for men, women, and children—along with a miscellaneous items’ table of hats, gloves, and even t-shirts. We instantly knew we had more tables than coats, but then we introduced ourselves to Linda and her staff of three from Coats for Colorado who brought another 750 coats. We also worked also alongside Juanita from Servicios de la Raza and two friendly folks from Home Aid Colorado who dispensed 1,000 pairs of socks. We even gave away over 20 of those plastic bags that originally held the coats—without rips or holes—to some guests asking for ways to store their new coat or socks or whatever else they were procuring for themselves.

English and Literature faculty Juliet Hubbell and Assistive Technology Specialist for Student Access Services Enrique Castro Franco volunteered at ACC’s Coat Table. Their blue volunteer t-shirts tell guests that they are bilingual.

ACC Library and Learning Commons Director Lisa Chestnut and eLearning Specialist Cherri LaMarr volunteered at the ACC Coat Table

ACC’s Workforce and Community Programs staff volunteered at the ACC Coat Table. Pictured: Kelly Locascio, Amber Toliver, Julie Beggs, Anthony Silio, and Shao Yeung

But serving the community while hearing people’s stories about living in Denver without a place to call home is more than supplying coats to those in need. Brad Bartholomew, a member of our photography faculty, incorporated a unique and valuable Service Learning project for his class by bringing 12 students out to their own booth so they could learn to take high-quality portraits and communicate with the public. Brad had this to say: “We had a wonderful and positive experience. I had many students say that it was one of the most positive things they have ever done. They thanked me for getting them involved. I set it up, but they did all the work. We were all proud to represent ACC as we helped our neighbors.” And ACC was not alone in educating students about poverty and inequity, as Regis University’s Service Learning students worked the Welcome area to pair up volunteers with over 1,400 guests that day.

ACC Photography professor Brad Bartholomew and his Commercial Photography students

ACC’s Portrait Studio at Project Homeless Connect

Humans were not the only ones receiving care and support that day. Quite a few dogs—small and large—were getting checkups and immunizations, picking out toys and snacks and bags of food, taking time to be petted by volunteers representing non-profit animal shelters, and even getting baths. And one or two got to have their portraits taken by Brad’s students while posing with on their humans’ laps.

Some dogs accompanied their humans to Project Homeless Connect this Fall 2018

By 3 o’clock, the event was over and people were meandering out the door with smiles and new outlooks on life. At our now-empty coat tables, the remaining five volunteers had only three coats left that Servicios de la Raza—which serves as an integral chamber in the heart of Metro Denver’s Latinx community—took with them for their upcoming Thanksgiving event.

Reflecting back on the event just a few weeks after it ended, it felt good to leave knowing so many people that we live alongside in our communities would be warm this winter, because in spite of the balmy temperatures we had for the event, a big cold front with lots of snow was heading towards Denver in the next few days. It was also sad to think so many individuals, especially the children and dogs we saw, needed to have those resources in the first place and couldn’t simply spend that day nestled in their own, safe homes. Sometimes, we take what we have for granted, but it’s good to know we can help again in other areas of support next year. Any ideas? See you next Fall at Project Homeless Connect 2019!

ACC Service Learning Center Coordinator/Communication faculty Diana Hornick and Math faculty Heidi Barrett

by Diana Hornick and Josie Mills

My Experience at Dumb Friends League

Lily - Denver Dumb Friends League dogThis is Lily! She was a puppy that I cared for when I first started volunteering. I bonded with her throughout the weeks and ended up adopting her! I adopted her on my 3rd day volunteering and she is now 10 months!

Dumb Friends League play roomThis was one of the playrooms that the dogs got to play in. As you can tell, I took a lot of interest in Lily. Sometimes we allowed dogs to play together so they get to bond. I got to monitor them to make sure nothing happened. This was always fun and exciting to watch!

Angel - pitbull mixThis is Angel! He is a pitbull that I learned to love and adore! He is the sweetest puppy I have ever met. He loved to play fetch and tug a war. Everyone has this idea that pitbulls are these scary and dangerous dogs. I am a 5’3, 110-pound teenager and I couldn’t have felt safer with Angel.

