It’s no secret that charitable giving is rewarding, for both the recipient and the donor. As noted on the Charities Aid Foundation website, “The knowledge that you are helping others is hugely empowering and in turn can make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Especially during the holidays when many families go without.” Suffice it to say that nonprofit organizations welcome every gift, especially this time of year when needs seem more apparent, and money, merchandise, food, frequent flyer miles or volunteering one’s time can make an even greater impact. The agencies profiled below include wish lists that will give prospective donors specific ideas of what is needed.
Amp the Cause
Walter and Christie Isenberg founded this Denver-based nonprofit with the idea that “we can do great things when we come together.” And they have. Now in its 15th year, Amp the Cause has distributed $8.7 million in monetary and in-kind donations to 51 child-focused health and educational organizations, including Clothes to Kids of Denver, The Conflict Center, Mental Health Center of Denver and Urban Peak. Fundraisers like Denver Day of Rock and the Celebrity Waiter Dinner have enabled Amp the Cause and its 700-plus volunteers to serve more than 600,000 children and families to date. This holiday season, the Isenbergs and executive director Julia Simmons welcome donations of money and Walmart gift cards to purchase the toys and books that are included in the backpacks given to over 2,000 children from Title 1 schools during the Holidays for Kids parties; gift cards to The Home Depot will be used to buy the tools, paint and other building materials needed for the annual Community Day, during which 1,000 volunteers spend six hours helping local nonprofits improve their facilities.
CeDAR (Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation)
CeDAR is the University of Colorado’s premier addiction treatment center. Its evidence-based outpatient and residential programs “not only save lives, they provide a meaningful foundation for long-term recovery from addiction,” says senior director Susan Dearing-Bond. CeDAR serves individuals aged 18 and older by offering such programs as medically-managed detox; fitness and nutrition; coping skills; group and individual therapy; 12-step and other mutual aid groups; and long-term follow up care. Donations to CeDAR’s capital, endowment and scholarship funds are encouraged this holiday season, and throughout the year.
Children’s Diabetes Foundation
Established in 1977 by Barbara and Marvin Davis, the foundation serves as a fundraising and education arm of the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. The center is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, and is a research and treatment facility serving Type 1 diabetics from all over the world. The Davises’ daughter, Dana, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 7 and today serves as the foundation’s executive director. The foundation’s key fundraisers—The Carousel Ball and the Brass Ring Luncheon—raise more than $2 million annually. Much of that goes toward research at the Barbara Davis Center, but funds also are designated for such foundation-sponsored programs as Helping Hand, which assists families in times of exceptional need by purchasing diabetic supplies and helping with travel expenses to get to doctors’ appointments. Davis’ holiday wish is for gift cards that can be given to patients and their families. “Cards to King Soopers or Sprouts can make a big difference in a family’s holiday meal,” Davis says, adding that cards redeemable at restaurants, gas stations and movie theaters are always welcome.
Clayton Early Learning
The handsome red sandstone buildings set on 20 acres at the northwest corner of Colorado and Martin Luther King Boulevards in Denver are home to Clayton Early Learning, a nonprofit offering high-quality early childhood education for children up to age 5. The goal is to build their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being in preparation for their long-term academic success. Enrollment is open to children of all income levels and abilities, but special welcome is afforded to those with “limited opportunity.” President/CEO Becky Crowe welcomes financial contributions; age-appropriate boys and girls clothing; and children’s books.
Colorado Pet Pantry
What’s a pet parent to do when family finances are such that there’s barely enough money to pay rent and utilities, let alone put food on the table for the household’s two-legged members? Thank goodness for Colorado Pet Pantry, an organization that will provide food on a temporary basis for companion animals, allowing people to keep their pets instead of relinquishing them to a shelter. Colorado Pet Pantry conducts 36 monthly pet food banks (50 during the holiday season) and helps 85 animal rescue organizations with pet food and supplies. Executive director Eileen Lambert’s wishes are for donations of dry dog and cat food, or cash. “A $5 donation feeds a pet for a month,” she says, adding that Colorado Pet Pantry’s service area has been expanded to add 15 small towns in rural Colorado to its ever-increasing demands for service.
