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.
MHM employs the Montessori approach to foster social competency, concentration, and persistence in children ages 6 weeks–5 years, most of whom live at or below the federal poverty level. The organization aims to create a children’s lending library for its learning centers to increase access to linguistically and developmentally appropriate books. The lending library would allow families a greater variety of books to read with their children, and provide literacy calendars to track the amount of time children spend reading.
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.
Warren Village’s Greta Horwitz Learning Center educates children ages 6 weeks to 10 years old with a curriculum designed specifically for underserved students. In addition to cognitive, language, social exercises, the learning center conducts regular cultural and recreational field trips in the Denver area to enrich student’s education. Each classroom of approximately 14 preschool children attends at least two trips each year to city venues such as the zoo, art museums, the symphony and theater, and the children’s museum. Field trips provide students with informative lessons in the arts and sciences and an opportunity for a new experience, and also build their sense of community with both their peers and their city.
Women’s Bean Project works to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment among women and single mothers with significant barriers to success, such as felony convictions, chronic poverty, and past drug addictions. To do this, it established a six-month job-training program where participants can gain the skills necessary for mainstream employment. Within a safe, accepting environment, the women identify and build their talents while producing gourmet food and jewelry with the aid of professional designers.
One of the life skills students develop in the afterschool program is a basic understanding of computers. The goal of computer training is to keep students on pace with their peers who have access to more technological resources both at school and at home. However, the program's current computers are outdated and in need of replacement. While it has access to used—but current—software, cityWILD still requires new computers with warranties. The organization would like to purchase a new Dell computer to ensure that its training is as up to date as possible. With its nonprofit discount, cityWILD can purchase the computer for $350.