Someone I worked with was a gal named Alex. She was such a bright and happy soul. She helped me learn throughout this experience. She has been working here since 2012 and is now a leader here. She has adopted 3 dogs and 2 cats (yay!) here. She and her fiance, Ryan, take some of the dogs on hikes and walks when they have free time. the location I volunteered was surrounded by mountains and fun hikes (for humans and the dogs!).

Another person I met was Amanda. She was a teenager who volunteered on the weekends. She has been volunteering here for the past 4 months and has learned a lot. She helped “mentor” me here and help me get the hang of things quickly. She first volunteering for a school project but fell in love with it and has continue to volunteer (like me!).

Something I learned about my community was how well we work together. When we volunteer together, we are able to achieve great things. A task that would’ve taken 3 hours only took an hour with extra volunteers. Something else I learned about our community is some people are awful! Throughout my volunteering, I saw too many abused dogs. We had to care many dogs back to health and watch them learn to trust and love again. It was extremely tough for me to see animals in that condition. I have always been an animal lover and seeing dogs abused and crying, really took a toll on me. Throughout my couple months of volunteering, I was able to see the struggles they face at a simple yet intense shelter.

Something I learned about myself is I am such a shy person! I have always been a shy person. I’ve been at my job for 3 years and I totally forgot how scary it is to start at a new place! I was awfully shy when I first started. Once I met someone around my age that I could connect with, I started to open up a little more. I learned that I’m a great listener and communicator while I volunteered. I listened extremely well to instructions and the commands that needed to be done. After I got the hang of it, they started to have me help new people. I wasn’t in charge, whatsoever, but I was able to help the new volunteers when they needed it! This was truly an honor because I was able to master and help a shelter that truly impacted people and animals!

by Hannah McNeese, ACC Student

ACC’s ViTaL Team Trip to Audubon Society at Chatfield

On August 19, 2016, ACC’s ViTaL (Volunteering To Learn) Team set out on an outdoor adventure to help clean up over-grown weeds and dried-up grasses from the Audubon Society of Greater Denver’s Nature Center at Chatfield State Park, about 10 miles away.

Led by Audubon’s Community Outreach Coordinator Kate Hogan, the six ACC faculty and staff–with some of their family members–first learned about the Audubon Society’s mission and its relationship to Chatfield, then performed a couple of hours of light gardening tasks on a warm and sunny Saturday morning.

Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park

Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park has an abundance of wildlife and over 300 bird species that live or visit at various times a year.

Ken Murphy & Dan Hohn removing tree

Math Professor Ken Murphy & Dan Hohn from Fiscal Services remove a dead tree from the gardens.

Diana Hornick landscaping

Communication Faculty & ViTaL leader Diana Hornick at work.

Mardi Mathers landscaping

Nursing Faculty member Mardi Mathers.

Garden Walk at Chatfield State Park.

Garden Walk at Chatfield State Park.

The Team completed their project with a nature hike, discovering toads, snakes, and a beaver lodge.

Kate Hogan pointing out Beaver Lodge

Audubon’s Community Outreach Coordinator Kate Hogan points out a beaver lodge.

Platte River

The Platte River

A nature walk along one of Chatfield's many trails

A nature walk along one of Chatfield’s many trails

Audubon Nature Center Map

Some of the plant life at Chatfield State Park…

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is distinguishable by its red leaves

Hemlock

Hemlock is the poisonous plant presumed to have killed Socrates.

Plants along the Platte River

Plants along the Platte River

Come join ViTaL team for our next outing!

Volunteers pictured from left to right: Mardi Mathers, Jennifer Jones, Ken Murphy, Daniel Hohn, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, Andrea Mason, Linda Mason

Volunteers pictured from left to right: Mardi Mathers, Jennifer Jones, Ken Murphy, Daniel Hohn, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, Andrea Mason, Linda Mason

Western Welcome Week 2016

Western Welcome Week Volunteers 2015

Western Welcome Week Volunteers 2015

We are just a couple of weeks away from Western Welcome Week! Arapahoe Community College (ACC) has a special place for the event that the City of Littleton puts on. We are sponsors, breakfast hosts, parking lot quarters, parade-goers, and festival vendors – we even provide water for the horses!

