Mercy Housing—one of the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations of its kind—operates according to the conviction that affordable housing can revitalize neighborhoods, boost residents’ economic status, and stabilize lives. The organization serves a variety of populations, from refugee families to seniors and people with special needs. In its work across 43 states, Mercy Housing strives to redefine affordable housing by creating stable foundations for residents through supportive services such as after-school programs, employment initiatives, and financial education. On any given day, Mercy Housing serves more than 144,000 people.
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Agates, amethysts, and luminous glass beads come alive in the settings that The Colorado Bead Company’s jewelry instructors help students design— elegant yet whimsical loops of wire, antique-looking chains, earring hoops that recall delicate dreamcatchers. Classes bring out the jewelry artist in kids, adults, and even first-time crafters who get to experience the thrill of walking out clad in the necklaces they've just designed. The shop glistens with strands and packets of such exotic baubles as freshwater pearls, hypoallergenic beads, and Swarovski crystal beads, ready to be incorporated into a new project or used to make a pair of maracas sound classier. Shoppers browse in a bright, open space lined with huge windows, hardwood floors, and airy flower prints.
Art from Ashes (AfA) promotes artistic expression among youth in the care of human services and homeless shelters as well as those dealing with abuse and poverty. Working with local organizations, AfA sponsors poetry and theater workshops for youth aged 8–24, prompting them to tap into their imaginations and create art that reflects their inner strength and the issues they have overcome. The organization’s Phoenix Rising poetry-and-spoken-word program uses words to encourage inner development and help young people connect with their communities, and its Casting Shadows theater-and-play program helps youth express their feelings in a healthy way through dramatic performance. These programs are designed to provide ongoing tools for artistic expression and engage youth in the social sphere, encouraging them to facilitate change in their communities.
In 1986, Toni Schmid and Kathy Carfrae were interning at homeless shelters in the area as part of their studies at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. They observed homeless women leaving the safety of the shelters each morning with nowhere to go but back to the streets. Believing that these women should have a safe place to spend their days, Toni and Kathy used a $6,000 donation to form The Gathering Place in a one-room facility on Santa Fe Drive. It quickly became a regular daytime drop-in center for women, their children, and transgender individuals who were experiencing episodic or chronic homelessness. At its inception, The Gathering Place served 25–35 women each day; today, it serves approximately 275 women and children daily in its state-of-the-art, 28,000-square-foot facility.
The Gathering Place's programs contribute to personal growth with GED training, a computer lab that hosts skills classes, and a writers' group that facilitates creative expression. It also works to meet basic needs ranging from providing nutritious food to making showers and laundry services available. The housing stabilization program helps women achieve and maintain self-sufficiency with rent and utilities support, transportation assistance, and job training.
The internationally acclaimed Big Air event makes its inaugural American appearance in Denver with two evenings of competition that pair a roster of global champs with a tremendous 300-foot-long jump. Tuesday, January 25 opens with the Nature Valley Big Air Challenge, pitting famed male freestyle skiers against one another to perform their best air-defying tricks while simultaneously slicing potatoes into miniature busts of Shaun White. Afterward, ski fans can cheer on the winners at the awards ceremony (8:15 p.m.), before being treated to a concert by Grammy-nominated rockers Switchfoot.
Rocky Mountain Wild works to protect the more than 180 species of plants and animals that are endemic to the Southern Rocky Mountains. The organization conserves forest, alpine, and desert habitats that contain these diverse species and aims to restore the ancient migration corridors that link their habitats. Its team of biologists, geographers, and policy experts also advocates for ecologically responsible skiing and strives to amplify the environmental conversation occurring nationwide and develop solutions that help wildlife thrive despite warming habitats.
Current projects focus on protecting a variety of Rocky Mountain species including the northern leopard frog, the burrowing owl, the narrowleaf evening primrose, and the gray wolf, which is currently listed as extinct in the Southern Rockies. The team gathers knowledge about these species’ statuses with motion-detection cameras and conservation mapping, and then lobbies for policies that protect ancient wilderness areas and reform climate-change and energy policies.