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Lend a Hand on a Special Day

Join a project on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 16

colorado AARP volunteer MLK day of service

Photo by Matt Slaby/LUCEO

Kathy Borgman and her labradoodle, Snickers, visit Virgil Mascarenas in a Lone Tree hospital. She’ll be there again on the Jan. 16 Day of Service that honors Martin Luther King Jr.

En español | Some people are surprised to see Kathy Borgman and her dog walking the halls of Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, but most ask if they can pet the 80-pound labradoodle. Borgman and Snickers regularly make the rounds there, visiting cancer or cardiology patients or people recovering from surgery.

See also: Remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"He parks his head on the bed, and they love on him," said Borgman, 65, of Parker, who participated in last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by volunteering at the hospital instead of going to her job that day at Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser Permanente is one of a number of Colorado businesses that encourage community service by giving employees a paid day off to honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory by volunteering on the federal holiday celebrating the slain civil rights leader's birthday.

About 500 Kaiser Permanente employees and retirees participated in last year's Day of Service.

"Once they're on board, they [volunteer] again and again and again … so they can make a difference in others' lives," said Jana Baker Clements, a volunteer supervisor with Kaiser Permanente who helped organize 20 projects for the 2011 service day.

AARP Colorado is working with Serve Colorado-Governor's Commission on Community Service to encourage more volunteerism on this year's Day of Service, Jan. 16.

Organizations throughout the state that need volunteers will list projects on the Serve Colorado and AARP Colorado websites.

"The impact around the state has grown significantly … since we combined resources and volunteer [data]bases," said Cathy Lasnik, AARP Colorado senior program assistant.

AARP's Create the Good website also lists service projects that can be performed throughout the country and is searchable by ZIP code. The site advocates volunteering for "5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days" and includes at-home volunteer opportunities and tool kits to help people develop their own projects.

"Not everybody has the ability to take a day off work," Lasnik said, "but there's basically a way for everyone to serve, provided they have the desire." 

In southern Colorado's San Luis Valley, which includes some of the poorest counties in the state, volunteers are needed year-round to keep programs and communities from collapsing.

Next: "Everybody ought to volunteer." >>

colorado AARP volunteer MLK day of service

Photo by Matt Slaby/LUCEO

Jean Nofles, an AARP advocate and member of the organization's executive council, has been volunteering for six years.

"In this part of the state, we figure out a way to do a lot of things with very few resources. A lot of the Valley runs on volunteer service," said Karen Lemke, who coordinates a service program at Adams State College in Alamosa. "About 25 percent of the people living here use emergency food services throughout the year."

"Everybody ought to volunteer," said Jean Nofles, of Aurora, who has been an AARP Colorado volunteer for six years. She's a legislative advocate and a member of the organization's executive council.

"You don't need a particular skill to go out and help somebody else. Once you do that, you get into a world you never knew existed, and you just keep on going," she said.

Communities benefit from service, but so do those doing the work.

Ed Self, executive director of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers in Boulder, which conducted a 2011 Day of Service tree reseeding project, said volunteers reported a variety of benefits.

"Those include the satisfaction and empowerment of helping to care for public lands, the opportunity to learn practical leadership skills, making friends, getting outdoors in beautiful places for good exercise and much more," he said.

Additional resources to find a Day of Service project include:

Serve Colorado, 303-866-6426, 646-786-6886

Corporation for National and Community Service, 202-606-5000

You may also like: Ways to volunteer in your grandchildren's school. >>

Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.

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