The 2016 Western Welcome Week theme is “Salute to Educators”. Each year the Western Welcome Week committee selects an individual or individuals that exemplifies the theme, as the Grand Marshal. This year there is a trio of grand marshals that represent the past, present and future of the education profession. We are honored that an ACC graduate, Hannah Sturdivant, has been selected as one of three grand marshals, serving as the future grand marshal. Sturdivant earned her Associate of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as her Early Childhood Director Certificate, at ACC. She is currently employed at Belle’s and Beau’s at the Farm in Aurora, and works with children of all ages. Hannah aspires to become a curriculum coordinator for various early childhood classrooms.

Western Welcome Week parade volunteers - 2015

Western Welcome Week parade volunteers – 2015

We have several opportunities to volunteer. ACC will host the Family Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, August 14 from 7:30 am – 11:30 am. Come and dine on all-you-can-eat pancakes, sausages, and coffee, while catching-up with friends. The kids can play FREE “Games of Old” and round up for the “Bruce Wolf Stick Horse Stampede”. The cost is $5 per person and is hosted on the ACC Littleton campus. If you would like to help serve the community breakfast, contact Jeff Duggan 303.797.5709 jeff.duggan@arapahoe.edu.

If you can’t make it on the 14th, then consider volunteering on Saturday, August 20 at the Grand Parade. The parade runs from 10 am – noon though downtown Littleton. Join the ACC parade walkers as we represent the college and Salute to Educators. After the parade, you can visit the festival and all the great vendors from around the city. If you would like to walk the parade with the ACC team, contact Karen Browning 303.797.5736 karen.browning@arapahoe.edu.

The Western Welcome Week celebrations start Friday August 12th and go through Sunday August 21st. There are plenty of activities for you and the family. Or if you are just looking to attend the celebration, check out the list of events at westernwelcomeweek.org. We hope to see you there!

by Karen Browning

 

ACC’s Volunteering to Learn (ViTaL) Excursion to the Humane Society

ACC’s Volunteering to Learn (ViTaL) team headed out for their first volunteer excursion last Friday, January 15, 2016. A group of four ACC faculty and staff took pet supplies donated by the ACC community and spent the morning volunteering at the Littleton’s Humane Society of the South Platte Valley.

Here we are departing from ACC with all the wonderful pet supplies donated by the ACC community:

ViTaL team outside ACC

Left to right: Meredith Tofield, Josie Mills, Amanda Johnson, Diana Hornick

Erin Liebner of the Humane Society of the South Platte Valley welcomed us, and we took a short visit to the cat room while she arranged our plan for the morning.

White cat on scratching post

Adoptable cat at Human Society

Amanda petting cat

Amanda pets Starvin’ Marvin

black cat

Adoptable cat at the Humane Society

vital-tortie-cat

Another cat for adoption at the Humane Society

Erin then set us up with the task of cleaning out the shed where they store food and supplies for the animals. It was a chilly but sunny morning, and we worked together happily rearranging the bags of food and treats so that the floor was clear, and everything was easy to find.

Before and after photos below

BEFORE:

Food storage

Humane Society food storage before.

DURING:

Amanda and Meredith organizing.

Amanda and Meredith organizing pet food storage.

AFTER:

Humane Society pet food storage after ViTaL team organized it.

Humane Society pet food storage after ViTaL team organized it.

Once we’d finished our work in the shed, we headed back inside where we were rewarded with some time to visit with the dogs.

Dog available for adoption from the Humane Society.

Dog available for adoption from the Humane Society.

Close-up of dog

Another dog available for adoption

Another available dog at the Humane Society

Another available dog at the Humane Society

Another dog ready to find its forever home.

Another dog ready to find its forever home.

We then helped out washing dishes, refilling treat containers, and mopping the floor in the main meeting area.

We loved spending the morning at the Humane Society meeting the wonderful volunteers and visiting the animals who need a home.

Left to right: Meredith Tofield, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, Amanda Johnson

Left to right: Meredith Tofield, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, Amanda Johnson

ViTaL welcomes students, faculty, staff, and administrators to join us in serving the community. Many more opportunities will ensue in the coming months. Contact Josie Mills or Diana Hornick for more information.

by Josie Mills, ACC English Department Chair