Dumb Friends League
For more than 100 years, the Dumb Friends League has been working to end pet homelessness and animal suffering. As the largest community-based animal welfare organization in the region, the Dumb Friends League is considered a national model for the care it provides for more than 21,000 homeless pets and horses annually. In addition to a robust pet adoption program, the Dumb Friends League also rescues lost and abandoned pets, investigates cases of cruelty and neglect and provides reduced- and no-cost spay and neuter clinics. Cash donations and new volunteers are always needed; so, too, are Pet Tutor food dispensers.
Firefly Autism, under the leadership of Jesse Ogas and a team of highly skilled professionals, is gaining a national reputation for its extensive range of in-home and clinic-based services for individuals between the ages of 18 months and 21 years who are on the autism spectrum. Earlier this year Firefly closed on the purchase of the former North Lakewood School in Jefferson County, a move that when completed in 2020 will enable Firefly to serve 120 people, a significant increase from the current limit of 40. Ogas’ holiday wish list is for donations of cash, new or gently used iPads and kinetic sand.
Freedom Service Dogs
What began as a local, two-person operation in 1987 has grown to become one of the leading service dog training organizations in the United States. Dogs are selected from rescue and shelter organizations in Colorado and surrounding states, and following extensive training are matched with clients living with such conditions as stroke, autism, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Dogs can perform such tasks as turning lights on and off, pushing 911 or medical alert buttons, pulling wheelchairs and retrieving dropped items. FSD’s Operation Freedom matches dogs with military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who need support as they re-enter civilian life. President/CEO Michele Ostrander says a holiday gift that would be particularly welcome is money, “As we rely 100 percent on donations so we can provide service dogs free of charge to people in need.” Also appreciated are volunteers to help raise the next generation of Freedom Service Dogs by fostering puppies or adult dogs in their homes; and for the dogs, Nylabones and collars in sizes medium and large.
Invest in Kids
By joining with partner agencies in low-income areas throughout Colorado, Invest in Kids offers evidence-based programs that improve the health and well-being of the state’s vulnerable children and their families. IIK’s Nurse-Family Partnership, for example, has since 1998 matched highly trained registered nurses with nearly 25,000 first-time mothers and their babies, for results that include a 21 percent reduction of smoking during pregnancy and having 92 percent of the moms elect to have their children immunized by age 2. Executive Director Lisa Hill’s holiday wish is for program volunteers; sponsors and volunteers for IIK’s 21st Jane-A-Thon ski-and-snowboard fundraiser held at Winter Park on March 6 and 7; and donations to help fund the programs currently reaching 15,000 Colorado children and families annually.
Jewish Family Service of Colorado
Some may think that with a name like Jewish Family Service, this human services agency founded in 1872 would only accept clients who are of the Jewish faith. Not so, says president and chief executive officer Linda Foster, as she points out that a majority of JFS’ 24,000 clients are not Jewish. The 30-plus programs that JFS offers include those that help seniors age in place, a food pantry, mental health counseling, food and financial aid to people in crisis, and job training and placement for those with significant barriers to employment. Foster’s holiday wish list for JFS is for donations of disposable diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6) to be distributed through the JFS Weinberg Food Pantry; $25 gift cards to Target, Walmart or King Soopers that can be given to JFS clients who are refugees, older adults or families in crisis; and household items such as pots, pans, plates, drinking glasses, towels, new bedding and cleaning supplies for refugees and those transitioning out of homelessness.
National Jewish Health
For 120 years, National Jewish Health has been at the forefront of research and medical care focusing on lung, heart and immune diseases. Long rated as the nation’s No. 1 hospital for respiratory care by US News & World Report magazine, National Jewish Health is also noted for Morgridge Academy, a K-8 school for children whose chronic illnesses prevent them from thriving in a traditional school, and for its smoking cessation and weight management programs accessible online and by telephone. “We believe in offering more than a 15-minute patient encounter or just writing a few prescriptions,” says president/CEO Michael Salem. “We provide the comprehensive education and care that our patients need, so that they have access to the latest medical advances and great discoveries made not only in our labs but also in others around the world.” Gifts that Salem would welcome this holiday season are RTD bus passes for children attending Morgridge Academy; Peak Flow Meters (small, easy-to-use instruments that measure how well a child’s lungs are working. They are used daily and must be replaced yearly); and swim goggles (Morgridge Academy students swim on Mondays and Wednesdays and goggles are required).
