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By 7 a.m. each day, the kitchen staff at Coal Creek Meals on Wheels is already hard at work preparing the day's meals. Along with the typical daily meal based on protein, vegetables, and starch, plus bread, fruit, and a freshly baked dessert, the crew also makes several dozen specialized meals each day to accommodate special dietary needs and restrictions. Volunteers chip in around 9 a.m. to bag and package the food, and when the volunteer drivers arrive at 11 a.m., the food is ready for delivery. But the volunteer drivers do more than just deliver hot meals to the organization's homebound elderly, disabled, or ill clients—they also serve as friendly visitors, providing wellness check-ins in addition to hot, nutritious meals. Coal Creek Meals on Wheels has seen a 16% increase in clients since 2010, and its volunteers delivered more than 16,000 meals in 2012.
CrossFit Julia’s husband-and-wife team takes a personal approach to fitness. Rather than set their clients loose in a jungle of workout machinery, they structure their daily CrossFit workouts around functional strength and cardio exercises in a supportive group setting. The classes themselves constantly vary; one day’s deadlifts and pushups are another day’s sprints and burpees. Success is determined not by any uniform standard, but by each student’s ability to meet or exceed his or her own fitness expectations. Just as CrossFit differs from normal workouts, CrossFit Julia’s facility differs from a normal gym. Ropes hang from the ceiling, and the rows of cardio machines found in typical gyms have been replaced with heavy tires lifted from cars illegally parked outside.
Forward Steps support teens transitioning out of foster care with housing, support services, and life-skills classes in financial literacy, resumé building, and nutrition. The organization also focuses on community, providing its young clients with a place to live in a communal environment and connecting them with successful program alumni who share experiences similar to their own. While Forward Steps' clients are working toward self-sufficiency, it supplements their limited incomes with a monthly stipend and assistance in applying for financial aid and scholarships.
A group of 600 6-year-olds stare in awe, fascinated by the collection of instruments that sits before them. The music is so loud and big that it fills the room. One little girl is frightened by the sound, so the conductor invites her to place her hand on a horn to feel the vibrations of the music. The classical concerts that Inside the Orchestra brings to Denver-area schools are “not like any orchestra performance anyone has ever seen,” says Executive Director Shelby Mattingly.
During these shows, Mattingly explains, the conductor “acts as a tour guide through what an orchestra is and does" to get kids up close and personal with the music. As the orchestra plays a variety of pieces, the conductor teaches the audience to make their bodies bigger and smaller for loud and quiet music, listen to the difference between slow and fast songs, and determine the feelings that correspond to minor and major keys. A mix of both modern and classic tunes—often the Star Wars theme shares program space with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—teaches audiences “that music is part of everyday life." At the end of the performances, the orchestra often plays the William Tell Overture as the conductor asks the audience to ride their pretend horses off into the sunset.
Perhaps the most inspiring moment of the performance is the concerto, when a talented local child plays piano, flute, or violin with the orchestra. The solos give young musicians experience performing and inspire other children to learn to play. After shows, children write thank you notes to the orchestra, often mentioning the soloist by name: “I want to be Katie—can you ask her to teach me how to play piano?”
When Mattingly stresses that Inside the Orchestra inspires a “lifetime love of music,” she has more than 50 years' worth of anecdotes to draw from. Since the organization was founded in 1958 under the name Junior Symphony Guild, it has touched the lives of thousands, including a 4-year-old boy who has attended 70 concerts since he was an infant, often bringing his own baton with him. Twenty years after their first Inside the Orchestra concert, young adults frequently come back to hear the musicians play again. These audience members may now play in orchestras themselves or just listen to the music for fun, but the message is always the same: “I just want you to know this program changed my life.”
See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.
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.