Pivot Denver was founded on the belief that “together, we can bridge the gaps.” Pivot connects and then funds Denver’s most influential nonprofit organizations working in the areas of academic success, nutrition, mental wellness and career readiness. One hundred percent of all donations to Pivot goes to these organizations, as the costs for management and overhead are underwritten by Pivot’s founding trustees: John Elway, Larry Mueller, George Solich, Walter Rakowich and Navin Dimond. CEO Mimi Roberson says that gifts during this holiday season are for things that would go to the partner agencies: sports and science equipment for students at the Girls Athletic Leadership School; gift certificates to sporting events, restaurants, Elitch Garden or movie theaters that mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters can share with their mentees; and garden equipment for the Big Green gardens.
Roundup River Ranch
When the late actor Paul Newman started the SeriousFun Children’s Network (formaly Hole in the Wall Camps) it was with the idea that each would be a place for kids with serious illnesses to “raise a little hell” while spending time in a worry-free, zero price tag environment. Roundup River Ranch in the Vail Valley town of Gypsum is one of those camps, thanks to the generosity of local philanthropist Alison Knapp and other donors who fund the year-round programs offered free of charge for children from an 11-state Rocky Mountain region and their families. The organization's holiday wishes are for donations that will help sponsor campers, costumes for the drama and music programs, and art supplies.
The services that Urban Peak offers at its Denver and Colorado Springs locations are designed to meet the “unique and diverse needs” of youths between the ages of 15 and 24 who are homeless and, often, have experienced significant trauma, pain and an early loss of innocence. “Our primary goal is to empower them to overcome homelessness by providing a continuum of services that save the community upwards of $19.2 million a year,” says CEO Christina Carlson. In 2018 Urban Peak provided 12,391 nights of shelter and served 6,935 meals to its young clients. Carlson’s holiday wishes are for cash donations, $5 or $10 gift cards to King Soopers, Walmart and McDonalds; and High Sierra Swerve backpacks.
Volunteers of America
VOA Colorado is but one chapter of this national faith-based nonprofit formed in 1896 to support and empower American’s most vulnerable: the hungry, the frail elderly, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, homeless individuals, women in need and military veterans and their families. VOA Colorado’s 30 programs reach 200,000 people per year. This holiday season, president David Schunk encourages the donation of money; new, unwrapped gifts for children between the ages of 1 and 18; and items from VOA Colorado’s wish list on amazon.com
We Don’t Waste
Dismayed by the amount of perfectly good food that he saw being tossed by restaurants and catering companies, and knowing how many Coloradans were going hungry each day, attorney Arlan Preblud started We Don’t Waste. From its early days when Preblud would load the trunk of his car with donated food, to last year, when We Don’t Waste distributed 31 million servings of food to those in need, both demand and supply have increased. “We can always use cash, a large floor cleaner for our new distribution center and new tires for our trucks,” Preblud says.
Headquartered at Crooked Willow Farms in Larkspur, the Zoology Foundation is dedicated to creating a more humane world by fostering communication between all living things. Staffers do this through educational programs, hands-on camp experiences, and visits to the foundation’s animal sanctuary that is home to 150 animals, many of whom have been rescued or surrendered. The “residents” include two camels, a cane toad, a red-rumped tarantula, miniature donkeys and a Nigerian dwarf goat. The C.A.M.E.L. Club, for those between the ages of 5 and 17, has members from all over the world who participate in weekly challenges, events and activities centered on building empathy and compassion for humans, animals and the environment. The foundation’s holiday wish list is for donations of canned dog and cat food, paper towels and white salt blocks of any size.
Joanne Davidson wrote about nonprofit organizations in the metro Denver area during her 30 years as The Denver Post’s society editor, and quickly discovered that every cause is a worthy cause. The ones included in this story are particularly so.
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